I write to you today from the "branch office," a delightful term my senior pastor coined for when you take your work out of the office. I think we need this, particularly those of us who preach or teach and consider ourselves creative types. You have to get out of the office, breathe fresh air, see people, and try to kick start the creative juices. Today, I made my way to Chick-Fil-A for exactly two reasons: 1) I needed to finish some work on some talks for an upcoming weekend retreat I'm speaking at and 2) They have free refills.
I sat down, ate lunch, and watched a mountain biking video. You know, you can't get all the work done right away! As I was setting aside my lunch and pulling out my Bible, a few students from our youth group walked in. They had a college fair today, so they were out of school early and grabbing a bite to eat. I think our interaction was all of 30 seconds long, just a quick hello and how's it going. But as any good youth worker will tell you, it's all about relationships. That's 30 seconds of interaction I wouldn't have had if I was stuck in my office.
The kids grabbed their milkshakes and sat across the restaurant from me with their friends. I put my headphones back on and started typing away at my talk. After a little while, the lady in the booth beside me interrupted me to ask if I was a pastor. I said yes (sometimes it's easier to do this than to go through the rigama-roll about the ordination process and how I'm like a pastor but not one yet...), and asked how she knew. She noted that my laptop is covered with Star Wars stickers, and her observation is that most of the pastors she knows like Star Wars. This is a fact of life that is going to require further investigation on my part, as if it's true I have some suggestions for the next round of pastor's conferences. But anyway, this stranger and I got to talking about her church, which is right down the street from ours. Turns out, this is a church we partner with on a few things, but since we're both pretty big churches, neither of us had met before even though we'd probably been in the same room more than a couple of times. We chatted for a while, and then she left and I went back to writing.
Truth be told, I've never been comfortable with the way many Christians celebrate their faith publicly. If you have a bullhorn, a sign, or a bumper sticker, I'm out. I just don't think people will respond to the message of Christ that way. A bumper sticker has never, ever, EVER, changed anyone's mind about something. It's just not practical. But today, I know a few friends of students who overheard a conversation about last night's youth group. A seed was planted. I know a few dozen people (most of whom were mothers with crying children, because Chick-Fil-A is apparently the place for that!) who overheard two people talking about how active their churches were in the world, and how much they loved a shared partnership. At no point did my public faith go beyond having a Bible open on my table, and apparently a few Star Wars stickers on my lappy. I'm not shoving anything down anyone's throat. I'm not being obnoxious (except for that chewing sound I always make). But I do think I've been a sign post for the kingdom this afternoon.
Could we live more into this middle ground? Could we be more in the middle of public faith? What do you think?