My Merriam-Webster Premium Dictionary app (Who pays for a “premium” dictionary? This nerd does.) offers this first definition: “Common – 1 a: of or relating to a community at large : public; b: known to the community.”
There are many things about life in ministry that would qualify as common in the sense of this definition. There are common songs and common schedules and common events – to say nothing of common roles or jobs. And I really have heard of folks asking guests to move out of their seats because it was common knowledge, “known to the community,” that it was their spot.
I grew up in a culture in which three standard time slots every week were set aside for church. It was common – known to the entire community. Those times were guarded and held with an iron grip, many times despite the overwhelmingly obvious evidence that they were becoming utterly ineffective.
In any organization there is a tendency – for good reason – to stay with common practices of meeting at a routine time and place. But something we easily overlook is our own natural pattern of becoming blind to the familiar.
I serve a church that has been meeting on the same piece of property for about 70 years. I meet people all the time that have no idea that our building is there – often people who drive by it quite often. So…while it may be common to those of us who gather inside, it certainly is not “known to the community” that we are there to worship.
But what if…
What if we began, as a church, to move beyond those walls and out in the community? What if the people in our town began to notice that group of folks that seems to be showing up in different places and doing things to serve the community?
What if it were to become common, “known to the community,” that we are here to serve and encourage and help? What if it were common to see us, this faith family, out and about serving and encouraging families?
What if we were willing to sacrifice something that is common to us in order become much more common to others?
In Acts 2 we find a description of life in the Jerusalem church in its very first days of empowerment. The statement that always stands out to me is this:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2.44)
But there’s no mention at all of them having a building in which to gather. They would gather in the Temple – which was as out-in-the-open and public as could be. They were gathering in homes. They were bouncing all over and their lives were interconnected.
And God was adding people to the church…daily.
If you’re a church person, would you join me in simply asking, “What if?” Would you join me in looking for ways to let go of what is common to us in order to become much more common to the communities we serve?