I was about to go into the State capital when the voice mail came. “Call me this morning after 10:00. We’ve got lots to talk about.” The voice was pretty insistant and assuming, but I didn’t have a clue who the voice belonged to.
I was one of two day chairs who were escorting Class 22 of Leadership Merced on their Government Day tour of the Capital and conversation with some politicos. We were instructed to turn our cell phones off before entering the Capital because we were going into the Senate and Assembly chambers.
So I ignored the insistant caller and turned my phone off. At noon we went back out on the Capital grounds to eat lunch, walk around, and tour the Vietnam Memorial. I checked my phone to see if there were messages I needed to attend to. A second phone call from the same person! “I called you earlier. I’m home today and would like to have coffee with you.”
I decided I ought to repay the phone call. I told the voice on the other end that I was in Sacramento and couldn’t have coffee. The voice asked lots of questions. “How did you get my name,” I asked. I wondered why the voice was treating me like a long-lost-friend.
Once I discovered the connection and found out it was legit, I made an appointment for the next day to have coffee. It was a very pleasant visit although it ended with what I thought was a sad comment to the effect that since I was in ministry I probably needed to have a friend to talk to.
I thought it was sad on two counts. The first is that churches sometimes create such odd cultures that there is no room for good pastoral friendships within them. I’ve heard that sentiment all my life, but only recently thought about how odd that is.
The second is that without church friends there’s no one else to have as a friend. I think this comes from the view of the church as an enclave, a warm protective womb outside of which no one should stray. This is also the view that keeps many people from ever darkening the door of a church.
I don’t know where this new “friendship” will go or whether we will have many opportunities for coffee. I do know, however, that I would like to tell him sometime about all the genuinely good friendships I have with delightful folks who don’t choose to hang out around churches.
Church-as-enclave is antagonistic to the mission of the church. Jesus called us “leaven,” and everyone knows that you have to mix leaven with the dough in order for it to be effective. That is an important fact to know.