In Acts 20, Paul offers what he believes to be a farewell to the elders at Miletus. His earnest speech summarized his example for their own pastoral work. Central to that work was testifying of “repentance toward God and of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.21). But Paul does not fail to explain how that central message had a multi-dimensional mode in which it would be carried out. He says in verse 20 that he “did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public, and from house to house.”
Paul understood long before Marshall McLuhan ever did that many times the medium is the message–that the manner in which a message is conveyed can be as critical as the content itself. And so Paul made it a point not only to bear witness to the gospel in gathered settings, but also in private, familial, and intimate settings. To preach by being present. To disciple by entering into patient dialogue.
Here in these early years of our community’s existence and in the earliest days of my privilege as your pastor, I want to take Paul’s admonition to heart by (ahem) inviting you to invite me over. (There, I said it.) It might sound like an impertinence–the kind of inquiry we hang “no soliciting signs” on our doors to avoid–but I think it’s through this kind of pastor-parishioner interaction that we can build a community that does more than just say that is testifies to the goodness and grace of the Gospel. It can come to embody that testimony as we wrestle through the implications of His call upon our lives, a wrestling that occurs in (and often because of) community. And we’ll only build community with some informal and honest conversations.
So over the next weeks and months, I wonder if you might invite me into your homes, for a cup of coffee some evening. Or a walk though your workplace during your lunch hour. Or if you’re a single woman, invite someone else in our community to be in on the conversation with us, which honors the command to live above reproach and makes our community-building even more efficient! I want to listen mostly and I promise not to keep you long. As my wife puts it, company can be like fish: they start to smell after a while.
This might be the most off-the-wall request you’ve ever heard. But if Paul is right, it could be the most sensible and profitable way forward in our life together.