Dear Grace Community,
Lillian Daniel, a pastor and writer, tells a story about talking with a man finding a church:
He told her that he visited all twenty-one churches in his hometown but didn’t find one to be part of.
“What was so wrong with them? They don’t sound too bad to me. No church has it all. Couldn’t you even find one that you liked?”
“Oh, it wasn’t that,” he said. “I liked a lot about all of them. It’s just that they wouldn’t like me. I’ve done bad things in my life. I don’t belong with those people.”
“Didn’t they say God loves you despite all that?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “They all say that. But I don’t think I believe it. I can’t love everybody. And if they knew me, or what I think, they wouldn’t want me there.”
He gave me a lot to think about. Somewhere along the way, he learned that churches are places anyone can visit, but only incognito. If they knew who you really were, they’d kick you out.
He was looking for a church that was real. He was looking for a church where he could be real. Real churches are out there. They’re all over the place. But I could also see why he hadn’t found one yet. Sometimes in religious communities, we save the real stuff for the insiders—or even worse—we just don’t deal with it. Either way, the outsiders leave feeling as if they’d never fit in.
From Outreach Magazine, October 6, 2016
This interaction gave me a lot to think about. Do we at Grace save the real stuff for the insiders? Do we let visitors or new community members know that they can be real here?
After six years as your pastor, you’ve shown me the real stuff. I know that this is an authentic community, but I wonder if it’s possible for new people to enter into, or if there is an unspoken season of earning their place. What do you think? If you’re new and reading this, I’d love your thoughts.
For those of you who’ve been here for a while, take a look around, what do you think?
As a community we must always think about who is not here and ask ourselves why they aren’t. This is challenging work, and it is our call as a church. Join me in this.