My siblings and I have a fascination with attending churches that are outside of our denomination. We once went to the Baptist church and they member thought that we were greeters! I was pretty disappointed when I heard that my siblings had visited the a Catholic Church and a Jehovah Witnesses meeting hall when I went traveling for the summer. I missed out! Of course, we love our own church, but we are open to learning from our fellow brethren in Christ.
I was at local youth group and they were talking about their experience visiting several churches in our denomination. Then, told about visiting a church that was technically not in our denomination. It met on a similar unusual day. I think it “independent ministry” was the word that they used. They wore Hawaiian shirts and flip flops. It’s was the Paradox Church. My curiosity was piqued.
They mentioned that on the day that they visited the church was having what they described as “Beyoncé Night.” The young man described the event with a hint of incredulity and skeptically despite sporting some unconventional earrings. Later, the pastor explained that they were connecting the Song of Solomon with something the modern unchurched person could connect with. That happened to be Beyoncé’s Lemonade. The Paradox Church called it the Song of Jay-Z. When I listened to later, I was a surprisingly less shocked. I couldn’t say I would agree, but it made sense as it fit into what they were doing.
Granted, I went away of the service with a lot of questions and concerns. I better understood why Jesus would spend so much time in prayer when he was here on earth. Yet, I received a blessing.
There are places with my theology and the theology of Paradox Church don’t align. Perhaps, the types of things they do at their services won’t minster to me. My culture and theirs is a little different. However, there were things that I immediately wanted to take back to my church.
Inclusive of Children
I remember sitting in a pastoral selection committee meeting of a church far, far away that will remain unnamed. We had finished interviewing a potential pastoral candidate and we liked them. It was a providential fit. The wife was passionate about ministering to children. Exactly what we needed for our dying church.
“Are you guys okay with kids scribbling on the walls?” she asked seriously.
We hesitated. Not because we were. We weren’t. However, there were church members who would probably die. That was okay. They could die. To self of course. Hopefully, they would raise back up to life in newness of life in Christ. Yeah, it didn’t work. I’ll spare you the details.
At Paradox, I noticed something I really liked. They were inclusive of children. They have a numbers game that they play on stage at the being of every church service. One of the volunteers hesitated.
“Can I bring my kids?” he asked nervously.
“Bring them!” the leader responded enthusiastically. Then, he proceeded to let the kids introduce themselves as part of the team.
Later, a little toddler began to scream. Instead of making a beeline for the door, the mom stepped out in to the aisle and did her mom magic until the baby calmed down. Once the little one calmed down she proceeded to wander around. The other church members helped the mom keep her from hurting herself or damaging property.
|Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash|
Inclusive of other brethren
My family once invited friends to our church. They were a family with young children. We had been working together in ministry in our community. They were fellow Sabbath keepers. We had developed a friendship with them and wanted to have them in our fellowship. They didn’t agree with everything our denomination did, but we didn’t think that really mattered. We thought the fellowship would be meaningful. The other church members didn’t see thing the same way, and they told them to leave. What was the point of attending a church you didn’t agree on every point with?
After the service at Paradox, we headed out of church. A friendly church member greeted us.
“What church do you all usually attend,” he asked making conversation.
I hesitated. I happened to attend a church with a reputation of being stiff and judgmental. I hadn’t come to judge the brethren here at Paradox, but he might the get the wrong message when I mentioned the name of my church. I gathered up the courage and told him.
“Oh, I have heard of that church,” he responded reassuringly.
Later, the pastor told us of the heartbreaking story that surrounds the church plant. They wanted to be part of my denomination, but my denomination refused them. Yet, they are doing everything to make people from my church feel comfortable.
While being a part of my denomination would hinder the vision of this particular church, I am still annoyed at the exclusive attitudes of my denomination. Couldn’t we at least be supportive? Allowing for careful collaboration not just with this church, but even extending a welcome to other denominations.
|Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash|
Embrace the Health Message
I am always loath to admit that I eat a plant-based diet. I often get the “oh you want to be holy” smirk from my fellow brethren. I quickly clarify that I am allergic to eggs and dairy products. This is a health issue not a ploy to buy God’s favor. In their hurry to separate themselves from an oppressive legalistic lifestyle, many of my church members seek to distance them self from inspired writings on practicing a healthy lifestyle.
I also don’t drink coffee. I do this for my health. I do this to force myself to rest when I need to. I do this to keep my head clear for an uninterrupted connection with my Creator. Yes, I started this because a person who I believe is inspired counseled me to do this. While there is a connection between health and holiness, this is not a decision to throw judgement on others.
I recently attended a church within my own denomination which onlyserved coffee in their mingling session. No, herbal infusions. No, muffins. So, uncomfortable. I am the only health conscious person here?
It was such a relief to walk into Paradox and see not only herbal infusions, but dairy free muffins and grapes! I felt at home right away. I could mingle without feeling trippy from all the caffeine in my system. I know, some of you are about to insist that caffine is in fact healthy. In my estimation, it’s about as healthy as prescription medicine, alcohol and marijuana. Use it when you have you, but avoid it if at all possible.
|Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash|
Creative Service Style
While I do love the fact that I could walk into any church in my denomination and expect the see a similar service pattern. I wish we could be more intentional about meeting the needs of our communities by personalizing the service and trying new and interactive things.
We asked each other an ice breaker question during the meet and great session in the service. I would certainly steal that. Maybe I wouldn’t do a trivia about Mark Zuckerberg, but perhaps we could do a Bible trivia. Change it up a little.
|Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash|
More White Boards
Some of my favorite pastors use some epic PowerPoint/KeyNote Presentations (yes, you, Pastor Marlon Seifert and you, Dee Casper). Yet, Teacher Michael Knecht took the opportunity to illustrate on a giant pad of paper. It made his message more palpable. I think we should do that more often. Especially, while explaining more complicated concepts.
|Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash|
Have you been to a place outside your social or religious comfort zone? What did you learn that could enrich your life and that of your tribe?