If you want a successful business, you should go find what the experts criticize. Find what they think is crazy, backwards, and totally against industry standards and expectations. And just invest all of your money into that.
Great advice, right?
Well, what if we did this unironically in our churches?
In Jesus’s life, He gathered around the table with outcasts and misfits. He gathered with tax collectors, sinners, lepers, and Samaritans. The experts of His day apparently criticized Him for gathering around the table and being with people like that.
But Jesus’s goal wasn’t to earn the stamp of approval of the expert; His goal was to love relentlessly regardless of what anyone else said. He, like His Father, desired all to be saved and was not willing that any should perish.
Imagine a church modeled after a “flop” like that!
You would expect to get the same kind of criticism from the religious experts of today.
Who do you think Jesus might gather around a table in 2022?
We can’t really answer that, but it would probably be the people we have given up on, think too little of to notice, or maybe even people we find repulsive, immoral, or impure.
Are we the kind of people, the kind of church, that would donate food, space, or even our time to the meals Jesus attended? Or are we the people who would peek through the window while we gossip, criticize, and look down on those who follow in Jesus’s footsteps by opening their doors to “whosever will.”
Imagine a church where people didn’t have to pretend they were perfect. Where they could sincerely and openly confess their sins without fear of judgement because when Jesus is sitting at your table, you know that forgiveness is as abundant as the bread and fish. In an environment like this, your background, skin color, gender, ethnicity and all the other things people hyper-focus on wouldn’t matter because the only thing that matters is that you have an invitation. And since we are all invited, then our churches should be a place for all.
Married, divorce, rich, poor, Republican, Democrat, white, black, Hispanic, boy, girl, unwed mothers, single fathers, addicts, homeless, straight, gay, or whoever. We are all on equal ground at the foot of the Cross.
In a diverse group like this things will get messy.
People will use different language to talk about their beliefs. They will have different gifts. They will have different struggles. They will have different customs and traditions.
But they all have on thing in common: they are loved by Jesus so they should be loved and welcomed by us.
This doesn’t mean that we approve of their sins. We don’t approve of ours, do we? But since we are imperfect people, why should we only expect perfect people to show up at our doors? We tend to have higher standards for visitors or new members than we do ourselves.
The table only has room for one perfect person, and He said everyone in the highways and the hedges is welcome.
In a world that is as divided as we are, humanity needs churches like this. This is what the kingdom of God was designed to be, a people made up of those from every nation, language, and economic class. A church made up of fishermen, tax collectors, lawyers, zealots, tent makers, and even former persecutors.
And I believe that our church can become that. That vision is worth pursuing because it is the vision God has for us!