We live in a culture that is preoccupied with perfection. Think about it. It all started when you were a child: you were pushed to get straight A’s, to always look your best, to say the right thing, to win the competition, etcetera, etcetera. And if you grew up in church, then you better not let that one dirty little word overtake your life – SIN! You better stay holy and blameless and righteous and be led by the Spirit and read your Bible and pray and never miss a church service and not hang around other children who will lead you into darkness!!
It may sound funny, but unfortunately I’m not even over-stating what is the culture of many churches in America today! Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my heritage and for the power of a praying mom. But let me ask you a question: What if the culture of your church was more inviting to people that are messed up and imperfect than to those who “have it all together”? What if your church had a culture of love and acceptance rather than performance and perfection? What if your church had a culture of grace instead of guilt and condemnation?
I don’t believe any of us as Pastors and leaders in the body of Christ intentionally create an atmosphere in which outsiders feel unwelcome but that has become an overwhelming perception of the church in society. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons published a book entitled Unchristian, in which they reveal the top six perceptions of “outsiders” about the church and Christianity. Their research revealed that outsiders see the church as:
- To focused on getting converts
- Too political
My point isn’t to address the research or the particulars. My point is to say: What if the church began to be perceived by outsiders as a place they can belong and become better no matter who they are, no matter what they’ve done, no matter how they vote, no matter how messed up they are? What if we were less concerned by our stats of salvation and baptisms and more concerned about lives being transformed and people being transparent on their journey of becoming like Jesus? What if instead of perfection we were focused on redemption?
Here’s what I’ve discovered being in ministry for 25 years: people are hurting and they are looking for answers. The church exists to BE the answer! Most people who walk into our churches are imprisoned by their own imperfections, weaknesses, mistakes, failures and flaws. And the devil is using guilt and condemnation to perpetuate the cycle of defeat in their lives. They don’t need to be told by us what’s wrong with them! We can be the answer to ending that cycle in their lives! That is the joy of leading others in the body of Christ!
Luke19:10 (NLT) says,“ For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Are we focused on ministering to the lost? If so, then we should be creating an environment in which they can thrive! And that means that it cannot be based on a list of do’s and don’ts, because they are going to mess up more times than they get it right! Romans 8:1(NLT) says,
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” This is the culture we must strive to create and nurture in our churches!
That’s what we’ve been doing at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, Kentucky for some time now. We stopped asking the same old questions, and we started asking questions that our congregation was really struggling with. Questions like this…
What imperfection has disqualified you in your. mind or others?
Is it the sins of the
past –an affair, stealing from your
company, caught using porn, lied to the ones you love?
Is it the addiction from which you’ve been delivered but maybe it still raises its ugly head from time to time? Or the addiction you’re hiding that still rules your life?
Is it that you messed up in the church before – maybe you left a church the wrong way, you’ve never tithed, spoke against the leadership, or you hurt someone?
Maybe your imperfection has been constant failure – you failed in school, you failed as a child, you failed in your career, and you even failed as a Christian.
Is it that you just don’t match up to other Christians – you’re thinking, “as soon as I can get my act together, maybe then I’ll qualify for God’s love?”
When we started addressing these kinds of issues, it was amazing what God did in our church. Literally, the entire culture shifted! We put a banner out front that declared “NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED”! We made it known that from the preacher down to every person who walked through the doors – none of us are perfect! We made it okay to be messed up. We made it okay to have a past that you weren’t proud of. We created a culture where you could belong no matter what your story was.
We began to experience Romans 5:20, that “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,” and the grace of God began to radically change people! The stories of transformation have been inspiring.
Jill (not her real name) was a victim of human trafficking and was forced into the adult entertainment industry as a dancer. That was a year and a half ago. Now, she’s escaped from that lifestyle, given her heart to God and been baptized, along with her oldest son. She has a glow about her that only comes when you’ve been forgiven much and now she loves much! She’s gone through our leadership school and now she’s ministering to girls who have fallen into the same trap from which God delivered her.
Our youth pastor had been running from God for years – smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and living a partying life- style. He reluctantly came back to church to appease his wife, and then God grabbed hold of him and he rededicated his life. That was just two years ago. Now he’s leading a team of 30 leaders and ministering to 100+ teens every week about a God who loves them no matter what mistakes they’ve made. Our church doesn’t judge him for his past; they celebrate the power of God that liberated him and enables him to minister out of his brokenness.
I believe that the series I preached on “No Perfect People” can help you begin to make this kind of dramatic shift in your heart and in your church! Believe me, it had to start with me and God has redefined my ideas about “church” on a daily basis. Jesus didn’t come for the perfect; he came for the messed up and imperfect. Last time I checked, we all qualify for that in one way or another!
✦ Perfection to Grace
✦ Perfection to Purpose
✦ Perfection in US to Perfection in Christ ✦ Perfection to Redemption
If you decide to minister this series to your own congregation, just Email Me and I’ll be happy to send you graphics for marketing and presentation. I believe God is shifting the culture of churches all across this nation to be a redemptive culture, and my heart is to see this accelerated.