Ecclesiastical Misconception #5

Doctor Who travels throughout space and time in something called the TARDIS[1]. If that weren’t marvelous enough, it is actually bigger on the inside than the outside, thanks to the inside existing in another dimension.

Ecclesiastical Misconception #5 is the belief that the church is the opposite, i.e., that we are smaller on the inside than we appear. Certainly, if you were to take a measuring tape, you’d find that the inside dimensions of any building are smaller than the external dimensions, however the church is not a physical building (if the last year or so has taught us anything… it has taught us that!)

We CAN be bigger on the inside than we appear, and yet we continue to make decisions as churches that limit who we let in. There have been times in our history where those limitations have been clearly defined  – including balconies for Blacks and blocking the ordination of women and LGBT folks – but there are other limits that we place upon the church that keep us small. 

Today we limit the church by making choices that favor the preferences of the folks already in our pews. Let’s say your church worships on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. but you learn that the community outside the doors would prefer worshipping on Sunday nights at 7 p.m.  One argument against starting a second service is that it might “split our community”. Of course, if you consider the folks outside the walls as members of the community, it could be argued that the community is already split into those who attend… and those who don’t. 

We tend to make decisions based on the needs of the existing congregation in part because we know them (because we ARE them). We need those reliable saints that already give of their time, talent, and treasure to continue giving. Why would we choose to jeopardize their offerings? Why should any organization risk the ninety-nine givers to reach out for the one outside the fold who is either a “none” or “done”?[2]

Yes, I know. It doesn’t make sense. It’s foolish. It’s sacrificial. It’s being the church.

When we make decisions based on the existing/giving congregation we are settling for a congregation that is exactly as it appears: smaller on the inside than it is on the outside. When practice the spiritual discipline of asking how our decisions might exclude those outside our inner circle from participating, we can become so much bigger than anyone could have imagined. Even if we end up not changing out time of worship, we may discover our hearts are also a bit bigger than they first appeared as well.

[1] Time And Relative Dimension in Space

[2] “Nones” are those who have no experience of church; “Dones” are those who have had experience within the church and for one reason or another, are DONE with it.

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