Seeing The Church

Bike tours have unexpected side benefits.

Spectacular scenery. Community. Solitude. And (at least on the FREEDOM TOUR) lots of great food. You think you’re showing up to ride bikes, but all these crazy, cool things happen and you almost have to look at the pictures to remember there was a bike ride in the middle of all the amazing memories.

I’m always struck by our view of the host churches. Most folks, when they think about “church,” probably picture Sunday morning. Worship, singing, preaching, maybe Sunday school, mostly centered around the sanctuary or worship center.

On our tours, I think we get to see the church really being the church.

We talked to volunteers in a basement food bank. Sundays – the kitchen serves coffee and doughnuts. During the week these folks cook and package and distribute to the needy, the elderly, the homeless. A remarkable operation in a small church basement touches hundreds of lives each week. Unseen, mostly. They packed it all away so we could sleep on their floor.

One church threw a block party, invited their neighbors for burgers and lemonade and conversation.

In another town we gathered around a kitchen table (how’s that for an idea – a big kitchen table, in a church). We spoke to folks who brought food for us, and they talked like feeding strangers was the most normal thing in the world for them, as if they do it all the time. I think that’s because they do.

One morning a couple of our teammates caught fish in a mountain stream while a lady stood on a deck and talked of realizing her vision for a community gathering spot dedicated to loving their neighbors.

A guy showed up one evening with pizza and dessert because he asked, “What do you need?” and then answered his own question. He told us about his work helping folks battling substance abuse. The next night we went to someone’s home, sat on the lawn, and ate spaghetti.

In one spot we simply hung out in the sunshine and heard what it’s like being the church in a relatively “non-church” city.

We used their facilities, soaked up their hospitality, and got to observe as people from these communities did life – and church – together. Mostly this activity didn’t center around the “worship room,” though I’d claim a good deal of authentic worship, the sort of worship God seeks, was happening.

My guess is that most folks who attend Sundays miss out on a lot of what we observed. Too bad. They’re going to church.

I think they’re missing the church.

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