This past Saturday, Hilary and I had the entire day sans kids, so we decided to take advantage of it and go out for lunch to my old employer- Chili’s. While there, we noticed how long it had been since we last came to Chili’s, it seemed much had changed. Neither of us were super hungry, so we ordered the Triple Dipper to share along with two side salads. None of this means anything to you yet, I’m sure but what happened next is worth sharing.
As I was biting into the Southwest egg roll (something that didn’t change AT ALL), a wave of memories slid into my mind. I worked at Chili’s several years ago, but within one bite of this fatty goodness, it felt like it was only the other day that I quit working at Chili’s. This “food memory” was so powerful that I all of the sudden missed working at Chili’s. There was a literal ache in my heart for the place. I didn’t miss the money. I didn’t miss the work. I missed the people, in particular the non-Christians I worked with, bonded with and loved.
I was sort of stunned by this fact and I asked Hilary: “Is it weird that I miss working with non-Christians?” She assured me that it wasn’t weird, but it got me thinking- My bubble is very “Christian” and I do not hang out with very many non-Christians on a regular basis…I miss those crazy people.
My mind began to wonder to the Chili’s days and immediately I thought of Dave, this big muscle bound guy who would often ask me to pray for him and with him. You see, he should’ve been an NFL football player, but once he signed with the Tennessee Titans, he blew out his knee completely and was canned. I thought of Brooke who was pregnant at the same time as Hilary (with MJ) and was due almost the same day. Her story was a story that kind of ticked me off, because the Dad was a dork and she was looking down the pike to doing this baby thing alone. I thought of many of my other friends: Matt, Kerri, Steve, Lisa all of whom knew I loved them simply to love them. They knew I was a pastor, and respected that. In the beginning they were a tad leery of “letting me in” because they feared I was only trying to convert them. Yet, over time they let me in. I got to share Jesus love with them in tangible ways.
This one bite of egg roll caused me then, to self-reflect. As a pastor, am I creating the typical Christian social bubble that many churches and pastors create. Or, am I teaching and leading the people under my care to be intentional missionaries where they are? Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing much of the latter and I wrestle deeply here. I see many Christian groups gathering for parties for this or that, I see and hear about event after event that others are doing…and we’re not doing those…am I doing something wrong…or are we (as Aletheia) called to be and do things differently? If we are, I know we are not doing it to the maximum capacity of what we could be doing…
I consistently think now of my time at Chili’s and know that I was there for more than one reason. Something within me longs for fellowship with the non-Christian. Not in this “I’m leaving the church to be with them all the time” type way, but in a way that I think Jesus modeled. He spent time with the hurt and broken. He spent time with the people the religionists considered “outcasts” because they were not “good”. Somewhere inside I don’t desire to stay so cooped in my bubble all the time. Something inside desires to walk where Jesus walked, with whom Jesus walked…
I have some thoughts of what God is asking of us as a church plant at the University of Pittsburgh to help change the way we engage this…how can you and I personally change the bubble issue?