The beauty and the glory of the gospel is that the offer of salvation is extended to everyone. Race or culture, language or skin color, wealthy or homeless, it matters not. “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction…bestowing his riches on all who call on Him…” (Rom 10:11-12). So it follows that the local expression of the Body of Christ will reflect that same diversity. In some cases, there will be great diversity within a single local church, and in other places a specific local church will mirror a particular culture. One of the benefits of multiple local churches is that anyone should be able to find a body of people with whom they can relate.
Today we went to a church that is an example of the latter. This was a true “come as you are” church, and that means a lot more than the clothes you wear. Indeed, the clothes people wore went beyond “Southern California Casual.” There were no hipsters here, no V-neck t-shirts, no Toms. Jeans, leather coats, sweatshirts, and cowboy boots were more the norm. But it was evident that a person could come to this church just as they were—sin, addictions, issues, messed up lives—and they were welcomed and embraced. I have to ask though, why is this unusual? Are we that hung up on good appearances? How many of us live the Christian façade, pretending all is well when it really isn’t? I am sure there were facades here too, but there was a rawness, an openness that was pretty refreshing.
Of course what made it so refreshing was that there was such evidence of God’s grace and healing and restoration all over the place. Here was a church where people could come with messed up lives, with gripping addictions, with no pat answers, and find love and acceptance and healing. They could find Jesus, who is the Master Healer. There was a richness, a depth of worship, a freedom of expression, which is a bit unusual in our culture and our time. The “worship” time (i.e. when we sang worship songs) was robust and energetic. The body of believers was engaged—standing up, sitting down, praying, singing—completely at ease to respond to God as He interacted with them.
The pastor clearly knew his people and what their lives were like, and he laid out a solid biblical presentation of what we all need. “Let’s ask for more,” he said. “Let God be God and do what He wants.” At the end of the service he invited people to come forward to pray, repent, whatever they needed. People swarmed the front, falling on their knees and their faces. Of course, only God knows what really took place in each life, but it was pretty cool.
We went to a different church shortly after this visit. I found it interesting that the pastor said a very similar thing—we need to have a big vision of Christ. But it was a very different church. There were Toms on peoples’ feet, and there were V-neck t-shirts in the crowd. But so what? Doesn’t matter who you are—hipster, biker, addict, business man, criminal, mother—we all need Jesus, and we all need a bigger view of God, and we all need to let God be God. There are so many different expressions of the Body of Christ, and there are so many that are doing it well. That gets me excited, and gives me hope! But I still have to ask, how many of us would be willing to commit ourselves to a genuine “come-as-you-are” church?