Whose Church is it Anyway?
Rev. Conitras M. Houston
Senior Pastor, Trinity A.M.E Church, Atlanta, GA
Week after week, believers and those curious about this “church thing” pile into a building that we call church. For those who have some familial or lasting ties, it is easy to remain present. However, what about the others?
Whether we do so purposely or not, I have witnessed us forgetting to be the church. Instead, we lay claim to the building that “my grandmother helped fund” and “my great-grandfather planted the tree in front of.” By focusing on the building, we lose our people. We lose the souls that Christ urged us to go and find. They come to our church and our church never becomes their church. Then we go to annual conference year after year and wonder why the accessions are not realized in our weekly church attendance. Whose church is it anyway? Perhaps we have fallen victim to an “our church” mentality which does not actually welcome others. Perhaps, we have forgotten to be “the church.”
As a millennial who is grateful to serve this historic African Methodist Episcopal Church, I must admit that I model my pastoral ministry on my favorite five star restaurant. In order for us to be the church for all people, we have to check our service to each other. How do we treat those who are others? Are we truly welcoming or do we smile when you join then frown when you seem to step in a lane we are accustomed to leading?
I wore a black dress to the restaurant and they did not give me a white napkin which might cause lint residue. After being told who my waiter was, someone different poured me water. When the waiter came and left with my appetizer order, someone else came with bread and appetizer plates. The experience was magnificent, so I could hardly wait for the main course. This is how our churches should feel. Upon arrival, we should be so inviting that believers and those who are curious can hardly wait until the sermonic moment. Not only this, but they cannot wait to come back and tell others about their church. I believe we can make this shift by shifting our minds to the word of Jesus: love. Love enables us to not see the church building but to become the church for so many who are simply looking for a place to belong.