If you've taken the subway to my neighborhood more than once you have likely seen the mosaic above. This church that at one time was literally part of the fabric of the neighborhood is now no longer there.
A Wall Street Journal article from last year gives some background on this church,
What does a church closing have to do with setting roots? [more than you might know from my life personally, more on that in future posts] It has to do with the reality that setting roots is a lesson in failing. The biggest risk in this invitation to investment and involvement is the risk of failing and for that reason, many don't make the effort.
In the midst of the winner's script culture that wants to Instagram wins and hide or worse 'Jordan crying meme' shame losses, staying and belonging is going to mean losing. It's going to mean saying and doing stupid things, offending people and needing to say sorry and a whole host of other things that will make us look foolish and show our inadequacies and limitations.
Whoa, where's the good news in this? The good news is that failures aren't wasted in God's economy. It is in these failures and flops, we can come to realize what we don't know and all that God wants to teach us through our neighbors, our community and our city. We can learn to see that failure is a much better teacher than success because it refines us and make us better people. On top of this, when we come to realize that our success rate is not what defines God's love for us because we rest in Jesus perfect track record, we are free to learn and fail and embrace being changed as we dive into the messiness of setting roots in our neighborhood.
Some churches do sadly over time start to look at the community as a lost cause or reduce community to a "holy huddle" because they are or become fearful of those not like them. In so doing lose sight of the beauty of moving out and learning from and participating in what God is already doing in our cities.
But did that church fail because it closed it's doors? Was it because it lost sight of the neighborhood or because it reduced community to the holy huddle? Or is there a bigger and different story unfolding? Setting roots is risky and will lead us to make mistakes and to get messy and we can either let that paralyze us from participation or we can get dirty and dive in because we trust what it can and will produce in us and around us.
Think of a time in your life that you really failed. Take some time to review and consider what that failure taught you about yourself.
Would you describe yourself more as a tourist, pessimist, local, or pilgrim of your place? What is your next right step toward the posture of a rooted pilgrim?