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BARRE, Vt. (BP)--A gentle older couple from a church across town stopped into my office the other day. They wanted to make us aware of a "terrible" rumor going around town about our church. The rumor was that our church allows ANYONE to worship with us no matter their past, their background or their current state of sinfulness. I do not know where that couple heard this rumor, but I was quite happy to confirm that the rumor was true!
Our church has worked hard to let everyone in the community know that we accept each person who comes just as they are. I am glad the word is getting out about this and that people are talking about it openly in our community. I can think of worse rumors floating around out there about churches.
Jesus encountered the same kind of "rumors" in His ministry. Luke 5:30-32 recounts the story: "But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' Jesus replied to them, 'The healthy don't need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
In this passage, as well as many others, we see that Christ reached out to people who did not fit the typical "religious" stereotype. Christ reached out to those often spurned by the church. Many people did not understand or like what Christ was doing. If His actions were going to be misunderstood by so many, why would Christ do this? Christ did this because He loved all kinds of people. His love compelled Him to reach out to anyone He came in contact with, including those that others may have considered untouchable.
But do not be confused. Though Christ took each person where they were, He loved them too much to leave them where they were. Christ challenged people to consider their spiritual condition before a holy God and called them to repent of their former lifestyle and become His followers.
Our church feels the same way as Christ does about the people whom God is bringing to worship with us. We accept them as they are. But we love them too much to leave them as they are. We sow the Word of God into their lives and watch as the Spirit of God transforms them. We are ever mindful of Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart." We do not have to judge the behavior of others. All we have to do is share the Word of God with them. The Spirit does the convicting and brings about repentance and faith in Christ. This is what all churches should be doing.
I thank God that our church is filled with really messed up people who found a loving and accepting place where they could discover Christ. I thank God even more as I watch each of us in the church be transformed by the Spirit's power through the washing of the Word. If you know someone in Central Vermont who cannot find a church that will take them as they are, send them our way. But do not expect them to be the same when we send them back to you.
I pray that this "terrible" rumor about our church continues. I pray that this rumor begins to be whispered about more churches in our little state. It that begins to happen, we may yet see another great spiritual awakening sweep across our land.
Terry Dorsett is director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. For information, visit VermontBaptist.org. Visit his blog at TerryDorsett.com.