Continuing with the TFC tradition, we're going to be taking the love of Jesus to a place that most Christians either completely avoid, or when they do engage that community they mis-represent the love of Jesus. We've been affectionately calling this new endeavor Love Wins Part Deux but the official name is "Love Wins: LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-gender). It's now "Love Wins: Gentlemen's Clubs" and "Love Wins: LGBT."
I won't be able to get the audio up until next week but below is the text of what we discussed on Sunday. While you likely won't be able to sense it from the manuscripts, Sunday morning's worship was INTENSE! People were calling out affirmation, crying, praying intensely and generally getting all pumped up about where TFC is headed. The past 4 years have been quite a ride but I have a feeling we're only getting started. I never could've imagined how much God would've blown apart my narrow box of what defines "church." But it's happening and it's amazing. I just got a note from a pastor in St. Louis who wrote, "I'm admiring what you're doing from a distance. Thanks for incarnating a new model of church."
Or to quote Pastor Andy, "LOVE WINS, y'all"!
To read more and to ask questions, check out Pastor Andy's blog here.
Here's the text of Sunday's message:
As you’ve likely already noticed, we’re doing things a bit different today. Rather than discussion groups after the message, we’re going to spend more time in prayer. We’ll still have the chance to discuss the message, though but it will happen later in the week, via Pastor Andy’s blog, which he’ll explain later.
Just before the blessing, we’ll read Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” But we’re going to start by looking at a time in scripture in which Jesus dared to go to a place where no “upright, religious person” would ever go. John 4:1-10 running commentary
Vs. 3 – once again, Jesus is making the ultra religious people, the ones so caught up with rules, mad because he won’t follow their rules and doesn’t fit their expectations
Vs. 4 – “had” map of Samaria We’re seeing some irony here. Samaria is right in the middle between Judea and Galilee. When a good Jewish religious person went from Judea to Galilee, they always took the long way around, so they didn’t have to go through Samaria. They wouldn’t be caught dead in Samaria. This had been going on for centuries.
The Samaritans didn’t keep the rules the same way the Jews did. To the Jews, Samaritans were spiritual sell-outs, compromisers. You couldn’t hang out with a Samaritan. Just being in the same country would get you contaminated.
Religious people haven’t changed much. I enjoy seeing people’s reactions sometimes. “You hang out in bars? Your wife hangs out in strip clubs?” One time, a lady told us (in a very condescending voice) “well, I guess they need Jesus, too.” Wow, that still makes me mad. Jesus is going to a place that rule-following religious people avoided like the plague.
Vs. 9 - Jesus is breaking so many rules here.
1) He’s in Samaria
2) He’s talking to a woman – alone
3) The woman is Samaritan
4) She’s the town whore. She’s been married 5 times and is now living with a guy to whom she’s not married. She’s at the well at noon, the hottest part of the day, because she knows no one else will be there. She’s an outcast.
5) In that culture, a man did not ask a woman for help, it was beneath his dignity. Especially not a loose Samaritan woman.
Vs. 10 – Jesus is breaking all the rules because he knows people matter more than rules. This woman needs a relationship with Jesus. Jesus refuses to put a rule above a relationship.
They then have this whole conversation in which Jesus points out that she’s trying to find fulfillment in relationships but that only he can fill that void in her life.
Vs. 26 – had Jesus been following the rules, he never could’ve had this conversation with this woman. He had to break the religious rules to share God’s love.
Vs. 27 – “shocked” Of course, it shocked the disciples. Here’s the deal, if you’re showing love the way Jesus showed love, it will shock most religious people. Religious people focus on rules and performance. Jesus is about grace and acceptance. The love of Jesus is scandalous.
Vs. 30 – Not only was the Samaritan woman’s life changed. But an entire village of religious outcasts met Jesus. Why? Because Jesus dared go to a place no one else would go.
2 years ago, we launched our Love Wins ministry. Daring to take the love of Jesus to a place where most Christians either ignored, tried to shut down or stood outside with picket signs. 2 years ago, right before our first trip to the clubs, I shared what we were going to do with some pastors at an annual meeting of churches in the KC area. You should’ve seen some of the shocked faces. 2 years later, our DS told the Love Wins story to a couple thousand people as an example of how to share the love of Jesus. We’re going to watch the videos he shared.
Last month, our newly elected Advisory Council heard a proposal from Pastor Andy regarding taking Love Wins to another group of people. Another group that, just like the employees of the clubs, have been bullied by Christians. Who have felt a Christ-dishonoring condemnation, rather than a Christ-honoring love.
