When a van from a local assisted living facility pulled up to the door of the church where the Gathering Church is meeting, to unload four residents who were interested in attending, I was a bit surprised. Glad, but surprised. People in their eighth and ninth decades of life are not usually attending church start ups. Most aren’t attending church period, unless a service is held in their residential community.
A staff person at the facility, Karen, had arranged for me to visit one of the residents last week ,whom I had known. I had met several others in that visit. Karen, and her husband, David, went to enormous trouble to get them to our gathering. Last night we also had a five-month-old baby. So, I think that we set a record for church-planting age span. Oh, I know that successful church plants are supposed to focus on ‘target’ groups and build on very specific demographic factors. I’m sure that we will have some of that going on – for instance, we are going to be awesome with preschoolers. Already, they love coming. They get to run mildly amuck during our potluck while their parents are still eating. It was awesome watching a pack of them follow the lead of a three-year-old as he would flop on the concrete floor in the dining area. (No one was hurt, but fun was had by all.)
As I watched people interact last night it was obvious how powerful it is to ‘bless’ someone by noticing them and honoring them as someone who matters. Like Bonnie, a young adult, sitting at the table with the older folks, making them feel at home. Or, Mike, father of a college student, visiting for the first time, walking around carrying the five-month-old, putting her to sleep. Or, Sadye, a young adult, coaching middle-aged women in how to trim up those triceps. (If you see any women in a grocery store in Chapel Hill or Durham doing behind the head arm presses with cans of vegetables, you know that they come to the Gathering Church.)
Watching people relate when they are given a bit of space to do so makes one realize how programmed our lives are to keep us from being human. People are rarely the point of what we most have to do in life. It’s hard even to be present to our own lives, much less to anyone else. But, what’s really good, is that if we have any time of being present to someone else, if we get just a taste of blessing and being blessed, we might begin to transfer that experience to other environments. If you get to learn to be a human anywhere you have a better chance of being a human everywhere.
And you know what I mean. Sure, this is sounding pretty Mister Roger-esque. (I’ll go watch Braveheart when I finish so I can slay the enemy.) It’s just that we forget why God made us. He made us for blessing. We forget why Christ redeemed us. He redeemed us for blessing. For blessing God and for blessing others. I think that God was really happy last night at the Gathering Church.
Where are you getting to really enjoy people? To bless people? Does your church help you do that?