Monday, March 10, 2003

As my man Burt continues to revolutionize and appropriate most of what I read about church planting, I am becoming closely acquainted with the God of Intinerant Schedule-Busting.

Although I am hastening to render our infant house church to the dividing line of pre-Burtendom and post-Burtendom, I do mark his entry into our lives.....or, at least another installment into my experiential knowledge of the self-revelation of God.

You see, my Southern Baptist lineage has allowed me voluminous opportunities for programmitized training regarding planting a church. A tenet of admonishment that I came across more than once from established planters now looms behind me as a curious oddity. There was a tendency to avoid the overly "needy people," lest they steal your energy and focus away from establishing the plant. The "clear" implication was to center on building the church around "healthy" people- those who seemingly have "it" all together. In principle, I bought into this and in some ways still do.

But what if you have a church full of people who don't really have much of anything together? What if God is bringing in reject after reject from the collective human waste pile adorning the fringes of society? Am I to think that God would surround us and establish us with n'er-do-well's who either don't know the Christ or at least have no stable concept of Christian community? Even paltry or absentee tithers? Heaven forbid! This goes against all the correct models I read and hear about.

Most of those who come to us have not connected elsewhere and it's not always the other community of faith's problem either. Veritasians have some big baggage that they lug into our midst. But we, in our push to be open and inviting, welcome them in. And we have been hurt before in doing so. But I, by proxy, find myself in welcome concurrence with the Neil Cole's of the disciple-making world in that we have missed the whole point of the Church if we only attend to the "healthy" people. He says bad people make good soil. It's a good thing there are some vegetable species that subsist and bear fruit even on rocky surfaces (seasons of death and regeneration will eventually provide the soil, God willing). Should God establish this level of vulnerability as a birthmark upon our countenance, then so be it. I'll take a church full of lichens.

Our community of faith is presently ultra high-maintenance. This is just what I was being warned to avoid. Our spiritual/emotional/physical energy reserves are often on the edge of depletion. But that's not unexpected. Incorportating into my experiential reality the cycles of emptying-refilling, pouring-out and pouring-in has been a surprising divine intervention that I presently know too little of. We often get the Jesus sucked out of us. Psycho-spiritual vampires (sometime unwitting to their disposition) prowl the staked-out enclaves of the new church plant. And sometimes my cup won't runneth over until it's upended.

I got a little in my cup Sunday. Nothing major, just got to see Burt literally horse-laugh at one of my playful analogies. I likened my 85-pound GSDog (who lives indoors with us) to our "child." I shared, as I had before, that we didn't need one of those because we wouldn't be able to tell our five-year-old to go out in the backyard and poop and come back in when she was ready. Upon hearing that, I heard Burt laugh from his belly like I had scarcely heard from anyone in a long time (let alone from him). While everyone turned to watch him laugh it up in his own world, I wondered when the last time was he had laughed that well. And had he ever done so in church? And ain't it sweet to be able to say "poop" in church without consternation?

So be it. To hell with the detractors in my mind. This is God's Church and he can do with it what he wants.