16 November, 2017

"You're Doing Something Right"

In the past few weeks, I've been told on four separate occasions that "you're doing something right" by people who have come to visit our church. One person told me that they were just "waiting for the lecture" telling them how they were living wrong and going to Hell. Another told me that they came to the church, actually more or less to shut me up, because they figured they people would be judgmental and condemning, but they were shocked to feel nothing but love and acceptance. I cannot tell you how good those words sound to me! 13 years ago, Pastor Jim Bolin invited me to a conference at Trinity Chapel in Powder Springs, GA and it was there that I first heard a phrase, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." Pastor Bolin gave me a copy of a book by that title, written by Pastor Jerry Cook. In his book, Cook wrote:
“When love, acceptance, and forgiveness prevail, the Church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus was in the world: a center of love designed for the healing of broken people and a force for God.”
From that time on, it has been my goal to make that phrase the heartbeat of the church where I pastor.

When I began introducing that phrase and that concept to the church, the response, at least verbally, was very positive. People loved the idea of "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness" in theory, but not so much in practice. People in the church would say we are going to love everyone who comes through our doors... but then look down their nose at a single mother on food stamps and talk trash about her. Or an elderly man would accidentally wet his pants in the sanctuary and people would say, "Pastor, you have to get rid of him! He's ruining our church!" A teenage girl got pregnant and they would "speak" of support openly, but then run her down when they broke into their little clicks. People were excluded from invitations because they were on welfare, or their skin was the wrong color or any number of other things. There had to be an overhaul of the church if we were going to be a church that lived, breathed and practiced, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." It's been a long, tough road... but we are finally getting there. I won't name the issues, but the fact is that in recent weeks people have come and sat in our congregation that struggled with issues that the church would consider "taboo" and in times past have kicked people out of the church over those issues. I've been teaching for 13 years that if we stand at the door of the church with a measuring stick and make sure everyone measures up, then the very people who desperately need to hear about and experience the love, acceptance, and forgiveness which we speak of, will never have the opportunity! Unfortunately, many people sitting in our congregations have forgotten where we came from ourselves. I'm quite certain that we will still have bumps along the way, but I so happy to see and hear people who need to experience the grace of Jesus Christ expressing that when they came in our doors they felt welcomed and loved. This is the exact reason why we changed our church name to "The Oasis." It is our desire to be a place of refuge, relief and refreshing for those who are weary travelers on this road of life.

Keep it up Oasis Church. I'm so proud of you... but we still have a lot of growing to do!

No comments: