And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
– Matthew 10:42, King James Version
The subject of this post has little to do with the context of Matthew 10:42, but it came to mind while I was reading one of two articles I’m about to comment on.
The first was a list of ten reasons not to join a church plant, written by California pastor Justin Buzzard, who’s planting a church in San Jose that is affiliated with the Acts29 Network. That list, originally posted on Buzzard’s blog, was reposted on Acts29’s Resurgence blog.
The list reflects what I’ve seen from many ambitious church growth and church planting organizations: we want hard working people, we want them to give of their time and money, we don’t want any slackers looking to be entertained, we want people willing to work hard and sacrifice for the Kingdom. I’ve heard this argument, via podcast and mp3s, from the lips of Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and others in the Acts29 Network, and even from the pulpit of my own church.
Buzzard’s list in turn gained the attention of Mike Mercer, one of the people who currently run the Internet Monk blog.
Mercer – aka Chaplain Mike – decided to write a response to Buzzard, on the Internet Monk blog.
His response was full of grace, a proverbial cold cup of water to those wandering in the post-evangelical wilderness that the Internet Monk blog’s founder, the late Michael Spencer, spoke about so much.
Chaplain Mike reminded us that most people are broken and hurting and do not live up to the high standard of living set in Buzzard’s top 10 list and other similar publications. A small sample:
Grace welcomes sinners, all kinds of sinners, and provides a redemptive community through which Christ can minister to them. Grace does not put a bouncer at the door to admit only those who qualify, who won’t tramp dirt on the carpet.
How often do pastors send the message that only the strong, the vital, those who tithe and give offerings until it hurts, those who serve every spare moment of their week, and are never selfish enough or whiny enough to expect the lead pastor to know their name (much less minister to them regularly about their lives) should join the church?
I’ve heard variations of it preached in the charismatic movement, in the holiness movement, in Acts29 and Reformed churches, in Christian media and in books written by well-known Christian celebrity megachurch pastors.
The message I’ve gotten from all that, over the years, is this: repent and get your act together if you want us to care for you. Prove to us you’re worthy.
Sounds more like man than Jesus to me.
Fortunately, that voice isn’t utterly dominant in the Christian world. Occasional voices of reason like Eugene Peterson, Brennan Manning and Steve Brown remind us that God loves ragamuffins, too. Sometimes, one of those ragamuffins – like Chaplain Mike – come along and deliver a grace-filled reminder that seems like a cold cup of water in the post-evangelical desert.
Please, go read Buzzard’s list and Mercer’s response for yourself. Even if you disagree fully with Mercer, please at least heed what he has to say.