Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adventures from a church where there's "Always a Place For You"

Attending a church with the slogan “always a place for you” gives me warm fuzzies. Ahhh, I’m welcome, loved, and they have to accept me- their slogan says it!

Christ the King has a heart for lost and broken people, a model comprising of small groups, a vision to keep the main thing the main thing. In being part of the CTK story I have learned that a church that draws transparent people is always adventure. It isn’t always warm fuzzies…but it is always adventure. We regularly hear crazy stories of where people have been, how Christ has redeemed their life, and look forward to future with them.

In over eight years of full time ministry you start to think “we’ve seen it all”. There were 3 weeks this fall when this was proven wrong.

It started with the guy who is heading up our college/career group. He informed S. of an “incident” at college/career night. Apparently a homeless man wandered in for warmth. This is common because we are close to a main highway and are known for serving free breakfast on Sunday morning. I’ve started searching the faces of men holding cardboard signs on the corner because often they are from our congregation.

This particular homeless man was told he could warm up in the back of the worship center while college students met in the same room. Our director of College/Career noticed the man was missing after some time. He went on a search to find the man had started a pot of coffee and scrounged up a sandwich in the church kitchen. He let him keep the sandwich but informed him the kitchen was closed and escorted him back to the Worship Center. The man watched from the back and seemed to be reading some small group material that was left on a back table. Our College/Career Director figured maybe he’d absorb some good material & went to check on him at the end of the night.

Turns out the only absorbing the man had done were lines of cocaine on the back table while no one was paying attention. Needless to say, this man was escorted out. There is always a place for you…but we don’t make room for your cocaine on our small group table.

The next week the church got interesting news. Turns out a memorial service that had been done at the church wasn’t needed after all…because the deceased is actually still alive. A resurrection experience? Not so much. A man in the church had shared with the staff that his mother had passed away. In his supposed grief he asked if the church would put on a service to honor her. Many supportive members of the congregation came to support this man and help him through this time. We then found out through the man’s brother “Mom’s not dead! She’s cooking Thanksgiving dinner this week!”

Eek! Think he wanted attention? Maybe had a history of lying? We can work through that. There’s always a place for you.

The following Sunday a woman on staff noticed a man coming up the steps of the church with a pet on a leash. Now, we aren’t picky about who makes it through the doors as I’ve already stated. However, a SEWER RAT on a leash?! The woman put her foot down at this point and told the gentleman that no, he couldn’t take his rat to church.

A few minutes later he re-appeared rat free…or so it seemed. When something began moving underneath his coat he was escorted out one more time. There is always a place for you but there just really isn’t room for your sewer rat. Harsh- I know.

A few weeks ago I learned why the disciples were appalled that Jesus would talk to a Samaritan woman (John 4). Samaritans were people who resulted from Israelites having children with foreigners. They were a “polluted” race. They didn’t fear the Lord and their lives proved it. They bowed to whatever god was popular. They sacrificed their own children and completely lacked morality. The Jews wrote them off and would even make their trip twice as long just to avoid putting a foot on Samaria’s soil.

Yet Jesus stops at a well to offer a Samaritan woman living water so that she will never thirst again. This comes right after Jesus disregards some ‘religious’ people because their hearts were not tender and receptive to receiving Christ. They wanted to feel justified, not to experience true transformation.

Jesus says he knows the heart…and proves it by spending time with a woman he knows needs true transformation. She’s a mess: she’s shacked up with lots of guys and she has the reputation of her ethnicity all over her face.

But she believes! She knows she needs something real, something that isn’t just for religious people. She needs real power of redemption, not a rousing theological debate. She receives Christ. She believes Him and then tells everyone the good news. It’s contagious! So a revival begins in Samaria starting with a sketchy woman, not with the religious people of the day.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing my youngest brother Harrison speak at church. He shared how he tried many times to change his own life with no success. He explained what it means to be 9 months sober; it’s only happened by clinging to Christ and being transformed by His Word. I’ve watched Harrison hit bottom…and then watched the bottom drop out to let him fall further. I’ve had the fear of “is he too far gone?” and now this year I’ve had the unspeakable blessing of seeing him not only renewed but completely transformed. I’ve seen a boy who won’t finish a short story transform into a man who takes notes and studies complex theological books and ideas. This brother who for years wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone now examines others with piercing eyes while he asks hard questions and spurs people on to their own transformation.

This past week S. & I jumped on the crazy-train-needing-transformation. After battling anxiety for the past couple years, S. has made some serious headway in the past 6 months. He’s been intentional about not letting ministry consume him. He’s been conscientious about his health and tuned in to our family. For whatever reason it managed to sneak up on us again anyway; fear, being increasingly overwhelmed, bombarded by needs…Crash. S. has been down for a week now with anxiety attacks. We’re a mess.

Our senior pastor (also known as my dad) came over last night and informed S. that it has all been arranged- S. is to take a 6 week sabbatical starting today. There isn’t anything to protest about because the staff met and delegated out S.’s responsibilities. My dad talked this past week in his sermon about relationship v. religion. He spoke of Christ the King’s goals to invest in people and spur them on in their journey with Christ. He quoted a study that found many people leave the American church today because they feel they have to, to keep their faith intact. He emphatically told the congregation that we won’t be that church. Our goal is to value “organism over organization” and focus on “people not program”.

Now Dad has a chance to walk the walk. S. has to be cared for and work through stuff that we’ve managed to put off for years because of the pace of our lives. Christ the King will make sacrifices to ensure that we are healthy & where we need to be. So we embark on the next 6 weeks intentionally; to be on our knees, to get wise counsel, to do some healing, to dig out the roots of some of our crazy messiness (naturally this will involve reading a few good books & smoking a few decent cigars).

These stories of transformation are everywhere. It is what Jesus Christ is about. I am surrounded by these beautiful pictures of Christ’s love in people who at one point might have seemed “too far gone”- be it alcohol, moral failure, running lines in the back of a church, lying, emotional breakdowns, or just sewer rat weirdness. I am so thankful that I get to be part of this. I’m so thankful that there is always a place for me.

1 Corinthians 1:26-28, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things…So that no one may boast before Him.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your honesty. It's refreshing in a world full of Believers that just want to "look good". We, too, have a Christ The King that is full of those that don't always "look good". Yet, we welcome them in.

    Praying for your family, that God will bring Rest, Relaxation, and Restoration through this difficult time. Let us know if there is ANYTHING that we can do. Can the kids come play on our island with us for a few days? We'll come get them anytime.

    :) :) :)