One of our favorite churches is up in Seaside, Oregon. This wonderful community is risking these truths of grace with incredible intentionality and passionate love. One of the pastors called me awhile back, with a broken heart. The most recent in a series of affairs had rocked his church. Not only folks on the edges but some of his leaders. “John, we’ve been teaching living out of our identity in Christ and trusting his grace and love as our motivation. But we’re a mess. What are we doing wrong? Should I do a series on Bathsheba and David?”
I found myself saying, “You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re doing it wonderfully right.”
On the other end, the line got very quiet.
I continued, “Look, your numbers are not different than any other church at any particular time. Even if the stats are skewed its probably because of the new believers you attract with this message of the Original Good News. The difference between you and some other churches you might be tempted to compare with is this: in your environment it gets revealed. It’s harder for folks to stay hidden and relationships have been created where people no longer want to be hidden. So they’re coming out of the darkness risking that the devastation of revelation is superior to the devastation of hiding. Grace is messy, not because it’s inadequate, but because it allows the mess to come into the light.”
The line on the other end was still quiet.
“You were made for this my friend. This entire sacred community was made for this. This is your hour. You’ve not failed. You’ve created a safe place for people to try out if they’d be actually loved more if the worst of them became known. If we could pull back the curtain, your community would be shining so brightly. The proof of Christ’s life amongst you is not how much sin you can get your community to hide, or even how much sin you can get your people to keep from doing. The proof is if the place you’re endeavoring to nurture is beginning to allow others to bring their stuff into the light. Jesus is honored to walk among such. This is your validation, your legitimacy being revealed. This is a time for your leaders not to feel shame, but the absolute grateful delight of our God, who walked with a band of those risking the same. You, my young friend, are experiencing an environment of grace. It is not a time to run from each other but to do the hard work of love, which in revealed failure, runs to each other. Rock on, pastor man, rock on.”