What Kind of Church
by Rev. Scott Dickison
As many of you are aware, over the past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time with family, both my immediate family and also relatives who are spread out literally across the country (from Colorado to Florida), some of whom I have not seen in over 15 years (!). It’s been a very difficult and tender time together as we’ve cared for my father, whose health has been declining rapidly. But it’s also been an incredibly rich time full of memories we’ll cherish for a lifetime.
And invariably these relatives, particularly the ones whom I have not seen in some time, want to hear more about “my” church (or more the case, what kind of church would hire Angie and Doug’s kid as pastor). And no matter how often I’m asked this question, whether by family or friends, I always relish the opportunity to tell folks what kind of church we are.
I usually begin with our history, location, building and worship: We’re a historic, downtown church whose current sanctuary was built in the 1880s, with high rafters and old wooden pews—but it’s also an unexpectedly warm space to worship. We love singing hymns, reading Scripture, and listening to sermons no longer than 20 minutes. Then I talk about where we come from: Our members come from all over Macon; some from the neighborhoods around the church, others from North Macon, and some come from as far as Warner-Robins or Perry.
At this point, most folks will pause and say something to the affect of, So, what kind of Baptist are you? At which point I tell them about CBF and how we support women in ministry and congregational governance, and are generally open-minded in terms of our theology.
And I believe this to be a fair summary of most CBF congregations: support women, self-governing, open-minded. But then I go on to tell them what makes our church different, even among our peers. I love telling folks that we’re a church that’s strong and healthy enough to nourish and sustain folks from a variety of theological, political and social positions. And most of the time we don’t do this the cheap way by not ever talking about divisive issues. When we’re at our best we do this the honest way, by engaging the world, engaging our faith and engaging each other. This is what I think sets our church apart.
Sadly, this kind of honest engagement is becoming harder and harder to find. It’s no secret that our society is as partisan as it’s ever been, and it’s far too easy to completely shield yourself from different opinions and people. This estrangement is often done in the name of some false sense of purity, that when held to the light it’s revealed to be a kind of lazy cowardice.
In an increasingly fragmented world, I hope we’re the kind of church that embodies the wholeness I believe our faith demands. It’s not always pretty, and it requires more than a little grace, but it’s a kind of church I can’t help but tell about.