Remember that funky "game" from the '70's--The Ungame? Instead of being your typical competitive game with winners--and losers--the Ungame fostered conversation, listening skills and creative expression.
The Ungame was, for competetive types, an "out-of-the-box" experience. It forced all who played to look at games in a new and different way: instead of competing, players connected. It was more people- than goal-oriented. You couldn't really lose at the Ungame; but you could achieve deeper relationships with your fellow players if you risked honesty and vulnerability as you answered the questions you drew . . .
Some people hated the Ungame, but I loved it. Games, at least the competition part, have never had much appeal for me. I enjoy the camaraderie around the table, but the whole winning thing is highly overrated. I mean, what difference does it really make, in the overall scheme of things, if I win or lose at Bunko?
Sometimes I wish we viewed church in a more out-of-the-box way. Like the commercial I saw on Discovery Channel (thumbs-up to the United Methodists!) last night that asked: "What if the church were more of a verb than a noun? What if it was more than a building, but a journey that could change our world? Would you come?"
"Yes!" I shouted at the T.V.
Greg and I gathered together with about 100 other worshipers two weeks ago at a typical church service. We sang worship songs, gave our tithes and offerings, fellowshipped and took communion together, and listened to an inspiring sermon. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half--and then church was over.
Or had the journey had just started . . . ?
Our hike up Mt. St. Helens the following Tuesday felt oddly like "church" to me. I suspect that most of our team experienced many of the aspects of a typical service as we hiked up the mountain: we worshiped the Lord for His amazing creation as we climbed, we prayed for His help in reaching the summit, we praised God that none of us perished on the mountain. We experienced incredible fellowship on the climb--exhorting and encouraging one another (one team member literally carried another's burden--backpack--up the last steep leg to the top). We enjoyed "communion" together at the top--PBJ's and Gatorade. On the way down, we shared our water with the thirsty, bound up the wounds of the blistered and bleeding, helped strangers find their way and had lots of time to talk about what the Lord was doing in our daily lives.
At the end of the day, I felt I'd experienced a much deeper sense of community than I ever have during a Sunday morning meeting. But the journey didn't end on the mountain . . .
Thursday we opened up our home to friends from Central Oregon who had to be in Portland for a few days. Again, we experienced the richness of "doing life together" in the Lord. My friend and I spent many hours discussing the struggles and stress of ministry. But we also laughed and cooked together, picked blackberries in the warm sun and then drank good wine with our feet up on the coffee table. We chatted about the wonderful things the Lord was doing in our lives and families. When they left on Saturday, I felt so edified in the Lord.
After saying goodbye to our friends, Greg and I took a meal to a couple who lives up on Mt. Hood. We no longer attend the same "church" they do, but we still feel very connected. The husband's health is failing rapidly, so we prayed for healing for him and comfort and peace for his family. We spent 3 hours with our friends on the mountain, sharing stories of God's faithfulness and care. Even though we were sobered by the possibility that Ken's time with us here on earth would be cut short, there was a richness of fellowship that occurred.
Heaven seemed more real--more desireable--as Greg and I headed back home that day.
Then Sunday rolled around again. This week, we got up and dressed and drove to a different church across town. We sang worship songs, heard announcements and sharing, listened to a sermon, met a few wonderful followers of Christ and then went home.
"Church" was over, but the journey goes on!