25 years ago, I knew it was going to be an interesting Sunday when “Suzie” appeared in the choir loft behind the pulpit before the service started. She held a trumpet and a hatchet in her hands. Turning to the gathering crowd, she screamed “It’s time to worship!” with the hatchet held high.
Then it was time for the trumpet – loudly sputtering away the best she could. Psalm 98:6 reads, “With trumpets and the sound of the horn; Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.” but this just seemed a little much. Thankfully one of the deacons was able to kindly lead her away because he knew “Suzie” had not taken her medicine.
This was about the same time at our church (New City Fellowship (PCA) in Chattanooga, TN, USA) that “John” was sleeping in his van out in the car park. His colorful van filled with empty McDonald’s Big Mac boxes each containing the last bite of his Big Mac to remind him of the wonderful eating experience he had. He was a large man who roamed the church halls with mannerisms which made everyone uncomfortable.
This was not the kind of church I grew up in. There were former prostitutes and gangsters sitting alongside coat-and-tie wearing businessmen and homeschool mothers. The pastor once told me he knew they were doing something right on the Sunday when he asked for the ushers to come forward for the offering and all four were ex-convicts!
I remember discussing with my friends at the time the question: “Does New City drive people crazy or does it just draw a bunch of crazy people to the service each week?”
The answer, of course, is that New City was purposely designed to be a place for all people to come as they are to worship the living God. The leadership wanted their church to be welcoming to everyone no matter what your background was or what you were currently struggling with.
This was not the case of every church I have been part of. But thankfully there are churches that are seeking to be a refugee for all. Churches that welcome people just like you and me.
Church is family. Membership in a local church means joining your imperfect self to many other imperfect selves to form an imperfect community that, through Jesus, embarks on a journey toward a better future . . . together. ~ Scott Sauls in Jesus Outside the Lines