By Steven Norris
“That group is a lot more passionate about what they are against than what they are for,” declared my friend in a stinging rebuke of a Christian organization with which I am affiliated. It was a fair assessment. The rhetoric of the organization’s leaders quickly revealed that they were very certain about who they are not, but not all that clear about who they are.
Over the next few weeks, I want to use this column to paint a picture of the church that I am heartily for. I hope that some of these descriptions will resonate with you and inspire us all to live into the reality of what a true community of faith could be and how it could positively impact the community in which we all live.
To begin with, I believe in a church where brokenness is the front door, not the back one. One of the biggest obstacles that I’ve faced in my 20 years of ministry has been the assumption that the church is for perfect people.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it: “I can’t go in there. Do you know what I’ve done? They wouldn’t accept me.”
The sad truth is that people say this because it is what they’ve experienced. They have been pushed away or looked down on by people in the church. They have not been welcomed or accepted because of the way they looked, talked, smelled, or loved.
If I’m honest, I’ve probably seen glimpses of true church break out in a 12-Step meeting more often than I have in pristine sanctuaries. Often located in the basement of the church, 12-Step meetings seem to run by a different set of values than many Sunday morning worship services.
“Hi. I’m John and I’m an addict.”
“Hi, John. Welcome.”
Who in their right mind would want to come into church and introduce themselves by revealing their deepest, darkest secret? Who would have the courage (or foolishness) to be that vulnerable?
It was Jesus who said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). How would our churches be different if we allowed brokenness to be the front door instead of the back one? What if entrance into the community required us to take off the mask of self-righteousness and admit that we are all deeply broken and in need of God’s grace?
Such a church would likely cultivate an atmosphere conducive to true community, connection, healing, and transformation. A vulnerable church would certainly be a church that I could enthusiastically support. An authentic church is one I could certainly be for.
What about you? How would you positively describe your convictions about church and a life-giving community of faith? If I invited you to dream with me, what kind of church would you be for? I would love to hear from you. Email me a description of the church you are for to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.