When we started City Pres in 2011, we knew we didn’t want a “normal” PCA church. What would a normal PCA church look like? White, educated, middle to upper class, suburban. Nothing wrong with those people! I am one of them. But we knew that wouldn’t fully reflect our city. These are good people who love Jesus and want the best. We wanted to help them have a vision for Jesus in all of life, all of the world, for all people. It’s easy to miss that – to keep wanting more for yourself, more for your own kind, for more education, more safety, more good hymns, more liturgical worship… all of which I want myself!
That’s who is going to show up at a new PCA church with two white, middle class, over-educated pastors. We prayed for more diversity. We prayed for single moms, for a ministry to the orphans, widows, poor and sick. We prayed for languages besides English. We prayed not everyone would look the same. We prayed we’d be able to teach people what being Presbyterian looked like instead of gathering those who already knew. We rejoiced to see single women, non-bearded men, those who had not been in church, adopted kids, Baptists and Catholics and non-denominationals, Democrats, Libertarians and Socialists.
It’s tempting to count that as diversity. It’s a type of difference, but we still run in similar circles, like the same things and tend to go the same places.
How were things going to be really different? Did we really want different? Were we willing to risk anything to be different than what would normally happen? Did we believe a difference would be cool somehow or that it would really, really help us know and walk with Jesus better?
It’s why giving up our pulpit four times both years truly matters. It’s why a pulpit swap with Northeast Missionary Baptist Church says we’re family together. Why doing picnics, service projects and hymn sings together means we’re friends who need each other. It’s why we might welcome in someone who’s really taking a huge risk to worship with us – when no one looks like her. It’s why we can show up to help someone who needs help – because we know him and we’re in this together. It’s why we started Restore OKC with Josh and Caylee, and are walking into relationships together, serving together, loving together.
What’s at risk here? Our precious Reformed theology? If so, then let’s give it up because it might be keeping us from love – perhaps we’re now truly living out our Reformed theology. Our worship traditions? If so, let’s give them up in order to love and be loved far more fully – perhaps we’re just now starting to worship in fullness and truth. Our prejudices? If so, let’s admit them and give them up and put our hands together – perhaps the mystery of Christ is all are being reconciled in Christ. Our familiar patterns? If so, let’s give those up – perhaps we can discover new ones that might be much much better.
I know that if we don’t do anything – we’ll get normal. Normal is why we’re in this mess of needing to do something in the first place.
I’m not sure what not-normal, different looks like. I don’t have a huge solution to solve this problem. I don’t have an end result in mind necessarily. I’m not mad at those who aren’t participating with us. But I’m thrilled that we’re trying, that we’re entering in to friendship with people created in the image of God, hurt people, gifted people. I need them as friends. The church should be the place where we can walk together in God’s story of rescue.