We tend to dream big as Church Planters. We set out with a goal to change the world beginning in our city. We want everyone to get saved. We want to reach thousands with the Gospel. I get excited just typing it.
Over time, we can begin to aim at different targets. Changing the world can get modified to changing the style. Everyone getting saved can turn into everyone tithing. Reaching thousands with the Gospel can turn into breaking that 100 barrier in our weekly attendance. We even begin to dream of a certain ‘stereotype’ of who is a ‘good fit’ for our church plant. Maybe you don’t…but I did…and so do many others.
Then one day I met a fellow. One of our frequent attendees brought him to our worship gathering. He was a follower of Jesus but had spent much time out of church and away from the Lord due to severe illnesses that keep him disabled to this day. He smelled of substances that I recognized as ‘not good’. He was sad. He was kind, but he was sad. He expected to be met with hostility, shame or who know’s what else. You see, he had developed some stereotypes of ‘church people’ that were just as harmful to him as my ‘church planter stereotypes’ were becoming for me. Fortunately, he wasn’t met with any of those things and was loved well. He returned. He came to a Missional Community and participated.
Fast forward 10 months: this person is now serving in a vital role in our ministry…his ministry. He has a smile that lights up a room. He is the most accepting person I know. Nothing has changed physically, but two things have changed inwardly. First, he has allowed me to re-evaluate how I look at others. Second, he has changed in this way too. The offering plate doesn’t ‘thud’ when he drops in his offering. The pundits don’t write books about him and those like him. He is one of the many that fall into the category of ‘least of these’. To me, he is much more. He has become a friend and a brother, and I would take a thousand of him in any ministry anytime.
Stereotypes can work both ways, and there is little of value in them. Of the many idols we should crush in our ministry lives, this one is high on my list. What about you?
John 7:24 – Do not judge by appearances but judge with right judgement.