“I’m fine, everything is fine.”

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“Everything is fine.”


Have you said this recently? How about “I’m good.”

But you’re not.


You are overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, unsure of the leadership around you and their ability to lead. Afraid of what the world will look like for your kids or grandkids…But you simply avoid eye contact and say…”I’m good….It’s fine….Everything is fine…” But there is neglect happening even as the words escape your lips. Neglect of your spirit, your family, your mental or physical health. But you trudge on with a …”It’s fine.”

Eugene Peterson in his work entitle “Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work” remarks that every week the Pastor makes a fairly short but exceedingly painful journey from the Chancel to the Narthex. Or if you are not part of a high church sort of model let me translate into Evangelical Christian, “from the pulpit to the lobby.”

C.S. Lewis once stated, “It is not an abstraction called Humanity that is to be saved. It is you,…your soul, and, in some sense yet to be understood, even your body, that was made for the high and holy place. All that you are…Every fold and crease of your individuality was devised from all eternity to fit God as a glove fits a hand….He made those ins and outs that he might fill them. Then He gave your soul so curious a life because it is the key designed to unlock that door of all the myriad of doors in Him.”

In the pulpit everything…. everything most times has been ordered. It is probably that way at your work too. There are static things to be done everywhere. There is a list, even if it’s handwritten, of what is happening. What should happen. What comes next. It is usually preceded by practice.

In church there is practice of singing, practice of preaching, practice of announcements, of lighting of candles. In Evangelical and Pentecostal circumstances sometimes there is surprise, or change, or a pastor might throw away his whole message and go in a different direction because he “feels the Holy Spirit leading them in a different direction.” Even among mainline churches rectors, ministers or priests awkwardly fumble through the humanity of an unexpected change in the wedding or funeral program, or order of service.

For a believer or seeker they might cross the threshold of chaos into order. All week there has been consistent pressure, persuasion, manipulation, forced compliance, unforeseen financial problems. Arguments you had or had again. But each Sunday worship and the word divides the waters of chaos on command and rolls back the chaos to the right and the left so that the seeker or believer might have a moment to worship, and praise, reflect and rest in God’s presence, for that is why this spiritual being was created. To on a regular, consistent, and ongoing basis…to simply be spiritual.

For a little over an hour of a person’s life all truth is proportioned, contemporized and made complete. Although you might walk out with more questions than answers you discover someone somewhere actually has standards and claims to know objective truth from an objective book. “If you don’t like what the Bible says, take it up with the author of the book,” the pastor says. And you smile even outwardly because finally amidst the chaos of the “it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine” world burning all around you, someone is saying something that makes sense in some capacity.

Then the service ends, people see you in the lobby between the banana bread and the coffee, still warm in the carafes from that morning. Someone is dropping their offering in a box marked for that purpose, another attender is delivering charitable donations for yet another “drive” the church is doing for the homeless, the needy or the lost in both a practical and spiritual sense.

The pulpit is an area of “acknowledged faith” Peterson says. But the lobby? This is when you and your pastor might go from an orderly expected experience to a disorderly re-entry and regathering into the muddied marriages, disgruntled parishioners,  confused mentally ill attendees, and broken people, all vocalizing their challenges, problems, joys, and friendships.  And this is when you pull out your…”I’m fine….It’s fine….Everything is fine.”

The lobby is where real life begins again.

Where real Christianity puts on skin. Where the mission field starts. Where people need prayer, where offenses are stated, and forgiveness might be offered. Where information is gathered and generosity is practiced.

It can also be where selfishness rules, where parents expose that they really don’t know how to “parent” and we discover they are human like everyone else. Where the Alzheimer’s patient shows their cards and people later begin to be concerned for the person they have known for 30 years.

The pastor who has spoken of mercy and grace in the pulpit, quietly in the corner of the lobby arranges an appointment with a couple on the verge of divorce, or speaks to the bitter executive who sees no hope in the nations future. Or meets the cynic who doesn’t believe in “this God stuff” and insists that all of the ministers education, schooling, and faith can be easily dismissed with a tiktok clip that he recently found and wants to show you, and everyone else.

And people ask, how are you? And you say…”I’m fine.”

The truth is in 2023 we are more angry, dismayed, frustrated and despondent than we want to admit. We need a place where people know us and where we know them. That fourth place. Not work, not home or church service. But a place where we are ok to not be ok with people who understand our God and our relationship with him. We all need a church lobby.


This is often why we step THROUGH  the narthex or lobby straight to our cars or trucks. Head to get our kids in the kids ministry or Sunday School or head to beat the Baptist church to the buffet. Because this lobby experience in all it’s mess is part of the Christian life.

The lobby life, is where strength, alliances, and healing can happen too.

It’s a place where you can be honest if you will let yourself. And ask for prayer. Prayer in the lobby? Yes.

I have prayed with people in the lobby for healing from cancer. From recovery from accidents. For unexpected pregnancies. For fear to subside. I have prayed with people in the lobby as they have confessed sin and told the truth for the first time to their spouse or children.

I have hugged people and said I am sorry for a misunderstanding that I as the pastor have committed. I have handled confrontations from skeptics, atheists, and the mentally ill….All in the lobby.

The lobby is of course not sheer chaos. The signs of salvation, sanctification, and the continuities of blessing are evident in most in the lobby of a church. To a visitor it looks often like a very happy place. But the spiritually aware person sees that the lobby often functions as an alter of sorts where people can lay down their burdens tell the truth about their circumstances and ask for help. When was the last time you stayed and lingered in your church lobby? Asked for prayer? Heard someone out? Gave them permission to tell their story? Listened longer than the proscribed 2 minutes?  Smiled and said more than small talk? You might find that people need you as much as you need them. You might find yourself saying…”Everything is actually not fine, I need help, prayer, and someone to listen. I need Jesus with skin on. Will you pray with me?” And Jesus might just be in that church lobby  in the form of a member of your church, waiting…with a slice of banana bread and some hot coffee for you and him to sit, listen, and have that community and rest your were created to have. It’s not ok. And you are not fine.

But Jesus knows and he still loves you.