I’m just going to say it, “The Church is a mess.” No, I’m not talking about how the janitor didn’t clean up after a teen party. I’m talking about how we have messed up our mission to proclaim the Good News to people. I’m also not talking about a need to reinvent the church. I’m not even talking about a need for better outreach ideas. Although those fake $20 bill tracts need to go.
Seriously, who is open and receptive to hearing about Jesus after they find out the $20 tip is a fake? If you want to make an impression write “Jesus loves you” on a real $20 and invite them to church. I don’t know that it will work, but they will probably not be as mad at you as they person that left the fake $20.
Back to my point…the church is a mess. Actually, now that I’ve had some time to rethink that, let me say that the church should be a mess. Imagine what it looked like with Jesus and his followers. Matthew, a tax collector, is hanging out with Simon, a zealot. Zealots hated tax collectors. Tax collectors hated zealots. Why? Zealots killed tax collectors because they were in league with the Roman Empire and traitors to their own people. You can probably figure out why tax collectors hated zealots. That has to make for some interesting conversations, right?
Can you imagine a road trip with all those guys in a VW camper van? I can see Jesus looking back at those two as they travel down the road and saying, “Do not make me come back there!” or, “Am I going to have to separate you two?” And what if Peter offered to sit between them? Peter might say something awkward like, “Hey Matthew, do you know anyone that Simon or one of his brothers in arms might have killed?” James and John would be plotting the best type of fire to call down from heaven to deal with the whole problem. Awesome.
I can imagine that they might ask Jesus to stay home on “Bring a friend Sunday.” The friends of Jesus were a bunch of misfits. They were not the cream of the crop. He hung out with “sinners” and prostitutes. It just had to be messy when they got together.
Our churches should be that messy and more. I’m not talking about ethnic diversity, either. Frankly, there is not a lot of diversity in our community. Unless we are talking about blue/white collar, Republican/Democratic, prolife/prochoice, capitalist/socialist, rock/country, or Coke/Pepsi. Now there we have a lot of diversity. Problem is that we do not know a lot of people that are not like us. Most of our friends are friends because we like the same things. It is easy to get along with folks we like. But that is not what Jesus had in mind for the church. Jesus was talking about something that was really different.
Jesus said that even non-Christians love people that love them. Apparently, loving lovable people does not really require any special help from the Holy Spirit. Loving our enemies and people with whom we disagree does take the work of the Holy Spirit.
Messy is uncomfortable. Messy is complicated. Messy is, well, messy. Maybe “messy” is exactly what we need. If things get messy enough and beyond our ability to control and clean up, then we’ll be so desperate that we will call on the Holy Spirit to help.
If we are going to witness to people about the power of God’s love in the world we should probably start making things a bit messier in our Churches. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.