Next week on March 29 and 30 Rosaria Butterfield is coming to speak to the Christian community in Bloomington, IN (more information here). Rosaria is a gracious and engaging believer who has written two very helpful books on the power of the gospel to transform our lives. In Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, she tells the story of her own, dramatic conversion to Christ. In Openness Unhindered, she explores the need for every person to find his or her true identity in Christ. In the process of telling some of her own story, she makes it clear that the gospel has the power to seriously disrupt our lives in ways that are not always neat and tidy. Calling her own conversion story a “train wreck” she has a lot to teach the church about what it means to work with people whose lives are being made new by Christ. When she walked away from her former life as a tenured English professor at Syracuse University, all she had left was her dog and what she could fit in her car. God quite literally blew up her previous relationships and support systems in the process of making her His own.
In preparation for her coming to Bloomington, she challenged a number of local pastors regarding what it would it mean for our churches to be places where people being radically converted could thrive. For a person who loses his or her support systems in the process of coming to Christ, the church has to be prepared to become a new home for those people. It is not enough to simply provide a place to worship each Lord’s Day; the church has to be a community for the disenfranchised and lonely – for those whose lives are blown apart in the process of God’s putting them back together. Of course, the corollary of this concept is that the church has to be a place that can survive getting messy. As a Presbyterian, that challenges my sensibilities. I like things to be decent and orderly. I am often reminded of the old saw that some of the most orderly places on earth are cemeteries. We can have order without having life. If we want our churches to be places of spiritual life, we’ve got to be willing to tolerate challenges to our own desires for comfort and control.
I am very thankful to belong to just one of several congregations that are working together to bring Rosaria to our community. Working with believers from other churches is incredibly encouraging and gratifying. We do not all have the same theology or worship styles, but we do share a common love for Christ and a willingness to get into the fray where things may get complicated. Please pray with us that God would bless our meetings next week and that He would be making our congregations places where all kinds of people, in whom God is at work, can find a true home. And, if you are in the area, please join us!
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38, NKJ)