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What Does a Church Look Like?

By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Jun 08 in Musings
The leadership teams of Hollywood Pres were busy last weekend.  Session had its Elders Retreat Friday night and all-day Saturday. The Deacons retreated in the Mears Center on Sunday afternoon. In both settings, we spent time talking about...the Church. And our church. Of course we did.
These were times for our leaders to revisit or think deeply about what kind of community God is calling us to be.  Between the two settings, we read several scripture texts, looked at our Vision Statement from 2012 and read a short story (Wendell Berry, “Pray Without Ceasing”). We also told stories from real life- a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Here’s a story I told. Our family- Anne, three young kids and myself- moved to Minneapolis after I was done with seminary in New Jersey. I was an associate pastor at a church in the heart of the city. Somewhere along the line, I met a man named Chris. He wasn’t part of the church, but he would occasionally make his way to our office and I got to know him. Chris was very smart, had been a responsible businessman, husband and father. Chris was also a raging alcoholic, and he just could not kick the addiction- even after 3 trips to serious rehab facilities. By the time I met him, booze had cost Chris everything- his health, marriage, house, car, family. Everything. He would come by the office occasionally, smelling faintly of liquor, and sometimes we would go down the block for a cup of coffee and conversation.
One Sunday night, about 75 of us were gathered in the church Fellowship Hall for the evening worship time. I was preaching, and right in the middle of the sermon there was a lot of scuffling and noise at the door and guess who stumbled in? Chris. I do mean stumbled. He was recklessly drunk.  Loud drunk.  Disruptive and oblivious drunk. How he had the presence of mind to get to the church I’ll never know, because he could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was the only one who knew Chris, because he had only been to worship one time previously. I managed to get through the sermon despite his frequent outbursts, and we soon ended the service.

As I gave the benediction, I watched a twenty-something named John edge towards Chris. When I said “Amen,” John made a beeline for Chris. I did too, because I was pretty sure that John was going to confront Chris and read him the riot act for disrupting the service. I didn’t want that to happen, but John was fast. By the time I reached Chris, John was already talking to him. But I was totally wrong. He wasn’t upset or stern or giving a lecture. As I approached, I saw John put his arm around Chris’ shoulders, smile and say “ have come to the right place.”  

You have come to the right place. I think that’s what a church looks like.
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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