“Someone’s at the door,” I falsetto whispered across the living room to Hubby.
“They rang the doorbell!”
Now incensed and a little louder. “Did you order something from Amazon? Wait, I don’t think it’s UPS.”
“No! Who is it?” He asked, grabbing up his phone to peek at the Ring camera.
Both of us were now crouched low in the front room by the door, spying digitally on the young college kid standing on our front porch. He was prepared, with a brochure in hand and a fake trying-to-remember-the-sales-pitch smile on his face while avoiding a rather large spider dangling from our porch light, seemingly interested in what he was selling.
"Don’t open it,” I hissed as he yanked open the door, startling our young friend and sending the inquisitive arachnid back into the light fixture. Scurrying to the rear of the house myself, I left Hubby to fend off the pest control sales spiel by asserting we self-treated and obviously it was working so well as evidenced by our friendly neighborhood porch spider.
I went back to search out whatever important thing I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted by a random human on my doorstep. Yet, as I opened the Candy Crush game on my phone, I heard God whisper to my heart:
“Your front porches are shrinking.”
Sweeping porches with grand columns and inviting rocking chairs featuring tall glasses of lemonade have been replaced with tiny cement platforms with ring doorbells and signs with instructions for Amazon delivery.
Gone are the days of long conversations over coffee or borrowed sugar. Now instead of opening the door when someone knocks, we open our doorbell app to see who might be intruding into our space. If it's not Amazon, we are immediately suspicious of who it is and what they want. Instead of real conversations, we communicate through text and emoticons. Modern-day cave dwellers pecking out cliff drawings, marveling out loud how divided we are as a society.
As Christians, the Bible says we are supposed to be given to hospitality.
Are we, though?
We are failing as a church at the most essential tenet of how we live out this faith.
Relationships with others.
Relationships are not built in church buildings. They are built around meals. Around cups of coffee. Around the neighbor's son's Little League game. Around your kids' extra-curricular activities with other families. Around prayer when someone is sick or hurting. Around late-night discussions about scripture. Around wrestling with your faith together.
Relationships are built in our own homes with open doors and open hearts without fear or judgment.
We love to quote scriptures about the importance of getting to the church building for the fellowship of believers.
That’s not the fellowship the Bible is talking about.
The apostles had no buildings. No Sunday School. No conferences. No new member orientation. No welcome gift bags. No choir. No books or devotionals.
Yet they turned their world upside down.
By building relationships from house to house.
Relationships produce discipleship which in turn opens the door to the heartbeat of Jesus.
An insidious cancer has seeped quietly into our churches, poisoning our core belief system and focusing our eyes on our beautiful barns rather than the harvest fields.
I know I sound dramatic, but I feel the warning in my soul. The early believers spread the Gospel not with fancy words and exciting programs but with love, truth, and simplicity. They reached others through the relationships they had with one another.
By their love for one another, this is how the world knew they were Christians.
And this is how the world will know we are Christians.
Not by our buildings. Our traditions. Our worship services.
But by our love which can only happen through relationships.
It’s time to ask ourselves when the day comes and our buildings are closed for good and all the programs canceled, what will we have left? Will we still be the body of Christ jointly fitted together as scripture says, growing in relationships and in numbers from house to house? Or will we only have the memory of traditions held dear echoing throughout an empty building we once called the “church”?
I love coming together to worship corporately with my brothers and sisters. We need it. But we need genuine, authentic relationships with those same people even more.
Be given to hospitality. Be prepared in season and out. Boldly proclaim the gospel.
Especially on our own front porches.