When I was leaving Williamstown Sunday, I caught a glimpse of a steeple on an old church. I set a course through the alley and navigated my way to it. From a block away I could see there was a red banner with yellow lettering above the door. I assumed it was to advertise a new program or special event or maybe the church had a name change. Boy, was I off! When I reached the intersection I could finally read the sign:
RJ’s Pawn Shop – Anything of Value.
I talked to my son Tyler about it. I wondered with him about whether this pawn shop church was as tragic as my church planting brain was telling me. How would I feel if the church that I started had become a pawn shop? What happened? How could a space which was once filled with people, life, and music now house lawn mowers, bicycles, and wedding bands?
Trying to be optimistic I thought, “Maybe the church outgrew the building and needed to move. Maybe the leadership gained a new vision for ministry and the hundred year old structure wasn’t conducive to their new strategy.” But honestly, I doubt either of those are what happened. The church probably just died.
I’m glad we continued to chat because eventually I started to think less clinically, less like a religious practitioner. We posed some different ideas about these strange bedfellows. After all a pawn shop is a place where something old or expendable by some are seen as new treasures by others. And a church is supposed to be a people & a place where we’re reminded we are God’s workmanship and reassured of how valuable we are.
Maybe it’s not a tragic end to the church at all. It could quite possibly be a powerful image for us. We follow the sandal prints of someone who pointed out beauty, value, and worth everywhere he went. He embraced the cast-offs of society. He offered belonging to the lonely. He proclaimed the reality of a new home to anyone who was interested. Maybe if our churches were more like pawn shops when they are filled with people, life, and music – they wouldn’t end up housing lawn mowers, bicycles, and wedding bands?