This isn’t what I was planning on writing about today, was planning to look at another one of Paul’s fantastic prayers, but this has been something birthing in me for a while…
And will probably get some people defriending me on facebook!
I believe that we called as Church to be a welcoming and loving community that points people to Jesus and says “Wow let’s follow him, can you help me? can I help you?” -(whilst praying together that God himself will help us).
All the way through the bible we see people with broken and messy lives flocking TO Jesus and yet 2000 years later these same people are running FROM Christ’s Church.
In his book ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace” Philip Yancey tell a story of someone whose really messed up, and when asked about getting help from the church her response was “I feel bad enough already, they’ll just make me feel worse”.
Someone yesterday told me a story of someone saying to her, “You are a Christian you must hate me because I am gay”, -makes you want to cry doesn’t it? We shouldn’t be hating anyone, and so sad that any group feels hated by the Church, when Jesus’ message is one of love.
I’ve been asked ‘can I come to Church even if I don’t agree with you on everything?’
The answer is “YES!” Of course, you are most welcome, in fact I might not be right on everything! Rather you came, thought, prayed and wrestled with scripture about what I say than just blindly accept it.
Ive traditionally thought of being a Church which calls people to belong, believe and then behave, but people don’t always live how we think they should even when they are Christians, in fact I’m a Christian and I don’t always live as I should.
Often we talk of “before I was saved I… ” Yet I don’t know about you, the things that tempted me before I was saved can still tempt me now!
Even as a Christian I can echo St. Paul who says in Romans 7, “the good I want to do I don’t do, and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do” -the apostle Paul knew he wasn’t in some state of sinless perfection.
It seems sometimes we try pretend to the world that we are Christians that don’t struggle, aren’t broken, never tempted, don’t get confused (especially not about theology).
Seeming to want to project an image to the world of perfect toothed sortedness, yet the bible shows us God has broken people who screw it up, doubt, chicken out and get it wrong.
As Christians (especially those of us in leadership) I believe we need to model being “wounded healers”, people who are changed and transformed by being in Christ, and yet still human, still people in need of Gods grace, love and forgiveness.
I want a church that’s authentic.
I want to be real about my struggles, doubts, baggage, bruises and the sin that so easily entangles.
The problem is we often think if people don’t agree with me, they can’t be proper Christians.
Or perhaps they are doing things we don’t like…
Because I am pro ordination of women to all three dimensions of ministry (Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops) and therefore interpret some verses in Timothy different from other Christians somehow I’m not legit.
Because I believe Spiritual Gifts are for today, I’m not some-kind of pseudo-evanjellyfish-.
Others may ask questions around marriage, but that surely doesn’t make them not Christians it just means they have different opinions.
They might be wrong (I might be wrong)…
I was asked on Made in Bristol what I’d do if a gay person came into Church and I said something like “introduce myself and make them a coffee, which Is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in too”.
I was reminded of a quote again by Philip Yancey that sometimes “it is easy to find sex on the streets than a hug in a Christian Church”!
The more I have thought about it, I have thought about the story of the kids coming to Jesus and the disciples trying to turn them away, I don’t want to turn anyone away who comes seeking Christ.
When I start become the doorkeeper and bouncer I need to remember the story or the Pharisee and the tax collector, when the Pharisee told God how good he was, and the tax collector just said “God have mercy on me a sinner”…
I do not want to be like the older brother in Luke 15, grumbling at the Father for his grace and loving kindness.
Or Jonah moaning about God not destroying the wicked people in Nineva…
The most repeated phrase in modern translations of the New Testament is “God opposes the proud but lifts the humble”.
The Bible keeps on confronting our stereotypes with God showing up to those the people of the day didn’t think God should be interested in, but he was.
Perhaps this is a time, to be honest with ourselves, realize we too are broken and sinful people, we aren’t good enough for Jesus, but he loves us anyway.
Let’s not be older brothers as in the story of Luke 15, but graciously love extravagantly and keep on pointing people to Jesus without judgement and finger pointing.
Now don’t get me wrong, holiness really matters, but as Billy Graham once said, “It’s the holy spirits job to convict, my job to love” -the problem is we sometimes try and do God’s job for him!
A friend talked of his Church being a “Community of Grace”.
At my licencing in Kingswood, the Archdeacon preached from the passage where the Greeks said “we want to see Jesus”, perhaps mission is making it as easy as possible for people to meet with Jesus, and what I have noticed when people meet with Jesus that encounter is normally transformative!