Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Unfriendliest Club in Town?

I am re-reading Dave Burchett's excellent book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. Here is a portion of that book on pages 27-29.

Governed by Grace
Phillip yancey has written a wonderful book about grace entitled What's So Amazing About Grace? that I would put on anyone's must-read list. One of his most compelling illustrations comes from an alcoholic friend who attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. His friend says, "When I'm late to church, people turn around and stare at me with frowns of disapproval. I get the clear message that I'm not as responsible as they are. When I'm late to AA, the meeting comes to a halt, and everyone jumps up to hug and welcome me. They realize that my lateness may be a sign that I almost didn't make it."
Wouldn't you love to see this scenario play out at a local church: I walk in as a visitor and stride to the front of the sanctuary during the multimedia drama presentation about accepting others' differences. I turn to the congregation and announce, "Hi! My name is Dave. And I'm a sinner."
"Hi, Dave!" the congregation responds. "We love you and we are here to help."
More likely an associate pastor would gently take me by the arm and try to lead me quietly away while a deacon called the straitjacket express. Today's succesful twelve-step support groups have become what the body of Christ could and, in fact, should have become. And while the roots of Alcoholics Anonymous are firmly planted in Christian grace, why did it even have to be developed? Shouldn't the church be the place to which such hurting men and women would instinctively be drawn to receive the help they need?
Even a quick study of the life of Christ would reveal that any of us could have quite comfortably walked into His "twelve guy" program and announced our status as sinners. In fact, that little confession would have moved us right to the head of the class and could very well have made us teacher's pet. So why has the local church repelled so many of those who have the very needs we are equipped, through Christ, to address? I realize that it is not entirely the fault of the church that the spiritually ill stay away. But it seems to me that we had better examine what part of the problem is our responsibility.


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