My Hope for What the Church Will Be, Part 1


As someone who revels in the outdoors, most of my hobbies get me out into nature. I've been birding since I was fourteen, taught outdoor education in zoos and camps, and would rather spend a night out under the panoply of the heavens than any stuffy old bedroom.

When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars that Thou hast appointed, what is Man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Every time I catch a glimpse of the night sky, Psalm 8 rolls off my lips from out of my heart.

I recently added geocaching to my arsenal of outdoor activities. Together, my son and I have found 55 hidden caches in our area in our first six weeks. It's a challenging activity and a whole lot of fun.

Geocaching presents another intriguing benefit. Not being in the typical workplace, I've witnessed my personal network dwindle to only a handful of names. Since I have no hobbies that require other people to make them happen, I decided to attend a geocachers meet-up to broaden my contacts and get my face out there.

Last Friday, my son and I met up with our fellow geocachers. About 33 people showed up. Curiously, I knew most of them by their "cache name" nicknames as I'd already come across their log entries in the caches and in the electronic logs at .

I was new. No one knew me. Everyone greeted me and my son. We were immediately welcomed into the greater body of local geocachers.

Time ticked on, but none of us noticed. People shared their exploits. Stories about hard-to-find caches abounded, including one notorious one that had sent my son and me sliding along with trees and rocks for about a hundred feet when the hillside we were standing on collapsed. (Yes, very scary, but God was faithful and we were remarkably unhurt.) When I got engrossed in the conversation, the lady presiding over the get-together spontaneously watched my son so I could hang with the veterans and soak up the geocaching wisdom. And while the meeting felt like a throwback to the kinds of engineer parties I remember in Silicon Valley (I now know the hot sport for techies in my area), everyone was glad to have me there. They clued me in to insider talk, showed me their collections of treasures harvested from various caches, and made me feel like I'd been a part of their little cadre forever. We had to leave a little bit early, so we didn't get to see the gifts handed out to those geocachers who had achieved certain milestones (like 1000 caches found). That would have been nice to witness, though.

Driving home, I couldn't shake a few thoughts about that meeting:

  1. Though I was a sheer beginner, no one looked down on my lack of experience and feeble knowledge. They respected me for how far I'd already come.
  2. People made sure my son and I felt included.
  3. The wise among them wanted to let me know their secrets.
  4. The host looked after me, took care of my child so I could learn more, and dropped me an e-mail later to say how glad she was that we'd been able to attend.
  5. People there were genuinely excited about what they did and shared stories that bolstered comraderie and the activity itself.
  6. Anyone who shared in the love of the activity was welcomed. Old people, families with young children—it didn't matter.
  7. If people didn't immediately grasp all the rules, that was okay. Questions were eagerly answered and without judgment.
  8. The very best among them were esteemed for what they'd accomplished. 

You can probably see where I'm heading, so I'll just say it:

Wouldn't it be great if all our churches in America were like this?

Honestly, a geocache box is nothing in the scheme of things. Geocaching will pass away like all things in time. But why then do we Christians, the ones who are ambassadors of the Living Christ, seem far less excited about Him than these geocachers do about a piece of Tupperware hidden inside a hollow log in the woods?

Wouldn't it be great if our meetings were filled with people talking about what Jesus meant to them? Unity, Mercy, LoveWhat He'd done in their lives today, yesterday, and the day before that? If people can get excited about finding a 35mm film canister wedged in a woodpecker hole, why do we seem so bored with Jesus, who is Lord of the Universe?

We wonder why it's harder and harder to get the lost to take notice of Jesus. I can say with all honesty that if we were as excited about Him as these geocachers are about their sport, and we conducted our meetings as welcoming and as informative as that geocachers get-together, our churches might be packed—or at least people wouldn't write them off so easily.

If you're a Christian, then you have a built-in network of people who should be on your side for eternity. Yet all too often that network suffers in comparison to some of the networks the world has to offer.

When his buddy upchucks the evening's revelry, the barfly cleans him up. When the drug addict has no place to sleep, he calls another addict who lets him crash at his place. The bartender, out out on the town on his own for once, leaves his waitress a big tip because he knows how it is.

The Bible says this:

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
—Luke 16:8b ESV

The sons of this world get it. They know they have to fight for everything because they have nothing else to back them up. That's why a real friend means something. A real friend will cover your back.

We take for granted what the Lord bought for us when He created the Church.

That's where we'll pick up in the concluding part of this pre-hiatus series. Look for it before the week is out.

