I can’t sleep tonight. At least not yet. I came downstairs to connect with God. Opening my mouth to pray, all I could say was, “Jesus, I want to be near you.” I say it again and again, but oh how the mind wanders. Thinking of work. Always work. Even when I open the Scriptures it’s to a portion I must read for work. My job has become my relationship with God.
So I write. I write my prayers because in speaking them I am so easily distracted. And tonight I pray for Ember, the unborn church.
The image that comes to my mind whenever I think about Ember now is of a man (probably me), yellow-checkered shirt and ratty blue jeans, walking down a street lined with old homes. I know the neighborhood. It’s Clintonville, just north of campus. But the image is far different than the one I used to have. The old image was also of a man (certainly me), but that man was preaching to a congregation of thousands. Illuminated by stage lights. Supported by rock and roll. Leading a mass movement with all humility and character, or so I hoped. Now it’s a man walking.
The funny thing is, my ecclesiology hasn’t changed all that much. What I think the church ought to be doing today is pretty much the same thing I thought the church ought to be doing five years ago. It’s me who’s changing. I don’t want to be Rob Bell anymore. (Sorry, Rob, nothing personal.) I don’t want to have a big church anymore. I don’t want to be the next evangelical rock star preacher. I don’t want to start a movement, I just want to move.
I want to go somewhere with people. I want to be a part of a community that honors God with their lips and their hearts and their deeds. I want to take the wealthy, introduce them to the poor, and speak the words of Christ to each. I want to be a part of a community where political liberals and conservatives can break bread together. I want to see young people listening to old people, and old people listening to young people. I want to be in a church where Jesus makes himself known to those who think they already know everything about him.
And yet it all seems so “yeah right.” It all seems so impossible. This isn’t the sort of thing that I know how to make happen. And even if I did, I wouldn’t want to. I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about God and I want this to be about us and I want this to be about a world in need of both Jesus and the Church.
So, God. It’s up to you. Too much has to happen that is beyond my control. I will walk, but you must lead. You must clear the path through the jungle. You must blaze the trail through the wilderness. You step, I step. Please, let’s move.