I wonder how much of a mistake it is to be church ‘for’ other people, or ‘at’ other people, rather than ‘with’ other people?
I suppose even being church ‘at’ or ‘for’ them is better than assuming it’s all laid on for me, me, me. And I suppose ‘being’ church rather than ‘doing’ church is also a Jolly Good Thing, just as ‘being’ a disciple is at the heart and root of all we ‘do’ as disciples.
It’s the whole subtle question of whether we’re being Messy Church alongside others or doing it to them.
The former means we too are learners, worshippers, partakers, servants while they are too. There is space for them to have the answers, to encounter Christ, to challenge our preconceptions, to hold the keys. There is space for us to be amazed, moved, educated and shocked too. If we expect our Messy families to listen to us, do we expect to listen to them?
The latter means we may still be servants, yes, but we are also providers who encourage their passive consumerism. We may be inclined to give but closed to receiving, holders of the Holy Mysteries that we have the power to dispense or withhold as we see fit but certainly the ones in the know while there is an assumption that they know little or nothing. Doing church to people means we keep hold of power. Doing it with them places us as equals around the activity and meal tables – even around the Communion table. Christ emptied himself of everything and became supremely vulnerable: only when we become like him in the way we are his Church will we really grow his Kingdom in his way.
And am I right to feel so uncomfortable about all this ‘we’ and ‘they’? In our Messy world where the lines are and should be blurred and easy to cross, we have the glorious possibility of being simply ‘we’.