Often you can find this guy out on the streets hugging Prostitutes and inviting them and the local Drug Dealers to church. Or, he might be hanging out at the local Tattoo Shop and comparing artwork. He doesn't look like your average Pastor. He traded in his suit and tie for H&M T-Shirts and trendy Jeans. He doesn't sound like the average pastor; he's a bit raw and truly unfiltered. His family consists of him, his wife and beautiful children, who include two gorgeous black girls who they adopted. So, his family stands out as "different" in the Bible Belt South because they are mixed in race; Black and White children. It is not the normal family for Southern culture, which is still very much divided.
This pastor was actually good for the job. Not because he is the most educated or most successful person, because he is not. He wasn't qualified because he has an impressive resume, that's far from the truth. I think it is because he is relatable, raw, authentic, loving, passionate, REAL, and in a short amount of time he had made some ripples in the community. The locals seemed to take notice that maybe there was something different about this Church and about this Pastor. He was building a place where people who have been shunned by Christians in the past were being welcomed and loved. It was to be a place where everyone is welcome, nobody is perfect (especially the pastor!), but where they believed anything is possible.
But, as it often turns out, he wasn't a good fit for those church people. They were made uncomfortable by the actions and results. They loved the idea of the change, but really it was too much. They wanted to remain the same and focus on reaching people like themselves. They seem to have forgotten there is an entire world full of hurting and broken people. Maybe they were afraid of appearance, reputations being tarnished by the outcasts or just afraid of losing their place and preferences. They didn't want their demographic to change. They didn't want to be made to feel uncomfortable in their own church building. They didn't want to open their doors to anyone who looked, acted, smelled, dressed, or lived a "lifestyle" different than them. So, it was time for him to go. It was "not a good fit".
Don't you know the Church sign outside the door actually has a clause of conditional love and acceptance? Yep... You can't see it, but it's there. And, sadly many churches have the same message written in an invisible marker on the mantle of their churches.
We say we love Jesus, we say follow Jesus, and we say we want to be like Jesus. But, so many are stuck in their religious preferences that they wouldn't know Jesus if he was standing right next to them. And, actually, he wouldn't be standing right next to them. He wouldn't be hanging out in the fancy church office. He would be out impacting lives. He would be the "white" boy hanging out on the front porches of the "Hood". He would be hanging out in the Tattoo Parlors. He would be handing out food and water to the Homeless. Hugging the Prostitutes and having coffee with LGBTQ people who love Jesus. But, sometimes we forget all of that. Why? Because, as A.W. Tower says "Daily we recreate God in our image." It's far more convenient if Jesus likes what we like and loves who we love. And, in that reality we find a departure from the Gospel and the hope and love of Jesus.
Can we, me and you, stop pretending that we are better than everyone else because we call ourselves Christians? We're not better. Christ loved and died for each and every "whosever" the same way. He loves and died for me and you just the same. But, far too often, all of us are guilty of this very reality; me, you and everyone who has found themselves set into a religious circle of some sort. We have boundaries that often we do not even realize.
It's time we quit memorizing the things Jesus said and did, and begin to follow Him. It's time we quit studying in small groups, hanging out in big buildings with grand services and suffering through a checklist of moral duties to please Jesus. It is time for us to start living like Jesus, loving like Jesus and GOING like Jesus.... going to a world who desperately needs HOPE!
I feel more at home with the "Outcasts" than I do with the "First Church of Got It All Togethers". Because in the end I'm one one of the Outcasts. I love Jesus, but I'm pretty broken.
And, the pastor I am talking about..... It's ME.....
This season has changed my life. It has reawakened a deep desire in me to make an impact and change in the way the world sees, discovers and understands the HOPE and LOVE of Jesus.... The church is changing in more ways than we could have ever imagined. The church most of us have known our entire lives is going through a paradigm shift in the way people encounter, relate and engage.
God set a vision for an Uncommon Church in my heart years ago.... and now I see more clearly the purpose and point of that vision in my life. I have no idea what the future holds. As it stands, because of this very story, most churches are unsure and even afraid of me, assuming I will only stay a short while. The working world doesn't know where to put a former pastor. For more than four months I have been searching, hoping and trying. And, around every corner I find a world who does not know how to assess or value the skills and experience of a pastor. It has placed my family into a hard season, and there is no particular end in sight. But, we choose not to loose hope or anticipation for what is ahead.
For now, I will take the chance to steward what is right in front of me.... I will love the people God places in my path. I will lead those lost in the dark without hope to a place of love in the real Jesus I know. And, until the day God opens another door for me to lead... The church I serve is the world in which I live each day!