Part of my struggle as of late, is coming to the realization that I’m not called to serve the institutional church. Not in an official role anyway.
I pursued a call to ministry in an official way… But even before my family was attacked at Seminary, the whole thing didn’t sit right with me.
My whole life, I’ve been drawn to the outcasts. The ones wearing their brokenness, like scarlet letters. There has always been a tenderness in my heart for them. Not a smug “I’ve got the answers for you”, or a condescending “let me rescue you from yourself”. It’s more like a familiarity with who they are, underneath the chaos. They are my people, even if our lives look vastly different at the moment.
It is this connection that led me to a decade of working with at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents in various settings. I didn’t see them as behavior problems, or addicts, or criminally minded. I saw them as lost sheep. And I know exactly what it feels like to be a lost sheep.
I know that I’m not the Good Shepherd. I can’t bring anyone to God. That’s not even my job as a fellow sheep. It is God Himself that comes looking for us. But I know from experience that sheep flock together for protection while waiting for their Shepherd to come to the rescue. And somehow, that image translates into my calling.
I cannot, in good conscience, serve my fellow sheep by having them join me amidst a pack of wolves. The institutional church is full of wolves dressing as sheep. Don’t believe me? Imagine if a homeless person, smelly and dressed in rags, sat in the back pew of your church on a Sunday morning. Now, what would the reaction be within your congregation? I mean, maybe the first Sunday, they would be greeted and all would appear in line with what Christ taught. But what if that person started coming every Sunday. Wearing the same rags, and smelling like despair? How long would it take your congregation to say something to that person about their attire? Or worse yet, set the gossip chain in motion about it?
So my question is, how do we serve our fellow sheep? How do we minister to those on the fringes? If it cannot be within our congregations, standing shoulder to shoulder with those that are fighting a losing battle with modern life, of what use is the institutional church? How can it serve Christ if we still allow ourselves to be threatened or offended by those wearing their brokenness for all to see? Is the institutional church so haughty as to believe their privileged life has been given to them because they are deserving? Sorry guys. You are privileged because Christ wants you to give it all to the poor and underprivileged and, in doing so, grow ever more into the likeness of the God you purport to worship. The early church got this. But we are proving to be deaf and blind.
But, whatever. Have it your way. I’d much rather keep company with the homeless than to not be able to see or hear Christ in my midst.