George MacLeod once told the story of a sailor, a latter-day Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked on a lonely tropical island. When he was rescued many years later, he gave his rescuers a tour of his island home. He showed them his camp, the straw hut he lived in, and not far from his hut, his own little church, where he worshipped each week. Later that same day, as they were walking in another part of the island, the rescuers saw a building that looked curiously like the church that stood near the survivor’s hut. They asked him, “What’s that? It looks like a church.”
“It is a church,” he answered. “It’s the church I don’t go to.”
The church we don’t go to shapes so much of our identity as Christians. The most common litany of my childhood (if we had believed in litanies) might have been: “We don’t do that. That’s Catholic.” For some people its “We don’t do that. That’s fundamentalist.” Or: “We don’t do that. That’s what liberals—or evangelicals—or Pentecostals—do.” The possibilities are almost endless in the game of defining ourselves by what we do not do or do not believe.
Jinkins explains in his book that this is not always bad. At times it is necessary to explain what we aren’t, what we don’t do, or what we don’t believe. However, more often than not, most Christians define themselves by what they don’t do instead of what they do and believe. Wouldn’t it be great if the focus and emphasis of North Hills was described by what we do: being a people of grace, a community of service, a body of forgiving and loving believers, and an environment of discipleship and growth in Jesus Christ?