Several years ago I found myself discouraged in ministry and questioning whether I should hang in where I was serving, go find another ministry to serve in, or leave it entirely and go back to being a tile setter (my previous trade).
I pretty quickly ruled out setting tile, as I still had a strong sense of God’s call on my life and a gifting for leading worship. But I decided that I would look for another church to go to. I had become convinced that I had to go somewhere else to find the church I was looking for.
Over the course of about 2 years God (I’m convinced it was God, and not just coincidence) closed door after door. One of the last ones I pursued was a “done deal” in everyone’s mind. It was a perfect fit, and we would be moving to the other side of the country. Then at the 11th hour, God again closed the door. I knew with certainty that He wanted me to stay, but I was not very happy about it. I had become resigned to the fact that I may never find the church I was looking for.
Then an amazing thing happened. God began to change me, and He began to change us. Slowly, but surely, I began to see glimpses of that church I was looking for… right here! A church committed to being something more than a gathering of white people, pretending to be perfect, going through the motions of “church”.
This weekend was a continuation of that discovery. This weekend we looked at the conversation between Jesus, the shaming Pharisees, and a woman caught in adultery. Jesus masterfully calls them on their “shame game”, extends grace and forgiveness to the woman, and all the while maintains a strong stance on purity “…now go, and quit sinning.”
After spending some time in John 8, we responded in worship by acknowledging that all of us have “junk” (the Bible calls it sin) and that we’d be a whole lot better off if we’d just admit it (the Bible calls that confession) and allow the cross to do what it was intended to. A friend of mine says that the church ought to be more like an AA meeting “Hi, I’m Dean, I’m a sinner”… “Hi Dean.” I think he’s right.
We ended the service with a testimony by one of our staff and their spouse. In it, they “came clean” on a pretty big sin committed years ago. They talked about how shame had kept them hostage for years. Afterwards, people embraced this couple, affirmed their love for them, and many began to seek freedom from their own shame. I also know that in many churches, perhaps most, this person would have been ostracized and removed from any kind of ministry.
As I led and observed authentic, deep worship happening, and saw multiple ethnicities coming up to extend grace to this couple, I thought to myself “man, I’m glad I stayed”. Then I offered up a simple prayer “thank you, Lord for closed doors… this is a good place to be.”