so a few of us have been talking... (that's where it always starts, isn't it?) and this word, "intentionality," keeps popping up.
Webster's illuminating definition of intentionality is to do something with intention. (lol) So I looked up intention, too. To do something intentionally is to resolve to do it; it involves purpose, meaning, and significance. You do it because it matters. Which means you probably care. Getting intentional, then, is actually going and doing something because you care...
I saw a picture of that last Sunday when I attended the morning worship service at a very nice little Presbyterian church in the next town over. I'd driven by it several times a week for a few months, and had been meaning to go - so last Sunday, in spite of the fact that it was actually snowing (kind of) and I was going to be 10 minutes late, I went.
They're strategic, let me tell you.
At the end of the driveway, there are all sorts of signs (some of which are pretty punny) welcoming you to their church and inviting you to pull in. There's a lot of trees, so it's hard to see what you're pulling into exactly. It wasn't the parking lot I expected! It was a gravel driveway that led up to what looked like a really big house. But there were signs, so I knew I was in the right place. I parked on the side of the driveway by a large pond, and walked up the drive to the house. The sign said the office was thru the doors I was approaching and the sanctuary was down the hill and around the corner. There were floor to ceiling windows on that side of the house, so I thought I'd try to sneak in through the office. Surely there was a hallway or an elevator or something.
Oh, no. The offices were on an open balcony wrapped around 3/4 of the sanctuary. There were no stairs. I could see the pastor's head over the railing from the door. So I went back out. No way to sneak around the back. There was only one way in - down the hill, past the really big window. The pastor would definitely see me approaching...
So I told the introvert in me to shut up and tromped down the hill past the windows and in through the doors of the entry. I found a bulletin with the order of service easily, and an usher who had (wonders!) spotted me coming, came around and opened the door. All thoughts of slipping in unnoticed died quickly. They were seated in the round, pretty much. So I went to slip into the closest empty chair, but caught the usher's hesitation. I turned and looked at him. He was a really nice older gentleman. "Do you see somewhere you'd like to sit?" he asked. "well, it doesn't really matter," I said, as I'd realized I'd already goofed and was supposed to let him do his job and find me somewhere to go. "Come this way," he said.
And we walked all around the back of the room (past the big windows again) and to the far side of the sanctuary. Every single person in the room knew I was there by the time I found a seat as far as possible from the exit. There was absolutely no way I was going to leave without talking to someone. I was also about 5 yards from the table with coffee and cookies on it.
Nice. These people were good, I will grant them that.
And you know, for all that I just joked about it - they really were. And it was as genuine as it was intentional. They were honestly glad to see me. They hoped I would come back. They didn't pressure me to stay longer. They asked questions about where I lived and how I'd found the church - but didn't pry.
Their worship space was really interesting too. The design of your worship space can say a lot about what you value - it doesn't always, because sometimes we're not lucky enough to get to design it from the ground up, and sometimes we're stuck with ridiculously high platforms and whatnot - but these people just built their space, and they'd obviously put a lot of thought into it. It was well-done. It was nice. Obviously pricey, but tasteful. There were all the elements of a traditional church - altar, podium for the pastor/lectionary readers, the flags, hm... not sure if there was a cross or not (I ended up unfortunately behind a pole and couldn't see much) - grand piano just off to the side, the aforementioned poles/pillars that reminded me of older buildings... but the whole room was carpeted, and there were two gigantic and likely functional fireplaces. The chairs were set up in the round, and could be easily cleared or rearranged. And those windows overlooked the pond. It was beautiful.
But it was small.
It's a brand new building, and while there were seats, they don't have any room to grow.
During the announcements/concerns portion of the service, this guy talked about how they'd called hundreds of people in the area to invite them to Thanksgiving/Christmas services and tell them about their church. (They've been a couple towns over in an office park for awhile, so they're reaching out to their new neighbors.) He read a letter written by one of the women they'd talked to, and she'd been really blessed by the conversation and the fact that someone cared about her. When he finished reading, the man was quiet for a minute, and then said, in a broken sort of voice with the hint of tears in it, "We reached someone." And everyone, after a second, clapped a little.
It made me want to cry. I mean, yes, we should always rejoice when we are able to reach someone with the gospel - but that it should be so novel, so... unexpected... such an answer to prayer... People, this is the CHURCH! It's what she does....
I hope they reach a lot more people. And I hope their contractor is able to add on to their building, or that they're planning on adding another service... And I hope I never forget it, the way he said, "We reached someone." I want to be broken and humbled and deeply glad for every soul to whom I am privileged to be the hands and feet of Christ, but I never want to feel that as a rarity.
Teach me, sweet Jesus, how to reach out to this lost and broken world, with all the intentionality that You do. Amen.