I Build Paper Airplanes.
The above is a true statement about myself, but before we discuss specifics of one of my favorite hobbies, think for a moment about what stereotype that brings to mind. The image is of some bored person (age doesn’t matter) who, out of idleness tinged with desperation, folds a piece of paper into a wedged-shaped object and then flings it into the air. If one is lucky, it may float in the air a bit, at least until it crashes to the ground, destined to end up in the trash.
That’s what most people think of paper airplanes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. My paper airplane is a 1/48 scale model of a Vietnam era AC-130 “Spooky” gunship. It has authentic markings, mini-guns, a four-foot wing span. It’s painstakingly curved and folded of paper and cardboard into a perfect replica. Obviously, there is a big difference between what you stereotypically thought about the paper airplanes we all played with when we were young and how I view them.
Let’s play the same game, only this time I’m going to tell you “I’m a Christian.” What stereotype pops up now? You probably envision some slightly depressed person, maybe an unkempt, plump middle-aged couple who have nothing going for them, or a lonely, elderly pensioner. (Perhaps a whole group of such people.) Popular thinking is that they show up at a local sanctuary on Sunday because: a. it’s something to do, and b. they have no better way to spend their time.
Yikes! If that’s what most people think, no wonder no one wants to come to church. If that was the truth, whether as pastor or parishioner, I wouldn’t show up, either. Fortunately, that’s not the truth, and this stereotypical view of Christianity and its believers blinds people from seeing the real reason people gather in church on Sunday.
Even if the congregation is made up of middle-aged pensioners, they gather together to worship God and share and strengthen their faith. Regardless of a congregation member’s age or a congregant’s walk in life, faith in God doesn’t do you—or anyone else for that matter—any good if you reserve it for one hour a week on Sunday. Faith, belief and the love of God need to be shared outside of the church to make it effective, to make it grow. Contrary to popular thinking, we’re not a private club; we’re disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are expected to share the Good News He gave us, the Gospel, with the world in which we live and work.
More than 2000 years history backs us up: our Christian God is a God who acts. God created the world, He led Moses and the people of Israel out of a life of servitude in Egypt, He sent His Prophets to address injustice, He sent Jesus to preach, inspire and to heal us, and ultimately to die for our sins on the cross, He sent Paul out across the world filled with non-believers to show that God had a great message for all those people as well. He still sends His Holy Spirit to comfort us, to give us guidance in our daily lives.
The message the world forgets is that Christians inspired by faith act, they share their faith, demonstrate it in their lives and—whether they realize it or not—act as Ministers of Word and Deed every time they deal with people around them. Thanks to our faith, we are all powerful ministers in our own way, and that’s a strength upon which we must improve.
We’ve come a long way from talking about one of my hobbies, but I hope the idea of shedding stereotypes sticks with you. In the end, we all need to re-think our conceptions of Christian faith, belief and worship. We at Larison’s Corner, indeed all churches, have to look for new, refreshing ways to reach those spiritual people who can’t find the time to come to church on Sunday. One of our favorite ways of outreach is coming up: Church in the Park on September 30th. Preaching outdoors is always fun and it’s a different way to expose all those picnickers, joggers and power-walkers to the Love of God. It may not seem like much; however, it’s a fine start and one that I, and all the other Ministers of Word and Deed in the congregation, hope to build upon.
Blessings and peace to all,