Today is a big day Trinity Family. Today we continue the story of Love Wins. Before I get to that though, let me begin with a story.The summer before I came to Trinity Family, I lived in Togo, a small country in West Africa. That summer, my team and I saw some of the most amazing things happen. God was all over that trip inspiring us and shaping us in ways we could have never imagined. The story I want to share with you from our trip is about a banana lady, Outside of a massive Shell refinery there was this lady with a small stool, a big pan, and a whole lot of bananas. We would visit this lady when we wanted to buy bananas. One day God compelled us to reach this banana lady. We knew what we needed to do. We bought bananas and we bought bananas and we bought bananas. We bought so many bananas from this lady that it got to the point that when she saw our car she would run after us to sell us bananas. We ate so many bananas that summer it was unreal. We did it so that we could build a relationship with the banana lady so that we could share Christ’s love with her. It wasn’t about forcing Christ message down her throat, it wasn’t about pulling out our evange-cubes it was about building a relationship with a person so that we could show and share Christ love with her. Period. We went that whole summer and all we did was buy bananas. We built a relationship and guess what folks…out of that relationship came a new follower of Christ! LOVE WINS!This is what Love Wins is all about. It’s all about Trinity Family building relationships with people outside of our walls. It’s all about Trinity Family making friends with people that the Church has failed to make friends. It’s all about building bridges where the Church has burned them down. It’s all about a Church letting people know that no matter where you are in life or what you’re tangled up in or where you come from…GOD LOVES YOU!It’s exactly what Christ did. Today Donnie shared a story with you about a woman at a well. A woman that was one of the lowest people in her society. A woman that had messed up royally in her life. A woman that people shunned. A woman that people rejected. A woman that Church people thought God in the flesh should not take the time of day to acknowledge. What did God do? He acknowledged her. He gave her the time of day. He built a relationship with her. He told her God cared. He offered her living water. And guess what folks…out of that relationship came a new follower of Christ! LOVE WINS! God did what he tells us to do. Go into ALL the world. Not just the places we are comfortable but into ALL the world.That is what Trinity Family, through our Love Wins ministry is seeking to do. To go into ALL the world.The woman at the well is strikingly familiar isn’t she? The fact is…after 2000 years, still have those people that we say are just not worth the effort. They are identified by the names Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender. The LGBT. To those people Trinity Family has been called to go and we have answered that call because guess what folks…LOVE STILL WINS!Over the past few months, a group of people, of which I am a part, from Trinity Family have decided to become intentional about sharing Christ love with the LGBT community. We are not doing it by painting picket signs or handing out tracts, or by condemning anyone to hell. We are doing it by building relationships with people. We are intent on loving people where they are just like the God that we follow does because guess what folks…LOVE STILL WINS!Just as Christ did, we have a simple way of how we are going to reach the people that the Church has rejected but that God has called us to love. We will build friendships with members of the LGBT community. We will spend time with our friends showing Christ love to them and letting them know that we are not like all the others who reject them. We will be and are there simply to build bridges between God and the people that He loves... That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s about us being Christ presence in a community and a place where He longs for us to be. It’s all about loving people because guess what folks…LOVE STILL WINS!Got it? …GoodThat’s it folks. That’s what we wanted to share with you today. We wanted to share with you the direction where we firmly believe that Trinity Family is being called to go in.
Our small group is currently reading and discussing a book titled, Holy Fools: Following Jesus with Reckless Abandon by Matthew Woodley. In one of the recent chapters we spent time in titled, Demolishing Ghetto Walls, he describes what he calls Christian ghettos and our need to demolish the walls surrounding them. Let me explain.
By observing ghettos we find that they usually form when a minority group feels that it must band together and build walls around itself. A ghetto stems from some basic natural needs for a sense of community, survival and identity. They provide those inside it with security, comfort and a sense of belonging. That’s all good, but here’s the catch: They also tend to neatly divide the world into innies and outies. Ghettos tell us who to exclude.
Now if we’re honest, the Church (in general) has at times done a pretty good job of putting up walls and neatly dividing its world into innies and outies. In this book Woodley challenges this through pointing out that Jesus teaches us differently than what I just described. While it is a natural tendency for us to put up some sort of wall, Jesus teaches us to tear down those walls! Jesus didn’t wall himself in and hang around with people who were like him. Jesus sought after those on the outside. I’d like to read a quote from the book:
“[Jesus] subverted the entire structure of the religious establishment by changing the boundary markers. He essentially picked up the ghetto wall and moved it a few hundred miles down the street. In the process, Jesus blew apart our often rigid social categories of innies and outies.”
What Jesus did was straight up scandalous! Indeed, in many ways it remains scandalous today.
I believe in many ways our church follows Jesus’ model of loving those outside our normative boundaries. And for that I am proud to be a part of this church. This church loves people like no other church I have ever been a part of. But we’re not all the way there yet. We have some distance to travel. I have a passion and hunger for our church to continue to subvert “ghetto wall” mentalities that seek to exclude some people. God is challenging me to find new ways to reach people whom I normally wouldn’t find hanging around church (and as the youth pastor here, I suspect that may include teens). And as God is challenging me, I encourage you to ask God to show you some ways you can do the same. Because in large part, that is what kingdom living is about – loving the so-called unlovable. It is what Jesus did. So let’s do this thing. Let’s let God blow apart whatever amount of ghetto walls we have remaining, and look forward to seeing the amazing things God does in and through this church.
TFC turns 4 years old next Sunday. These past 4 years have been quite a ride. At least for me personally. My understanding of church has changed so much over the past 4 years. I’ve matured, grown and stretched. And every positive that God has done in me as pastor has been the result of me screwing something up in the first place. The thrill of someone meeting Christ and experiencing life-change has been more than I’d imagined. So has the pain of someone walking away from Christ. We’ll keep having ups and downs, sometimes God will move in big ways, sometimes we’ll wonder what we missed.
But I know, in the bottom of my heart, that if we commit ourselves to hearing, obeying and then following the guidance of Jesus, we’ll continue to be amazed at where Jesus takes us.
With that in mind, I want to close with the Good News from Dr. Seuss.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go
It won’t be easy, we’ll get stuck, make mistakes along the way. But this journey of following Jesus is the most worthwhile and rewarding thing we could ever commit ourselves to.