9 thoughts on “My Hope for What the Church Will Be, Part 1

  1. We tend to spend time on those things we love the most. We unabashedly share our opinions about those things. We try to convince others to love those things. We are evangelical and all welcoming to those who show even the slightest interest.

    So what happened???

  2. Great post!!!

    Hmm….I think one thing that has happened to the church is that we tend to see teh commandment “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” as a totally different commandemnt than “love your neighbor as yourself”. We get so wrapped up in trying to show them God’s love that we forget about the normal, human to human love that it really is.

    Just a few thoughts….

    • David,

      You never know with a post.

      I think the ones that get the most attention are those that take a controversial view on a personal issue that’s been hashed out a million times before. My post “Leer and Foaming in Las Wendy’s” drew an enormous input because everyone has an opinion on modesty (or the lack of it).

      That’s an easy one because you can do something about how you think or what you wear. On the other hand, trying to change the Church in this country is daunting. That’s why these whole Church issues go unchallenged. People don’t know where to start in reforming it all.

  3. its apples an and oranges comparison…there is still innocence in the relatively new and unknown sport of gc’ing. few people have encountered gc’ers in it for dates, or money, or scams, otherwise false pretenses that exploit the trust in the gc community. unfortunately, the church has plenty of ravenous wolves. caution comes with experience. i desire the ideals you mention, but have learned to be very shrewd…
    God is good

    • John,

      Any affinity group, be it quilters, model train enthusiasts, Alcoholics Anonymous, ballroom dancers, biker gangs, or geocachers, has a set of core values and internal language, as does the Church. Christianity is very much an affinity group. In fact, all religions are not only affinity groups, but are ultimate expressions of them.

      What I encountered in that geocaching group would be very similar to what I would encounter in most affinity groups, regardless of their history. So I don’t think this is an apples and oranges thing. The affinity groups are wild about what they do and what they believe. Are we as wild about Jesus and what He’s called us to do? If so, then why are so many people bored with church or looking for something more? Why do I routinely encounter more generosity and graciousness in affinity groups that share my common interests than in some churches in America?

      That’s a big issue we need to examine. A geocacher gets up and tells of the adventure of his thousandth find and everyone is glued to the edge of their seats, while someone gets up in church and gives a testimony of what Jesus did and people yawn. There’s a serious problem there.

      I think that sometimes we act as if Jesus isn’t real. The physical is more real to us Americans. The early Church didn’t think that way. I look at a book like Lewis’s The Great Divorce and his imagery of Heaven being far more real and substantial than this world is lost on too many of us. We’re too mired in the physical now for my liking. That’s skewed so much of how we do things. We act like the afterlife is a million years off, so we don’t live with our minds in Heaven and our feet on Earth.

      All I’m trying to say is that the Church could learn a few good lessons from some of these affinity groups.

  4. Peyton

    You can probably see where I’m heading, so I’ll just say it:

    Wouldn’t it be great if all our churches in America were like this?

    Dan, the biggest difference between geocacheing and church is this: nobody is upset by geocacheing, but church has enemies! and specifically, an enemy.

    But the enemy is defeated!

    • Is it? I know that the enemy will be defeated, but right now he is alive and well, and killing churches left and right. Just read the letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation and ponder that not one of those churches exist today, and their geographic location is now a muslim dominated country that has no appreciable Christian population. The reasons for their failures are spelled out in Revelation, and the one that speaks loudest to me is “You have forgotten your first love.” Dan is presenting a very good comparison: a group of people who are excited about an activity and want to share it with others.

      Again. What happened?

  5. Jeff Hnatio


    There’s definitely a link between this and the “either/or” post. It’s tough to be welcoming and genuinely interested in new people when church is just a social event and people are not experiencing the mighty power of the Lord and living as “extremists” for Christ.

    I’m part of a young adults group at my church and overall there is a strong group of men and women with a real passion to live as extremists for Christ. Of course, our group still has a long way to go (including myself!). And there are plenty of folks who I don’t think have yet counted the cost of following Christ. Because we’re not all of one purpose and one heart, our outreach and hospitality isn’t always what it could be. I do see the Lord working though and it’s exciting to imagine our group offering the kind of welcome you describe.

    I’ve really come to see the importance of hospitality for Christians. Nothing humbles me more than when a non-believer reaches out to me with love/hospitality in a way that makes me ask myself why I would not have been as loving if our situations were reversed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *