The mission and vision statement of our church is “We are seeking to be a gospel centered church family of gospel communities that grow disciples who glorify God by following Jesus, leading families, making disciples, equipping missionaries and planting churches”. The community that is springing up around us is full of people who’ve been marginalized, homeless, struggled with addictions & experienced relational brokenness. I didn’t know the ramifications or outcomes that would flow from penning these statements 3 yrs ago with our first gospel community. I wasn’t ready and I’m still not ready for the steady influx of people that the Lord is drawing into our church family.
I remember numerous conversations with our kids at home & church members after some of the backyard BBQ’s, gospel communities and Sunday gatherings we’ve done. We’ve grappled with why some people smell so badly, eat more helpings of food than we expect, use really bad language, don’t contribute any food, show up on our doorstep late at night, talk about the person they spent the night in bed with last night, show up to the next gathering with a new girlfriend or boyfriend each week, relive last week’s meth or alcohol binge, struggle to understand the Bible teaching, can’t stay awake during interactive conversations or studies, sometimes show up for the food and leave when the Bible is opened and lament their needs & failures so openly but almost flippantly, like this is the way its always been and there’s no hope for change.
Just two weeks ago we received a call from a man who had been in some of our gatherings recently. His wife had taken their kids and left him and he had secluded himself to his garage for 48hrs while getting high on methamphetamines. When I showed up at his garage he was crying my name loudly, asking for help and shaking uncontrollably because of the effects of the meth. When I walked in his arms were bleeding badly because he’d been cutting himself with razors. Over the next hour I knelt next to him on the moldy & muddy floor observing his wretched state, speaking gently, asking soft questions, quietly urging & praying with him. Imagine with me… No shower in days. The blood. The meth pipe. The bowl of meth. The bare feet. The greasy unkempt hair. The body shaking. Rotting food and trash all over the floor. The sudden range of irrational emotions from rage to laughter to weeping to silent shock. I finally coaxed him into my truck and slowly drove him to the hospital for treatment while mentally taking stock of the distance between us and any objects that could be used as a weapon if he lost it on me. I spent 6 hours with him that day. When I got home I felt like I’d been hit by a train. Experiencing this was like a visible reminder of the chaos, destruction & disgusting nature of my own sinful state and need of Christ.
This is just one story. Many in our church family could probably fill volumes with stories like this from the folks we are in relationship with. We aren’t perfect. We haven’t arrived at some level of higher living. We get frustrated and depressed; cynical and angry; worn out and indifferent. We sin in ways that we wish we could keep secret & we struggle to repent. We grapple with what it looks like to speak truth while relying on God’s grace. Sometimes it feels like our church family is a train wreck waiting to happen but somehow the Lord in his mercy and grace continues to add people to our community and we are experiencing really slow growth as people are reconciled to the Lord and as we distribute time, talent & treasure to fostering these relationships.
I’ll end with this quote from the Porterbrook Learning Course entitled “Evangelism and Social Action” in unit 9 where the author says that “To be a place of welcome for the marginalized, we will have to be honest about our own brokenness. Even more importantly, we need to be communities of grace. My life may be more sorted out than someone else’s, but that is not a testament to my effort or initiative. It is testament to God’s grace – perhaps over years and even over generations. It is only by celebrating grace, proclaiming grace and living by grace that we will attract marginalized sinners as Jesus did (Luke 15:1 – 2)”. I think this will go on a plaque in our home and church!!