learning (from) the trades

toolsIt’s been all go here recently. There have been a lot of workmen coming and going for different tasks that needed doing inside and outside our house – and the conversion of the garage to a study has not yet happened.

I have been fascinated by the approach of different ‘trades’ who have been approached to do the work. For some of them the jobs have been too small and they have not been interested. Others have been too busy or too inefficient and have not bothered responding. Some have come back with ridiculously high quotes for the work. And others have been extremely personable, efficient, and give confidence in their ability. Needless to say it is the latter group that we have contracted to do the jobs.

It does not take much to make that difference: a smile, a warm handshake, a friendly conversation, interest in what I need, using my name, being able to talk knowledgeably about the subject all go a long way to giving that sense of confidence.

And it made me wonder about churches. How many of those attributes in the previous paragraph do we give to those who come to our church (literally or metaphorically)? I am not just talking about those who come into our services on Sundays, by the way, but all contact with our churches. And I am not just talking about our premises (if we have them) either. Church, in my view, is the collective noun for Christians – like a pride of lions or a parliament of rooks or a murder of crows (yes, really!). So the contact with church happens wherever we (Christians) happen to be. For a few short hours in the week we are gathered together as church but for the rest of the time we are dispersed together across our community – being free samples of Jesus.

Hold on, did I just type ‘dispersed together’? Yes, I did. Because even though we are dispersed we don’t stop being church. Even though we are not physically in the same location we are church together and can be praying for one another and encouraging one another (text messages are brilliant for this) even when we are not in each others’ presence. This means that church is present in your workplace, your home, your health club, at the school gate, in your University, in the supermarket where you shop and so on.

So I return to the list I made earlier. How many of those attributes in italics does the church demonstrate through you? And how can you improve on those things if they are lacking? Some of them require an attitude shift – God’s Spirit is good at helping us with those if we want him to and ask him. Some of them require a bit of thoughtfulness – praying beforehand helps us keep those things in our mind. And some of them require a bit of practice and study – that’s what churches can help with when gathered together. All of them for churches have God’s love as the motivation and foundation.

I wonder what people think of churches when they walk past the buildings: old-fashioned? cold? unwelcoming? fresh? vibrant? open? I wonder if they think differently of churches when they meet us and discover that the buildings are not the real church? Will a greater awareness of God’s love begin to make a difference?

Be blessed, be a blessing

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