Thomas came into church today, just to say hello, just to see how we all were. Thomas comes to our youth club and can quite often represent a handful. There are issues. He has been excluded from school on numerous occasions; he’s been part of our education project that looks to work with such young people that don’t respond well to the school environment. Now he’s unemployed, looking for a job. There was something special about the fact that this young man wanted to come and say hello. There is a trust, a special relationship of authenticity. Our conversation lightened my heart. It was lighter still when this young man started a conversation with Patrick sat waiting for his lunch. Full of respect despite Patrick’s notoriety.
"So you have no goals when you work with young people? Surely the reason you do what you do with these young people is to get them saved?" a conversation a few hours later and my heart sinks lower and lower. I try my well-worn message of grace centred love; mission with no strings attached; mission that is born of authentic relationship. I look into the eyes of my colleague – nothing. I can see the judgement…LIBERAL!! The truth is I’m not.
I’m just someone who has discovered the joy of loving people through church programmes that are not used as a means to an end.
I’m someone released from the weight of soul winning formulas.
I’m someone who has discovered the wonder of the power of grace in all that we do.
I’m someone who has found the fulfilment of journeying with a wide variety of people in their lives.
I’m someone who feels incredulous at the profoundness that God uses the simplest means to draw people unto him.
I’m someone fed up with the efforts of modern day evangelism that is akin to blanket bombing destroying all in their path in the name of salvation.
I’m someone who believes with a passion that people are drawn to something that is authentic.
I’m someone that does want everyone I meet to know the freedom, hope and salvation I feel. But I’m someone who sees that the biggest threat to that is the hidden agendas that push the reality of Jesus so far out of the picture that people don’t see him but see the church of which they are so distrustful.
Do you know what? I feel ever more demoralised everytime I have to justify myself to people who don’t see me. To people who don’t get it. To people happy to dilute grace to insipidness. To those means to an end people.
Then I think of my picture. Thomas and Patrick sharing a coffee in the warmth and safety of our church and I realise who I am called to.