I'm telling my age here, but I'm a child of the '70's and '80's. I grew up on the Muppets, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and The Electric Company. I cut my teeth on B.J. and the Bear, Dallas, CHiPs, and the A-Team (non of them in syndication I might add). I watched the cheesy '80's movies with really bad special effects, and even worse plot lines, but every now and then one of those cheesy movies still makes a little sense today.
"Who you gonna call?" You know which one that's from, right? Ghostbusters! Yeah, it was cheesy, and yeah, it was kind of lame, but I'll give them credit for one thing...they knew who they were after. If there was a ghost in town, they were going to go after it. They didn't worry about going after anybody else, just ghosts.
Paul, this morning, hit me again. (Dang it Paul, stop it.) Paul knew who he was after too. You see, in the infancy of the church, there were basically two movements: one to the Gentiles in order to bring them in, and one to the Jews in order to try to convince them that the Messiah they were waiting for had come. There were sub-branches within those two movements but those were the major directions things were taking.
Paul's passion was for bringing in the Gentiles. Peter's was for the Jews. My church history is a little rusty, but I could do a little digging and give you more details, but today, details aren't important. What is important is this: Each of them knew where their passion lay, and that was the group of folks they went after. It hit me this morning that this might be part of what frustrates so many pastors and/or church leaders. I wrote Monday about beginning to be able to put a finger on the frustrations, and I'm seeing it slowly becoming more defined.
Now, some might read my posts this week and think, "He needs to take a break and do something else for a little while." And that would be the easy way out, but that's not what I'm called to do. I love what I do, and can't see me every doing anything else (regardless of what some former members have told me I should do). But, is there anyone who does not have some level of frustration with their life's work?
So here it is, and here is what Paul said to me in Romans 15 this morning. Just like Ghostbusters, Peter, and Paul, the church has to take some time to discern who they are trying to reach. In an ideal world, every church would be able to effectively reach and minister to every person, but we don't live in an ideal world. Now here's the question...Would the Holy Spirit be OK with a church recognizing who they are gifted to reach and ministering to that group? Or, would the Holy Spirit want us to work through our weaknesses and try to reach all people? That's where I'm stuck.
Let's be honest, a middle class, predominately white, middle aged church is not going to be very effective at reaching inner city kids. The two worlds are just too different. One group would never be able to understand the other. That doesn't mean that this church has no responsibility to reach out to inner city kids, it does, but is there another church closer who might be able to reach the kids more effectively?
I know I'm going to catch heck over this one, but this is one of the things I'm struggling with right now. I would love to serve a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-socio-economic, multi-lingual church, and they are out there, but they are few in number. Personally, and here's where I may catch some flack, I think we should just call a spade a spade. If your church is only gifted in reaching one social or cultural group, do it the best you possibly can, and don't pretend to be all inclusive. If your church is all white but you feel compelled to work with inner city kids, partner with an inner city church. I think it would save a lot of frustrations down the road.
If your church is upper middle class and you feel called to work with those on the fringes, partner with a church already doing that work. Because honestly, it's two totally different worlds, and this is just Jamie, but I think it's time the chuch quit pretending.
I'm not limiting the power of the Holy Spirit by any means and I know that with God all things are possible. I also know that Paul said that he became all things to all people so that by some means he might reach a few, and I absolutely love that. I also know the reality of our world. But this morning, Paul spoke to me. Paul did not have a passion for converting the Jews, his passion was for bringing in the Gentiles. Peter did not have a passion for bringing in the Gentiles, in fact, he even struggled with sitting down to eat with one Gentile family, look it up. I'm not making this up. But...in their fields of passion, they were powerhouses for the work of God.
I'm afraid that some churches are ineffective because of two things: One, we don't know who we are. And Two, we don't know who we're trying to reach. Until we figure out those two things, have some very honest conversations among ourselves, and allow the Holy Spirit to get inside the walls, I'm afraid we are going to remain ineffective.
But, there's always hope. When God's church gets in a pinch, and if you don't think we're in a pinch just look at the numbers, there is one question we can ask ourselves to get started; "Who you gonna call?"