TRADER JOE’S CHURCH

Before joining Mission Hills Christian Church a few months ago, Andrea and I spent a little over two years living in Pasadena near the grad school that I was attending. Much of those two years was spent at a magical and wondrous establishment called Trader Joe’s. Perhaps you are familiar with this grocery phenomenon. We loved our Pasadena Trader Joe’s and our Pasadena Trader Joe’s loved us so much so that Andrea and I would often joke that our best friends in Pasadena were probably Trader Joe’s employees.

We even passed out Christmas cards…to the staff.

Creepy, right?

I have asked myself many times over the past two years why purchasing groceries at this particular store is so pleasant. I mean, after all, it’s just buying food. And while good food, ease of selection, reasonable prices, and a great store layout may all contribute to an above average shopping experience, I think there’s one aspect of Trader Joe’s that makes it exceptional: the people. As soon as Andrea and I walk through the doors, we are greeted by name. The person checking us out knows where we are from, that Andrea teaches yoga next door, and that I study theology and culture. And this is not just particular to us. Our Pasadena Trader Joe’s has done a phenomenal job at cultivating community.

As the Church, I wonder how well are we doing at cultivating this type of atmosphere. Are we developing relationships that care for the needs and rejoice in the well-being of those in our community? In his wonderful book, Slow Church, Chris Smith writes, “In the Western world where individualism reigns supreme, there is unfamiliarity, awkwardness, and even slowness in our calling to live as a community of God’s people. We are so accustomed to living and acting as autonomous individuals that the idea of being God’s people in the world can be tough to wrap our heads around.”

I sometimes see people with their headphones on while perusing the aisles of my Pasadena Trader Joe’s, and think to myself, “Hey! You’re missing out!”

How do we view our lives as church goers and followers of Jesus? Are we occasionally skimming the aisles of religion as we need? Do we have our earbuds in, absorbed with the news alerts, upcoming meetings, emails, and the million other beeps that vie for our attention?

Are we missing out?

Jesus invites us all into the depths of a relationship with God but also calls us to be participants in a joyful life together that shares in the love, hope, and work of reconciliation within our community and the world. May we learn from our friends at Trader Joe’s about taking the time to cultivate a shared experience that’s creative, loving, and thoughtful. Let’s be a Trader Joe’s church.

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