On Friday night I took Erin to the two gentlemans' clubs and she gave the security guys a bag of candy and a stack of invitations to the movie we showed in church this morning. Although none of the employees came to TF this morning, it could happen in the near future. I hope it does, I think TF is a welcoming church.
I just got this email from Harmony Dust of Treasures, the lady who coached us in starting Love Wins. What you're about to read will break your heart. After reading it, I wondered if that would ever happen at our church? I really don't think it would, we're different than a lot of more 'churchy' churches. There aren't a lot of things that would prompt me to kick someone out of our church, but if someone ever did what you're about to read, they would never be allowed back at TF. I'm not sure if I'd have to hire security guards or something but they would be asked to leave - and never come back.
We have recently been in contact with Crystal (not her real name) a 21-year-old mother of two who has been dancing since she was just 15 years old. She has experienced her fair share of tragedy and heartache. For the sake of confidentiality, I will not share her story, but trust me, it would break your heart to know what she has had to overcome in short her years on this planet. About two weeks ago, she made the decision to start going to church in her small town where she hoped to develop her relationship with God. She found a church where she received the love and prayers of the pastor and his wife. Unfortunately, not everyone in the congregation shared their heart towards her. A couple of days ago, two women from the church who found out what she does for a living, showed up on her doorstep and explained that they did not feel comfortable with this young girl putting her children in children’s ministry with their children. Tremendously hurt and devastated, Crystal called her pastor to tell him what happened. He assured her that the women were out of line and that he would speak to them about the matter. A few hours later, 6 women showed up at her doorstep threatening her, “The next time you go running to the pastor will be your last!” Crystal was overwhelmed with feelings of anger. It took everything in her to resist the temptation to turn her anger inward and harm herself. She once again called the pastor and his wife who offered their sincere regrets and support. The next morning, Crystal woke up to find that her car had been vandalized. In the middle of the, someone painted “Whore, Prostitute, Slut” and other names too vile to repeat. The paint was removable, the words are not. Crystal told me that she doesn’t want to see anything come in the way of her love of God and her desire to know Him. But she is beginning to wonder if she has the guts to go to church and face the judgment she has been experiencing. And I don’t blame her. Even as she was telling me what happened, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration! Where is the love? Where is the heart of Jesus in all of this? Have we forgotten that he is the same Jesus extended compassion and mercy to an adulterous woman that the religious people of his day wanted to stone? He is the same Jesus that challenged, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” NOBODY COULD! None of us can today either. They all walked away. Every single one of them. And Jesus looked at the woman in her shame and showed her love and mercy. We are His ambassadors. We are His hands and feet. How people know that He is a God of love and grace if WE do not show them? It is the goodness of God that leads us to change our ways….not the condemnation of people. My heart aches over what this young woman has been going through. I wonder if most of us would have the guts to go to church after experiencing something like she has. Would you? Could you? I know that there are many churches, many leaders, many people throughout this world that are representing the heart of God in a sincere way. This gives me hope because we have a job to do. There are hurting Crystal’s all around us. People who have felt isolated and rejected. People who WANT to come to church, but they are afraid…not of God, but of US. Let us never forget that our greatest command is to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:29-31) Are you up for it?
PS. As I am writing this I just received a call from Crystal who just had a “chance” encounter with a woman who pastors a church with her husband in Crystal’s area. Knowing nothing about what Crystal has been through this week, the woman invited Crystal to church and encouraged her that it was a safe place for people to come regardless of their lifestyle. She mentioned that many of the people have come from backgrounds of addiction and prostitution. His love never fails! “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)