One of the most important aspects of the “emerging church” movement is the idea of inclusiveness. Many research organizations and reports are noting that people no longer search for a church based on “brand” loyalty. Fifty years go if you were a member of a Christian Church like Country Club and you moved away to another city you would simply find the closest Christian Church and soon thereafter place your membership there. That is no longer the case.
Today people search for churches based on factors like the message proclaimed week in and week out, the ministries offered and the overall mission of the church. This is why inclusivity is such an important issue. On any given week at Country Club Christian you may find yourself seated between a Presbyterian and a Pentecostal or a Baptist and Buddhist even!
Peter Gomes makes the very strong point that this inclusivity is something we can find in Jesus. Gomes writes, “If the gospel is truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all. Prejudice, paranoia, the politics of exclusion-all these little systems have their day, and there are moments when they appear to prevail, but the church, we know from experience, will eventually do the right thing once it has exhausted every other alternative.”
Jesus was constantly welcoming all kinds of people into his circle of friends and followers whose backgrounds caused the pious and the self-righteous to shudder. A close examination of the disciples themselves reveals an extremely flawed group of persons. I once preached a sermon on the disciples titled “Only the Unqualified Need Apply.”
The flawed disciples help to reveal the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God is not waiting for us to attain perfection. Instead, God invites us to acknowledge our brokenness as we move our lives into the center of grace itself. When we are able to do that we become, as Hemingway suggested, “strong in the broken places.”
This gift of grace then guides and directs us toward lives lived with love at the center. When that happens in a congregation, the walls of exclusivity evaporate and the pews become sacred places of hope and healing.
Grace and Peace to you,