Monday, May 08, 2006

Sitting Next To The Wrong Kinds Of People

Today I was flipping channels and I stopped by Joyce Meyer's show. Have you ever seen it? She's a pretty well known preacher whose vibrant energy makes her message pretty interesting. I haven't heard much of her so if you have some reservation against her please don't hold it against me. In the few minutes I listened to her preach she said something pretty profound. She said:

"The Church sits around and prays for revival but the Church isn't ready for revival because the kind of people that would come to revival most Christians wouldn't want to sit next to."

It's a strong statement but it's so true. In order for revival the Church must open itself to and heal its relationships with the outcast of society especially those who the church itself has outcast. We need to learn the art of dining with sinners (Jesus knew how to do it... see Luke 15.1-5), loving our enemies, and declaring the Kingdom in the lives of those who have for too long been disregarded and rejected. God's love is unconditional why can't ours be the same?

Some people have this sick twisted idea that somehow the worse someone's sins are the worse the Church should treat them. Some people actually believe that God, the same God who sent His son to die on a cross, would reject someone because they've just sinned a little too much for His grace. I tell you that God accepts and calls everyone... everyone. We cannot exhaust God's love and forgiveness. Nothing… not murder, not rape, not robbery, not pride... nothing we can do can make God love us any less.

And so if God's love is such that cannot be extinguished then why should ours be any different? We, the Church, should be the best representation of God's love and acceptance. Before we can have revival we have to be able to sit next to the people we've closed our doors to in the past. And we also have to be ready to sit next to each other.

The Church doesn't just have relationship problems with people outside but also within. We've slapped labels on each other; emergent, liberal, conservative, dispensationalist, fundamentalist, etc. and we've placed ourselves within the boundaries of those labels. If you stay in your fundamentalist church and I stay in my "emerging" church and we never talk everything will be all right. This kind of thinking has crippled the Church. There has to be room for us to mix and mingle no matter how difficult or even painful it may be. The Church is a very messy thing it wasn't made to be tidy and neat. The problem isn't that we disagree it's that we don't know how to disagree. We don't all have to agree on everything to carry the banner of Christ but we do have to live together and learn how to disagree. For the Church to be what God intends for it to be we have to be ready to sit next to each other.

Tony Campolo said something along these lines: "Christianity is about loving the wrong kinds of people" and his assessment is right on. If you watch Jesus life and then watch the movement of the first Christ followers you can't miss this central fact; being a Christian means accepting the unacceptable, loving the outcast, and taking in those who have been pushed out. We have to learn how to love the wrong kinds of people.

8 comments:

Danny said...

Your thoughts here are good but I offer a challenge.

1. What do you mean by “declaring the kingdom of God” in the lives of the poor and the outcast?
2. You said, “Some people have this sick twisted idea that somehow the worse someone's sins are the worse the Church should treat them. Some people actually believe that God, the same God who sent His son to die on a cross, would reject someone because they’ve just sinned a little too much for His grace.” Who are these people that you are speaking of?
3. Your arguments spoke of a unity among the different denominations and affiliations of churches. This is a noble goal but probably needs another post. There are a number of problems that arise from your statement. How would this unity take place? Would we be agreeing to work in the same context? If we work in the same context how to we reconcile Baptists and Pentecostals in view of the gifts of the spirit? How do we reconcile the traditional view with the emerging view if we do an outreach event where one wants an alter call and the other does not?
4. How do we take the theological idea of loving the unloved and carry it out concretely in places like San Diego and Santa Maria?

Nellie Bellie said...

When we come into a relationship with Jesus, we are called to repent, turn from our old selves...yes we need to reach out to those that are not saved and then their lives will be transformed as ours were. jesus sought people who were sinners but did they stay that way when they followed him? We don't continue in our old ways, we are a new creation...that comes with a true relationship not just religion.

Danny said...

Actually Nellie, in most of the stories we do not find out what happened to the people after Jesus left the story. He would often say "Go, and Sin no more," but whether or not this was carried out is up to the work of our imaginations. Just as the people in those stories, we are called to sin no more. But our future is just as uncertain, will we follow or will we not follow?

WES ELLIS said...

Danny,
Your right I would need another post for most of your questions.
1. Declaring the Kingdom, in this context, is declaring that God accepts and loves them and it is essentially an invitation to the community of God from which they've for far too long been pushed away.
2. just some people, danny. there is probably more that live this out than actually say it but there are some people. The message is rarely this blatant but I have heard pastors preach that if we don't obey God he'll just toss us aside. I think this idea is a misunderstanding of scripture at best. To name a specific group of people would be far too broad a stroke.
3. I'm an idealist... you know that. We don't have to meet in the same place or hold the same events but it wouild be nice if we could stop bashing eachother and realize that the Spirit of God might be at work even in churches we don't like. It's ok to speak out against theologies and doctrines and methods that miss the point of the gospel and because it's ok to do that it might be impossible for my united model to actually work. I guess my real wish would be that we take small steps. We need to start with a simple respect for eachother and take it from there. I have a lot of friends who I work with at YLI and at church that don't see things the same way that I do, it can happen. We just have to harmonize with eachother as best we can all the while respecting each other.
4. I left this open ended on purpose. I've got some ideas but I'm sure you can be more creative than I can. The best place to start is having conversations. Just talk to people especially people you wouldn't normally just talk to. That's a start at least. Another idea is finding a ministry to get involved with. There are alot of ministries for troubled teens, drug adicts, the homeless, etc. that are desparate for volanteers. Your home church might even offer an opportunity.

WES ELLIS said...

nellie,
Danny's right.
We don't really know what happens to sinners after they talk to Jesus. What we do know is that he ate with them. I can follow that example.

Nathan said...

Hey Wes!
What's up my man? Sorry I haven't replied or said hi...or anything. It's been real busy these last few days because my senior class is packing up and flying to Seattle Washington for the rest of this week, till next Tuesday, so I've been puttin' my crap together. Great Post btw, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I love the idea of rounding up a bunch of bums, preaching the Gospel, and then giving them a great Reformed Protestant lunch (we Reformed are masters at fellowshiping whilst food is before us : ) ). Oh yeah, I saw that you had the O.C. Supertones as one of your favorite bands. That is so awesome. My Pastor's son was their road manager for quite awhile. He organized all their tours and all the special effects during their shows. Now he works for the Newsboys doing the same thing, over in Nashville. If you listen to the Supertones you might remember one of their songs that talks about presuppositional apologetics, I was just wondering if you liked that kind of stuff, because I dig it! Take care man and I'll talk to you in a week.
N.T. WRIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Ashley said...

Wow, what Joyce said was brilliant. I wonder what the world would look like if the church welcomed in the people who came to these revivals... interesting thoughts to ponder...

Hurricane Willie Peppers said...

Sitting next to "the wrong kind of people" is not a problem for folks who carry crosses. Perhaps if someone has a problem, they are not carrying theirs -huh? And Luke says if not, then they are not his disciples...

Something to chew on.

Adios & shalom...