No Perfect People AllowedPosted: April 23, 2012
So last week provided an interesting personal experience I’d like to share.
There’s a young adult singles ministry that I attend every Tuesday night in Dallas. The church that hosts it is not my church home (I already have an amazing one of those). But since it’s at night and it’s literally on my way home from work, I usually stop in and hear some teaching on Tuesdays. Good stuff.
So this last Tuesday I’m standing in the auditorium during the first worship song and there are three interesting people standing right in front of me. They looked to be late twenties to mid-thirties; two men and a woman with an old Bible in her hand. One guy was wearing a tie from work, the other was in a t-shirt; all three had visible tattoos. These three were both like me and different from me at the same time. (My immediate reaction was gladness – I love diversity in ministry. God uniquely crafted everyone according to his design, and we all come to him with different pasts and life experiences.) During the little old school “meet-and-greet” time at the start of the service they turned around and I shook hands with each of them. They were not standoffish at all, but I could tell they had some mild discomfort about the interaction. Regardless, I exchanged names with all three and for some reason felt an interest to get to know them. Now I’m a people person, and it’s not unusual for me to want to talk to somebody. But this was powerful. By the end of the sermon, it was mandatory and obvious. In a unique way that I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced before, I’m certain that God was using my own thoughts to urge me to talk to these people. It was a command.
I had no idea what to do or say, and I kinda felt like my role was to listen, not talk. That was weird, considering they didn’t seem to have much to say previously. So walking out beside them was a little strange. I didn’t know how to start this conversation (or whether I was losing my mind), so on the way out I just kinda lightly brushed shoulders with one of the guys on purpose and then struck up a conversation when he turned to give the obligatory “excuse me”.
I don’t know how, but pretty soon we were in a circle of four out in the lobby and they were talking as animatedly as anyone I’ve known for 10 years. All three of them felt comfortable enough to share the details of their life, struggles, addictions, and hang-ups. I did the same. They told me in their own language (which was not the least bit churched) how their lives had been hurt by various issues. If some old church lady would have walked by, she would have passed out. (This is the second thing I love about real ministry – it’s messy by design. Interesting how some Christians actually seem to hate that part…Hm.) I likewise told them my story, especially those parts that identified with theirs, and found common ground with them. They all had tough battles to go back home to – really tough ones, but they were hopeful about what Christ offered and said so.
All in all, we talked for forty-five minutes. I bet I listened for forty. I prayed for each of them in a circle, and even exchanged numbers with the two guys. I encouraged them to come back next week. I’ve spent the last six days texting both of them, and I suspect meaningful friendships may be in the works. I’m looking forward to seeing what God does in the lives of these three people. (And to my new friends, since you know my name and it’s possible for you to have found this blog, know that I’m praying for you and I’m excited to get to know you better and be mutually encouraged by you. I left out your names and the details of your lives on purpose.)
So that’s what happened Tuesday. And there are many takeaways, but here’s the one I want to leave you with:
If you’re at a church made up of a bunch of perfect people, you should consider finding another church. Ministry is not nice, neat, and cookie-cutter comfortable. It’s messy, and in order to evangelize real people who are honest about their present, Christians must be real people who are honest about their past. That’s called humility and gratitude.