Of late, there has been quite a bit of discussion among friends, family, and brethren over the fliers that we’re starting to distribute around town. There have been some VERY reasonable concerns regarding the message, and most of it centers around the word “bastards” which some consider to be offensive, perhaps even a stumbling block. The flier in question is shown in the previous post.
This post is an open discussion with everyone who’s been a part of Christian Community Church of Clarksville in one form or another, and for anyone who’s been following our ministry.
With that said, I hope we can clarify this message a bit. First of all, I want to be absolutely clear that this course of action is after thorough discussion with the board and what few members we have. We’ve spent the last two and a half years reaching out to GLBT Christians. We’ve used newspaper articles, advertising, pride festivals, you name it.
It’s just not working.
It hasn’t been working. Many of the members we’ve been getting have come from other churches, and often left after not having their spiritual needs met. In short, simply building a gay version of every other sacramental church out there is just not working.
There are several reasons for this.
- Clarksville’s spiritual environment is composed of largely evangelical (Baptist, Church of Christ, and nondenominational/interdenominational) churches that have little to no experience with liturgy.
- Clarksville is VERY transient. People who join will often move within a year. This happened en masse just after Jerry left. It was just a matter of really inconvenient timing.
- Clarksville, while being VERY conservative for the most part, has one of the lowest per capita church-attending populations in the state. According to a survey done around 2000, around ten percent of the city’s population would attend church on any given Sunday morning. People here are tired of the “same-old” Christian expression.
- Our outreach in the past has been to look for Christian people who are in Christian churches or recently wounded by Christian people. What he had to offer was basic: love. Unfortunately, no one believed it enough to actually visit… or if they do visit, to return.
- The average age of most of the people in our churches is at least 35. In Clarksville, the age is even higher. We have NOT been successful at reaching the younger generations.
This new outreach is to an entirely new group of people who are looking for something more than love. They’re looking for honesty. They’re looking to hear someone within the Christian church tell the truth: they were hurt by self-righteous, judgmental bastards.
I simply do not believe this is “rocking the boat,” as one brother and pastor said. It’s a level of transparency that’s enough for us to say, “look. We’re screwed up. We’re just as flawed, imperfect, and naked as anyone else out there is.” When we’re in a city of more than 250 churches that are all trying to put their best foot forward, it’s high time for someone to say, “we understand where you are because we’ve been there.”
Yes, someone will be turned off. But how many people are turned off by the concept of a church where it’s all the same, except you can be gay? I submit that we’ll never know the answer to that because we’ve never ASKED. Sure it might be comfortable, but since when is a walk of faith meant to be comfortable?
This is a message that we’ll pass on to the bars, to the clubs, to the advertising pages… because it’s a message that demands attention: “We’re sorry. Let us make it up to you.”
Please be assured that our intent is not to rock the boat. It’s to get the boat out of the dock! We’ll never be able to reach those hurting, wounded people if we don’t try. We simply must show people that we are as transparent as we ask others to be.
Yes, some will be offended. But if it means losing the world to gain one soul, then it’s worth it. We can’t be about numbers. We simply must be about what the Father has called us to do: feed my sheep. And right now, there are sheep that are hiding because they’ve been beaten by the shepherds. Those are the ones we’re looking for.
These are the people who are in dire need of understanding grace. They are desperate for something real, something passionate, and something that’s honest. I believe that they’re desperate for the grace of God. Our call is to find them. Even if we have to go into the shadows, we’ll find them.
Every week thousands of people look past the fliers and ads in the clubs and gay or alternative papers and pass by them without even a second’s glance. Sometimes they’re well-designed. Sometimes they’re not. Our hope and mission is to get their attention. And if naked honesty using the word ‘bastards’ will do it, then that’s our mission.
When was the last time we brought someone into our churches that wasn’t already Christian? When was the last time we baptized someone? When was the last time we grew from the newly born-again? When was the last time we brought someone into the Kingdom? Sure, we might have been there when someone sneezed and fell over backwards into the Kingdom… but that’s not enough.
It will be messy. It will be dirty. We’ll have to change diapers. And we’ll be the parents to bring them in. No, it won’t be pretty. And we’re rough around the edges… isn’t that what life is about?
You might remember what I wrote a few months back about those two groups that are warring against each other. In that piece entitled “How then shall we live,” I also spoke of a third group:
But there is a third group. This group is a blend of countless people who are caught in the crossfire. They do not fit into either of the two factions, for they’re just either not educated enough or religious enough to want to be a part of them. They have tried to find the middle ground between the two; and it has cost them dearly.
It is this group that we are working hard to minister to. It’s this group we’re reaching out to. Our plan has been to reach out to these walking wounded. And our message is to offer a naked, straightforward apology.
Please understand. This course of action is neither lightly considered or hastily taken. It is, in every way, exactly where we need to go here in Clarksville. People are crying out for naked honesty.
We’re here to give that honesty. Even if it hurts us. If we’re able to reach the Prodigal even if it offends the elder brother, then it’s worth it. For the prodigal has come home! And the Father will put on a feast.
However, I’m not without a spirit of compromise. This graphic would NOT be appropriate for mass media. We will use a different phrase, possibly the “Don’t think you fit in? Good. We don’t fit in either” line as headline with a subtext, “If you’re sick of the same old self-righteous, judgmental religious garbage, then we invite you to visit with us. We believe the grace of God is for everyone, and we mean EVERYONE.”
The message is the same. We’ll keep the “bastards” flier for the bars and clubs for sure, then perhaps th Web site and other GLBT press, while the mass media will be given the *slightly* toned down piece shown above. We’re not inflexible by any means. However, please note: we’ve already started distributing the fliers in the local GLBT bar. The plan is to expand that to other bars and clubs as we get more copies.
I hope this will ease your minds and hearts on this matter. We have a lot to do in the coming weeks and months, and it’s critical that everyone understands our hearts and objectives.
In the end, we know that there are several hundred churches in our area that do a great job ministering to the “ninety-nine.” Our calling and desire is to reach out for that “one” who’s run as far away from traditional Christianity as they can.