At the end of July, I was invited by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to be a part of a discussion group of 10 other young Baptists. The point of the conversation was to talk about church and what church looks like today.
The reality is that the Church that existed 25 years ago when CBF was created doesn’t exist anymore. There are many reasons for this, and CBF is investing time and conversation into what Church currently looks like and how we as a denomination can live into and support this new reality.
As a part of the conversation, the group was asked to list our hopes and dreams when it came to the Church’s role in the world. The phrase “safe space” is a current catch-phrase when it comes to what church should be. “We want this church to be a safe space for all people; a place where all feel welcome.”
Well, sadly, the reality is that this isn’t possible.
If a church is “safe” for one person, it may not be “safe” for another. A “safe” church gives the impression that we are putting up walls to protect what we have. The very nature of the word “safe” means that we are keeping something in and something else out. A “safe” church is a place that may feel safe to those inside it, but not to those who are on the outside looking for a place to belong.
What if instead we tried to make church a “brave” space?
Someone in the CBF conversation I was a part of used this term and I love it. Churches aren’t always easy places for people to enter (physically, relationally, spiritually). Entering a brave space takes courage; it may take vulnerability; it may even take risk. It will definitely take hard work in order for all to feel like they are a part of the community and have a space that they belong just as they are as beloved children of God.
But when everyone shows up ready to do the hard work, that’s when lives can truly change. When people show up in brave spaces ready to face fears, ask hard questions, struggle with scary, hard things, well then I believe we can change the world.
So may we, First Baptist Decatur, work at creating brave spaces in our building. May we be open to any and all who have courage to step into our building and do the hard thing. May we be known as Christians who don’t want to make safe spaces and keep people out, but Christians who create brave spaces where we can be fully us and fully children of God.
Kristen Koger is the Pastor for Children and Families at First Baptist Church of Decatur.