A few days ago, I posted a reflection on our Drive-Thru Ashes initiative here at Holy Comforter. I received some good feedback on that reflection (my the traffic on my blog spiked!), so I decided to post some more thoughts.
I identified five types of people who drove through on Ash Wednesday. Each type of person was there for a different reason, and each one should be described with some detail.
The Curiosity Seeker – Of the 88 cars that passed through, my guess is that about 25 were curiosity seekers. They had read the article in the Houston Chronicle, seen our signs advertising the Drive-Thru, or heard about us through some other outlet (104 FM, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). The curiosity seeker always drove up with a smile on their face and said, “This is so cool!” Many of these folks told me they had a church community, but they were so intrigued they just had to stop.
The Busybody – This group represented another 20 cars or so. The busybodies told me that their church was on the other side of town and just couldn’t make it over there for their Ash Wednesday services during their busy workday. A number of these folks were Episcopalians, connected to other communities, who managed to rush over on their lunch break or after work.
The Duty-Bound – About 5 “duty-bound” cars came through. From what I heard and perceived, these were members of the Roman church who felt it was their duty to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. They rolled down their window, said hello, got some ashes, and then drove off. Whatever. I just don’t understand an ethic of duty and obligation without community.
The Lost, Lonely, and Searching – These are the folks that needed something. Their numbers constitute the remainder of the cars that came through (well, almost…see below). These are the ones that drove up with tears in their eyes. These are the ones that asked me to pray for them. This group of people needed something to hang onto as the rest of their life was in a whirlwind. As you read in my previous post, their spouses had just died, they or their family members had cancer, they were looking for a church, they were looking for work…they were looking for something. We, as the Church, came alongside their pain and gave them our prayers, blessings, and support.
The Naysayer – We had one car drive through that told us that we were being disrespectful. Actually, I was inside leading the noon Ash Wednesday service, so I didn’t meet the naysayer. Fortunately, we had some very strong parishioners outside at the time, and they invited this person to come inside for worship. Not surprisingly they drove off. What struck me about the naysayer was the amount of time and energy they used to be stinkers. That was just sad.
One last note about “the lost, lonely, and searching:” I believe the single most prevalent heresy in our world today is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The tenets of this heresy are simple and saccharine: good people go to heaven when they die, God just wants me to be good, and God doesn’t do much in our world today, except when I’m in trouble, then I’ll cry out to God for help (the “lifeboat” God).
I think many of the people who drove through needing prayers were probably Moralistic Therapeutic Deists. They were reaching out for a lifeboat God, and what we offered was perfect for them. They could reach out to God quickly, without running the risk of being challenged by God and entering into a Christian community.
Do I think these people need to enter into a genuine Christian community? Of course. Do I think that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is rampant among American believers? Oh yeah. But does this mean that I’m not going to come alongside their pain? By no means!
Perhaps by our outreach and compassion on those who are struggling, we can invite them into our community so that they can follow the Lord Jesus with us, during the good times and the bad.