Comfortable Labels

I had another one of those conversations this past week with someone who wanted information about our church. The more I tried to describe Shelby Crossings, the more frustrated he seemed to get. We just didn’t seem to fit any of the labels or categories with which he was most comfortable.

It reminded me of something I shared in a message once, about the days when my wife and I worked at The King’s Ranch as relief house parents many years ago. Every week or so the truck would arrive at the ranch with part of our “salary”–in the form of “dented cans and torn boxes” from a few area grocery stores. The stores would donate these items that they could no longer sell to help feed the needy children of the ranch, as well as the needy workers like us who served there.
From time to time, we would get more than a crushed box of corn flakes or a beat up can of vegetable soup. Those times, we would get a plain, aluminum–and unlabeled–can of food. Or at least you hoped it was food.
I remember the strange excitement and anticipation as we opened one of those bare cans to prepare for dinner. What was in i? Was it some high-priced brand of peas or beans or corn that we would have otherwise been unable to afford? Or perhaps a bad generic offering that we wouldn’t have wanted to purchase to begin with. Maybe one of those atrocious vegetables that make you wonder, who eats that stuff? It might be fruit cocktail or it might be hominy, or, it could even be Alpo! Inquiring minds did want to know.
Fun memories, actually. But it also reminds me, again, why labels do make us comfortable, because they tell us on the outside what’s on the inside. Or, at least we think they do.
Which brings us back to the topic of churches. People often want to know what kind of church we are, and the name “The Church at Shelby Crossings” just doesn’t give them enough information. Before they visit they are curious as to our beliefs, our style, our philosophy of ministry, our “flavor.” Are we traditional or contemporary? Causal or formal? Conservative or liberal? KJV or NIV? Charismatic or….whatever is the opposite of charismatic? And what about denomination? Do we have one, and we’re hiding it? Or do we not have one for a reason? Even those who are turned off by denominations want to know our “label” so they can know where we stand.
Whatever label we might use to describe us, I would hope we at Shelby Crossings will continue to seek to be a Christ-focused, Biblically-rooted, Spirit-led family of believers who genuinely love the Lord and care about the people of our community. But the truth is, like the mystery cans of The King’s Ranch, people will find out who and what we really are not by looking at the labels on the outside, but by seeing who we are when the can is opened.
May we truly reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ to Calera and our surrounding communities, to His glory. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
–Pastor Ken