“In / Out Evangelism” A phrase I heard today, a phrase I’d not heard for a while but has been rattling around in my head all day.
It is an interesting phrase…
When I think of Jesus, most of his ministry seemed to be attacking the smug religious types who thought they were IN and meeting with the broken and the marginalized who thought they were OUT, yet Jesus showed those who thought they were IN were actually OUT and those who thought they were OUT were being welcomed in.
It seems across Church history that God sends someone to remind us of this message… John Wesley was attacked and ran out of Churches for telling the gentry of England they were sinful, but yet his message found a resting place in the hearts of many of the poor, voiceless and disenfranchised who knew their need of a Saviour.
The words of Jesus talking about “Tax Collectors and Prostitutes entering the Kingdom of heaven before you” must have been ringing in Wesley’s ears as he saw people the Church had written off here in Kingswood responding to Christ (Did you know there wasn’t a Church between Bitten and Pip n Jay in the time of Wesley).
Jesus makes it clear he will say to people who have claimed to be Christians “Go away from me I never knew you!”… and yet there are people in Matthew 25 who seem utterly shocked to find themselves in heaven.
I think as human beings we like to draw lines around ourselves to make us we are “in” and those we don’t like are “out” but we forget that actually it is not up to us, we don’t make the rules God does! I think a lot of the “IN” or “OUT” question actual stems from a deeper human need to BELONG.
To often we have turned faith in Christ into a doctrine test… if you are ‘sound enough’ you get into heaven -yet the thief on the cross probably would have flunked a theology exam but has the word of Christ himself affirming his place in heaven.
Sometimes we have turned faith into Christ into an issue of respectability, -how to be IN not OUT- we don’t consider you a proper Christian (even if you love Jesus and want to follow him) until you’ve completely sorted your life out (not actually that any of us really are sorted, but there are some sins we get more worried about than others!)
Nor does asking and seeking truth for tough questions and wrestling with doubts mean that you who were once “IN” are now “OUT”, all it means is you wont be fobbed off with unsatisfactory answers.
Nor is it a matter of style and taste, you’re not IN because you go to New Wine and OUT if you go to Greenbelt (or ViceVersa!) you aren’t IN if you believe women can’t be vicars and OUT if you believe they can (or ViceVersa!). You aren’t IN if you wear chinio’s and a rugby top and OUT if you wear Vestments (or ViceVersa).
The IN and the OUT is very much about trying to gravitate to people who agree with us, rather than seeing ourselves as a diverse family, who maybe do, think and say stuff we might not always go along with but our still followers of Christ, maybe in a different way to us.
Now some of these things I’d love an opportunity to debate with them, and to share different view points (and they probably do with me) but let us be people of grace with those within the Church, and even more towards those on its fringe and even more to those who are yet to join.
Yet surely I believe that we need to be a family which copes and love us even when our theology goes a bit crazy, our lives have bumps and blemishes, we wrestle with doubts and tough questions… and yet let us hold one another and BELONG together.
IN or OUT is God job, our job is to love, sure we can chat, talk, encourage and support one another but “the Lord knows who are his” “Who are we to judge someone elses’ servant”.
We had a young lad die suddenly in Salisbury, Danny, he was about 34, he had been coming to Church and we were friends… The big question people kept asking was “was he saved”… I didn’t have a clear answer, pretty sure he had made a commitment (to use the evangelical language) but then a verse really spoke to me in a new way “whilst he was still a long way off his Father saw him in the distance and ran to him”, a verse which comforted me, a God who runs to us.
Lets be people who love rather than question, that stick together even when we disagree, that hold tight when we doubt…
Lets be people whose doors are always open to everyone irrespective of difference and baggage.
Lets learn instead of dividing people into THEM and US, but rather see us all as beloved of God, and in need of knowing him and his grace, hope and transforming love better.