Written May 2010
I’ve been blessed with an incredible group of friends. A tight, close knit group (so tight one of our members has affectionately termed us “the Crew”). The few of us have come to know one another individually over the course of years – some I’ve known for as long as five years, others as little as 7 or 8 months. But it’s only been since late December/early January that the Crew was formed. That is, although we may have known each other a long while, the mutual bond has only been in place for a little while. The way I see it, somehow, is that five to eight individuals became one collective body.
How it happened, though, is a story that could only be written by God. We’re radically different people, with differing upbringings, ethnicities, and coming from very different socioeconomic backgrounds. What is shared is pretty sparse – perhaps the only unifying factor is our age, 20-22 (and its associated collegiate poverty). Religiously, I’m the odd man out (liturgical/sacramental), as most came from the Baptist/ nondenominational churches typical with being raised in West Texas.
In terms of life experiences, the Crew is what Brendan Manning would call ragamuffin – we’re a rather interesting hodgepodge of sin, failure, and hurt: heavy doses of sexual promiscuity (both gay and straight), drug addiction, domestic violence, scarred childhoods, depression and suicidal thoughts, the list could go on for pages.
But the part of the Crew that’s so important to me is the level of intimacy that’s shared. A failure by one is felt by all, and the joy of one is reverberated throughout. And when that failure inevitably hits, the crew is there to provide comfort, counsel, and (occasionally) a stiff drink. Whenever we’re together, there are no pretenses; we act our true selves, totally transparent and honest. All of us can connect with one another on a wonderful personal level; it doesn’t matter how many there are in the conversation or which members take part. And if one of us is erring in our lives, the Crew provides gentle instruction and advice – always loving, but never judging.
A great example of this is E, the “other member” of the Crew. He’s the 18-month old son of one of our members, and we’ve adopted him as our own. He’s always welcome when we’re together, no matter what the occasion. Wednesday nights the Crew does babysitting so his mom can work at a local church, and I try hard to be there every week – in fact, I truly missed hanging out with him when I was out of town recently. We joke often that he’s got more aunts and uncles than anyone in town, because we are all a part of his life, and couldn’t imagine our lives without him.
Recently, I invited one of my ‘other’ friends to join the Crew for an evening meal and conversation. Driving home that night, she confessed to me how loved and welcomed she felt among us, even after only a few hours. She desperately desired a group like ours, a place she could go to find acceptance and peace. She is now one of us, the third new member in the six months since we began.
What if . . . what if the Church could be a place like that?
Seriously. Look at what I described and see if it makes sense – what if the church could emulate that? What would we look like?
We just might look like Jesus.
And the Crew does. I was talking with my pastor recently, describing our group, and he was quick to point out that the Crew doesn’t just look like the Church – it IS the Church. No, it doesn’t have liturgies or music or ordained clergy. But it does offer the heart of the Gospel: loving one another as Christ loved us. And we’re trying to share that love, embarking on service missions to reach a community in need.
The Church ought to be about radical transformation through the act of community – using our gifts to help others on their journey to Christ-likeness. Being a place of welcome and solace; a place where God’s peace can bring healing and restoration to a society of rejects; a place where God works through the transformed in order to bring transformation to others.
What would happen if we all did this? If we change the way we’ve done church for the past 1800 years and join in this mighty movement of the Holy Spirit?
We could truly be walking into our calling as the body and bride of Christ – serving the world in His name, through the power of His Spirit, in order to reach those who are perishing.
Soli Deo Gloria, indeed.