In a postmodern world we can’t influence people if we are not in relationship with them—and more and more the church is becoming further removed from the society that it exists to reach. I am not talking about being relevant. I am talking about being real. I am talking about living, breathing and rubbing shoulders among those who in Jesus’ day were called “despicable and notorious sinners.”
Do you know any notorious sinners? Would you or your church be called “a friend of sinners”?
Would you be proud to take a “sinner” to your church? Would they hear the good news of Jesus Christ or just everything that is wrong with them and the rest of this world? I am not suggesting we compromise the Bible. At our church we teach that homosexuality is a sin but it is not the sin, for instance. We teach what Jesus taught about the morals of his day that translate equally into our day.
I don’t want to just share information with people without also being willing to hear and understand how that information affects them. I want to share my life with others through real relationship with Jesus and them.
A number of years ago, I got a call from an independent alternative newsweekly here in Colorado Springs. Because of our involvement with community discussions in the past regarding world religions and homosexuality, they wanted to meet with us.
I met with a man I thought was a reporter from the newspaper. About halfway through the conversation I discovered that he was the founder of the paper. I was surprised.
He told us that our church had a reputation in the city of being a church that wanted to help people talk across the aisle. He saw us as a moderate voice that wanted to bring healing to the brokenness of our city.
We were honored that the community surrounding us had told him these things about us. He said that our name was mentioned to him no less than three times in one day.
Paul told Timothy “[the elder] must be well thought of by outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7). Could this be said of your church and of your pastors and elders? Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders.”
How long has it been since you have had an outsider in your office? How long has it been since you have had coffee with an outsider? How long has it been since you have done anything to reach out to the outside community beyond your preaching on Sunday morning?
Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost. We are his shepherds.
Kelly M. Williams planted Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1997. In the past 20 years, 3,188 people have come to faith in Jesus and been baptized through that ministry, and the church has partnered to plant 42 churches through their affiliate, Frontline Church Planting. This article is adapted from Williams’ book, Friend of Sinners: Taking Risks to Reach the Lost (CrossLink Publishing).