Meeting people where they are
So how do we minister to people like my physical therapist? We meet them where they are just like Jesus did. Jesus never expected any one he ministered to be perfect or fit in what he believed in. We should never expect non-Christian to live to our standards or even God’s standards before they are believers. You have to meet everyone where they are in their journey.
One of my best girlfriends is an example of how we do that. She was connected by way of family to one of the churches we attended. I started to visit her because her husband was deployed and she moved back to the area while he was deployed. I started visiting her and she told me right off the bat that we shouldn’t expect her at church, because she knew the people at church. I had my work cut out in building a relationship. She really wasn’t the type of person that a pastor’s wife would hand out with – at least if you think of the pastor’s wife role traditionally. But I figured if Jesus was living there, he would hang out with her. I spent quite a bit of time building a relationship – at times I’m sure it was uncomfortable for both of us. I did it because I needed somebody to connect with…it was great because she was a young mom and that’s how we connected. As our friendship grew I could see changes in her life for the good. It was cool to see these changes and have a positive influence on a person. Eventually the time came and she started asking about spiritual things. At one point she told me that she actual read the Bible numerous times and Dale and I were the first Christians that lived the way the Bible says a Christian should live.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about a judge-free zone. The church is a hospital – it’s a place for the saints and the sinners. We see how Jesus managed to deal with both – he spent time with the disciples – teaching them how to live as Christ-followers – He spent time with the sinners – and yes that got him into trouble as well. Check out Mark 2:15-17.
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum? When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Dale and I often find ourselves ministering to the fringe – the almost Christian – the ones who are seeking – the Christian, but not sure I fit into “the church.” Sometimes this gets us in trouble, but it got Jesus in trouble, so we are in good company. As I’ve mentioned before, Jesus harshest words were reserved for the “religious” not the sinners. Most sinners already know they are sinning. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict.
So one Sunday, without my invitation, my friend showed up in church, with her children. I greeted her like I would anyone else that came to the church. Some immediately judged her for what she was wearing – or who she was – or any number of things – you could tell that by their faces. That morning I sat in the nursery with her son so she did not have to worry about him. She came to church most Sunday mornings till her husband came back home and they moved away. Some may wonder, “Was it worth it?” “Did she get saved?” I don’t know – but this I do know is that we showed her love – the kind of love that all Christ-followers should show. After her family moved away, she and her husband invited us to their home and while we were there I gave her a Bible. I told I had a gift for her and she could chose not to take it if she did not what it. It would not have hurt my feelings at all. She took the Bible. Dale and I have left a door open to her and husband. Even now we occasionally “check-in” on them.
There are people who are seekers – there are people on the fringe – the almost Christian – the “I’m not sure I’m part of the church” people. Sometimes they are solid believers, but they end up being judged because we don’t take the time to get to know them and show them the love of Jesus.
There is a quote that is attributed to John Wesley – the grandfather of our movement. I’ll paraphrase it a bit here.
The church is a place that should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
So many times the church afflicts the afflicted and comforts the comfortable. That is not the way it should be. My challenge to you is to find those who need the love of Jesus – whether it would be outside the church or even inside the church. There are people who are hurting – and they are everywhere – show them the love of Jesus – comfort them with the love of the God of all comfort. Your job is to love them – really love them. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. If the Holy Spirit is doing the convicting, they will be uncomfortable enough for all of us. Let’s make the church a judge-free zone.