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11 Nov '12

I love messy churches because they minister to messy people and bring restoration to messy lives

Posted by T.J. Addington in church health

I love messy churches. Churches where there is transparency about where we actually are in life. Churches that welcome people who are screwed up, hurting, poor, criminal (imagine that), pregnant out of wedlock, people with prison records, who are marginalized, divorced, abused, addicted, and hopeless. Maybe people with tattoos, piercings, different color hair and grunge  clothing. Now that is the kind of church I want to be a part of.

I strongly suspect that Jesus would be in that kind of church judging from the company he kept back in His day. Actually, I think it was by intention. He knew where the receptive people were - generally not the well off, educated and professional (and I fit that profile), but the desperate and screwed up (all of us fit that profile in one way or another).

Where are those kinds of people welcome? The truth is that they are often not welcome. How can they be in congregations that are so concerned about outward appearances of "having it all together" that the utter lack of transparency about the struggles they have send a strong signal that "we are not like you."

Funny thing is that they actually are, they just don't want to admit it. Behind our masks of respectability are people whose marriages are struggling, kids who are struggling, hidden addictions that are destroying lives and families, unresolved anger, broken relationships, financial problems and all kinds of messy stuff. So why don't we just admit it and no longer pretend?

I know churches like that. Here is what I notice about them. First they are filled with people who are messed up and who get cleaned up. Second, because they are willing to be transparent about the mess that God cleaned up, others who are messed up know they are welcome. Third, there is a lot of grace for one another because we are not pretending that we have been or perhaps still are not messed up and in need of God's grace and the love of others.

Some churches pretend to live in the "Leave it to Beaver" world of respectability, apple pie, perfect families and "together people." What I believe is that it is a facade, not reality. What I know is that even if it were true, those who don't fit that profile won't be welcome. And they would be those most desperate for help and love and answers and spiritual renovation. Jesus said, I did not come for the healthy but for the sick.

I am always amused by parents who are concerned that their kids perfect youth group will be destroyed by the attitudes, language or behavior of kids from the local school. Excuse me? I thought the good news of the gospel is for the hurting and messed up? I know of adult small groups where a pagan who does not know any better actually tells the truth about their lives and they are met with a pregnant silence (what do we do with someone like that in our church). Excuse me? I thought the good news of the gospel was for people like that.

The very fascination with excellence and perfection in many churches today - from the building to the stage to the programming to the kinds of people we hold up are all at odds with the messiness, pain, dysfunction and bad stuff in the very people we want to reach out to - if we actually do. I suspect that there are churches who have no desire to reach out to people like that. They would not say it but they do say it - loudly with their culture and lack of transparency.

I vote with Jesus. Give me the messy church any day. I am not fascinated with perfection, I am wanting to live with the messy (I am one of those) and I want to help messed up people find help. Leave it to Beaver was a TV show. I want to live in the real world among real people who together want to be transformed into His image.

Tod Agnew, the musician got it right I think. Consider his words.
Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we'd recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I'm tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I'm not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like you Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!