So, it’s over. We had our bizarre wild food thing at Pathway Wednesday night complete with live animal entertainment. Roughly 125 people came, many of them 10 and under. What are we thinking? Well, here’s what I’m thinking.
After I accepted the Pathway church pastor position, I had 5 weeks off between my former job and starting at Pathway. I decided to use that time to visit local churches that are having success in harvesting people far from Christ and/or church dropouts. I wondered what Pathway needed to do programmatically and in worship style to get in on the harvest, and who I needed to be as a pastor in a suburban community. Here’s what I discovered. All harvesting churches had praise bands. All are friendly. All have a certain buzz and excitement on Sunday mornings. All encourage fellowship and joy, while at the same time providing biblical answers to humanity’s questions. And all had pastors who are comfortable in their own skin. So if they are athletes, that comes out. If they are sports enthusiasts, it will be heard in a sermon or afterward talking to the pastor in the lobby. If they travel often, that will be revealed in some way. Bottom line, God wires pastors like the rest of us with their own unique interests. I wasn’t sure how my love of fishing and hunting was going to play with the classy suburban dwellers of St. John. It worked well in Roselawn, but, to quote Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” I thought I might have to submerge my outdoor thing, put on dress pants and a tie, and stop driving a pick-up and wearing camo. However, after watching pastors comfortable in their own skin, I decided to keep mine. No one up here is known as a hunting/fishing pastor. It’s who I am. There’s nothing fake to it. Other than making sure to not use too many hunting illustrations and making sure to not wear camo on the Sunday of the children’s Christmas program (I did, but referenced it in a sermon to make a point. Some heard it. Others missed it, and wondered what I was doing dressed that way), I could be who I am even in St. John.
Which takes us to a wild game dinner potluck. There is a certain breed of people in this community who love to camp, hike, hunt, and fish. They shop at Cabelas and Bass Pro. They especially enjoy gathering with like-minded individuals for a little fun “their way.” So, we had that Wednesday night. We ate duck 2 different ways, venison -both jerky and roasted, salmon- smoked and fried, and moose tacos. We also witnessed a wonderful live animal show which highlighted the distinctives that God built into the animals of His creation. People sampled, laughed, learned, and enjoyed making new friends. And some from Pathway who had never participated in something so redneck gave it a try. It appeared that they had a fun time. In addition, some unchurched and de-churched folks came. They witnessed Christians having edgy fun. And some members of other churches came who love the outdoor thing but don’t have an outlet for it in their churches.
God wants us to use all we’ve got for His glory. Often at the intersection of our passions and talents is an area that can be used for Christ. My passion is deer hunting and salmon fishing. My talents are leadership and creating a faith community that’s attractive for spiritually seeking people. That night we met at the intersection of the 2. God blessed it. I am glad and humbled.
In my last congregation I heard a criticism that we were just a party church, meaning we did too many fun things without a spiritual point. However, I watch Matthew throw a party and invite His friends, so they can meet Jesus. We did the same, for Jesus lives in us. Next month the church family night party is the Pinewood Derby Race featuring boys, girls, adults, and their car creations. It will be a night most suited to a Nascar crowd. And it will be another party in the name of Jesus in the hopes that we can connect wandering people to the Jesus who lives in us.