welcome is better theology than exclusion…

And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. – Luke 6:19


tuning in – somewhere in another state

Once in a rare while – usually when traveling – I’ll find myself with limited radio “tune-in” options, and I end up listening to a few minutes of some deeply offensive preacher.

That’s what happened last week, and I caught ten minutes of “Rev Blowhard” at The First Southern Church of Exclusive Self-Righteousness (I couldn’t quite catch the name). He was building his case that Christians – the “right” kind of Christians – must insulate themselves from contamination.

The illustration he used went something like this: “If you put on clean white gloves, and go into the yard to deal with some mess, what happens? Well the mess gets all over the gloves, and the gloves become darker and darker. I wondered to myself,” he continued, “and realized that the white never gets all over the mess – it’s always the mess that gets all over the white” (I’m going to be kind and assume he wasn’t also intending some racial double-entendre).

The preacher went on to conclude that, rather than making an impact for the good, it’s the Christians who are impacted by the sin, and that “impurity spoils purity” – it’s never the other way around. It’s critically important, therefore, that Christians A) identify potential contamination, and B) stay far away.

There are several essential theological shortcomings in this message:

  1. Jesus is actually a friend of sinners;
  2. We are told – and equipped – to be salt and light in broken places;
  3. There’s that pesky parable of the Good Samaritan;
  4. We can’t ignore Christ’s encouragement to “go into the highways and byways;”
  5. Then Jesus made this promise: Take courage; I have conquered the world!” – John 16:33

FORTRESS MENTALITY: What the radio preacher was selling was a “fortress mentality” view of the church, and it’s one I’ve heard far too often. Rather than being a lighthouse, the church is experienced as a fortress, where the task is to protect “us” from “them,” to craft an increasingly narrow definition of “us,” to label and exclude, and (the logical consequence) to even begin lobbing ordnance (judgment, condemnation, exclusion) at other church congregations.

But I serve a God who gets right in the mess with people, and then they come out clean. I follow a Savior who doesn’t detour around the brokenness but who says, “Even though [you] walk through the darkest valley… I am with you…” – Psalm 23.

Here’s the thing: I want everyone to know they are welcome; welcome at WFPC, welcome to become members of the family of God; come as you are! But Jesus is also relying on us to share the Gospel of Love “out there”. We live in this broken world, and we must willingly live, and love, and work, and play as active followers of the Living Way of Jesus; not incognito, for fear that the mess will rub off on us, but with arms and hearts wide open.

IMG_8259Children of God in the midst of brokenness and pain; shining like stars in the world; holding fast to the word of life…Philippians 2:14-16


Categories: faith, message, The Church

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Wise thoughts and a wonderful message!

    It reminds me of my favorite parable – the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
    Matthew 13:31-32(NRSV)
    31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

    My question always was why a mustard shrub? It’s a weed not a tree, and not a very attractive weed at that. Why not a mighty oak or a Cedar of Lebanon? I always thought that maybe, just maybe, the Kingdom is like a weed, growing unchecked and wild and in ways and in places that the Roman Empire couldn’t control 2000 years ago and we can’t control either. And further why the reference to sheltering birds? If I’m a peasant farmer in Palestine, I hate birds! They steal my crop! They steal my food! Why would I want birds in the Kingdom? Unless, the Kingdom isn’t just for me, and the people I like and those that agree with me. Maybe the Kingdom is open to others…maybe people that I don’t like or (perish the thought!) that don’t like me?

    Or even scarier…. What if I’M the bird?

    Liked by 1 person

    • great thoughts, Kevin – thanks


    • Perhaps mustard seed is used because of its “ordinaryness”? To avoid us thinking of big and strong and show that the kingdom of heaven is close and “touchable”.

      And wiser Christians than I have said that the birds of the air are symbolic, for the reasons you mentioned and more, of people who make themselves at home in the church but are not saved, perhaps even somehow hindering its activities.

      Food for thought, if nothing else.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just loved. It is all true. Thanks God we have His Holy Spirit so we really need to let He works on us and make us love, live, see… act like Jesus Christ. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am in a Wednesday morning Bible Study now that Hugh organized. We just finished studying about Paul and we are now doing a study on Peter. Now talk about sinners, especially Paul, or Saul as he was called before meeting Jesus. Jesus spent most all of his time with sinners and, I think I am right, very little with the righteous? Pharisees. He says that he came for the sinner. We studied this morning about Peter trying to rebuke Jesus and telling Him the Messiah must live. Jesus replies “Satan, get away from me” and that Peter was thinking like a human and not God. Peter was a rock that Jesus used to build the church and I am embarrassed to admit it gives me a lot of comfort that Peter was as human as he was. Jesus and God turns to us sinners to build the church to this day. The study of the apostles really opens my eyes as to the human nature of them but yet they still faced death and persecution in building the church. Most of us face ridicule in the world when we talk about our faith and I still hesitate to do that with some people even though I am not faced with death or physical abuse. It is quite remarkable what the apostles accomplished.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on The Accidental Poet: Ruminations on Spirituality, Sobriety and Creativity and commented:
    I follow this blog regularly. Derek’s post today is worthy of reblogging. It’s really well written and speaks to the problem at hand with “seperateness” and a failure to blend together as Christians. I especially like the comment that we need a lighthouse mentality, not a fortress mentality. Great job Derek.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Derek, this is an incredible post. I especially liked your comment that we need to have a lighthouse mentality, and not a fortress mentality. I reblogged this on The Accidental Poet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Accidental Poet. I appreciate the encouragement. God is always pushing my boundaries and making me squirm…


      • Derek, I don’t think I’ve ever told you my name. I’m Steve. Steve the “accidental poet.” Never set out to write poetry. Just seemed to happen during my many, many years of active alcoholism. I’m glad to say those years are long gone, and my ability to put words to paper has actually gotten better. I used to write while drunk (my Hemingway years), then read my work the next day wondering what the heck I was thinking!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing your story, Steve. Poetry is never contrived – it always comes from the heart.. Or it wouldn’t be poetry. Blessings on your journey



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