No, that’s not misspelled. I’ll explain:
This past week I was listening to back issues of Russell Moore’s podcast of The Cross and the Jukebox. Once I got over my envy that he’s getting to mix pleasurable work (talking about Jesus) with pleasure (country music), I was able to glean a good bit of information. The issue (episode?) I listened to that struck me the most, though, was this one about Don Williams’ song Good Ole Boys Like Me. Dr. Moore spoke of growing up in southern Mississippi and how much he felt bad for the kids from the nearby Air Force Base that answered the “Where are you from?” question with “Everywhere.”
I’m one of those kids. Now, Moore talks about the kids that were moving every few months, and the blessing of my growing up was that it was every few years, but it was still a challenge. It remains one. I pastor a church in a small town in Arkansas that has people in it that live in the house their grandparents were born in. Not that they lived in after being born, were born in. Folks around here think they’ve moved to the city by getting within 10 miles of a Wal-mart, and restless folks are the ones that have moved 3 times in 50 years. I’ve moved, on average, once every 18 months of my life. And my time in ministry has helped extend my longevity in places!
So, while Russell Moore was talking about people’s roots, I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’m not a rooted person. I’m a radicle person (with apologies to the esteemed David Platt). What’s a radicle? It’s the embryonic precursor to a root, the first thing that emerges from a seed. (Yes, my kids are homeschooled or I’d never have known that. They did, in fact, teach me that word.) The radicle is what comes out and then leads to roots.
Now, being a radicle person, I thought I’d send a few suggestions out to you root people out there. You know who you are: you’ve been where you are, or within a 50 mile radius, for a long time. Some of you, I know, are radicle people, but you’re pastoring a rooted church. Perhaps this will help you articulate a few things for them. It’s just a few requests and observations:
1. In church announcements, please don’t express that “We all know what that means.” Actually, no, we all don’t know. As soon as you announce in church “It’s April, and we all know what that means,” you’ve let me know that I’m not part of “we.” That I’m unwelcome to the party. That I am still outside your camp. Take the time to explain the announcements. Every week. Every year.
Corollary: Preachers: “We all know……” is a bad sermon phrase too. There are people in your church that don’t know. There are people that knew but have forgotten. Once you’ve made your point by referring to something that you expect them to know, but they don’t, you’re done. You’ve either alienated or insulted the congregation or both. Not good.
2. Learn to give directions. Seriously, people, open your eyes and look at what’s there, now, beside the road and tell me how to get from here to the destination with something I can use. Now that the streets have names, and have for 7 years, calling it “Old Route 1” when the sign says “Smith Farm Road” just gets me lost. Neither does referring to a turn at “the corner where the Johnson house was before it burned down” help. Especially since the Johnson house burned in 1989. If you want to grow and welcome me into your fellowship, make plain how to get to your fellowship. Because guess what? That fancy GPS thingy I’ve got? Yeah, it doesn’t know the roads around here either.
3. Don’t be upset and call me snobby because I didn’t let you in my house when you first returned my visit to your church. Really. I didn’t come to your house. I went to, in our Baptist semi-theology, God’s house. And I know He’s already at mine, so it’s not like you need to return the favor for Him. The truth is, as much as I move, my home is my refuge. My home is also a little temporary looking. I’m a little self-conscious that my pictures are on the wall with 3M Command Hooks instead of nails, that my furniture is IKEA-knockoff that disassembles, and that half the decor doesn’t match the other half. With the moving, it’s hard to acquire stuff that matches, and it’s hard to know what to own to fill the next house, apartment, or whatever. Maybe I’m not ready for you to judge my home. So, if you want me to be a part of the church community, invite me to your house. Don’t take me out to dinner. Invite me to your place. Let me see where you live, how you live. Give me some time and interaction on your turf: let me be the invader so that I can see you really actually care.
4. Please make plain invitations. When I hear “we all go out to _______restaurant after church, you’re welcome anytime,” I hear “we all go fellowship and tell inside jokes, but you’re welcome to join us and sit there confused for an hour.” You think this is paranoid or cynical, but it’s part of the developed defenses of not being someplace long enough to fit in. Be direct, invite me, and ask me questions. Tell me the whole story, the whole joke. Or don’t invite me.
These might sound cynical or jaded, but this is a part of the developed defenses of a radicle person. The people that are drifting into and out of your community circles are crying out to be loved and included, but they’re going to need you to come to them on some of their terms. It’s not marvelous that you shook their hand and said “hello” at church. You’re supposed to do that. Most nomadic people are used to the basics of hospitality, but we’re not dying in our churches over a lack of hospitality. We’re dying in isolation because of a lack of fellowship, and there really is a difference. Make the first move. Welcome that new radicle guy or girl into your fellowship. You never know what good it might do.