Growing in the Gutter.

Here’s another Leadership article I read this past week, that spoke volumes in regards to nurturing spiritual formation in the gutter.  The article is by John Burke, pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas.

Since Leadership’s Spring issue is all about brokenness – hence why I keep writing about it – pretty much all of the articles have the same feel to them: GOD’S grace triumphs all, and the Church needs to embrace such freedom.  I couldn’t agree more – though understanding that GOD’S grace should also lead us to seeking HIS holiness, and not just be a ‘life to death’ card (Titus 2:11-14).

Burke makes some remarks about the Church that needs to be re-read/re-written again for all to see:

[Speaking about addictions of every kind] … For the church to have a healing influence, we must understand how to break the slavery of addiction.  Just telling people their behavior is immoral or wrong won’t set them free – in fact, it may exacerbate the problem since shame often fuels the addiction.  We need to cultivate a church culture that facilitates healing and growth … The path to healing starts with creating a culture of grace – accepting people “as is” and pointing out their intrinsic value, even before they believe or “clean up.”  We must show people that GOD has already valued them – at the cost of HIS SON.

His remarks cause me to think of John 4 and 8 – two of the greatest stories of JESUS’ ministry: the Samaritan woman and the Adulterous woman.  JESUS loved these women … not in a sexual way … in a gracious way that only GOD could love a person.  HE spoke to their heart’s need, not about their sin.  HE looked upon them as daughters of the Creator; not seeing them as what they were but rather as who they are.  HE did not allow their past to define who stood before HIM.  HE didn’t see adulterous women, rather JESUS saw two women in need of HIM and HIS grace.

These stories, to me, illustrate perfectly ministering in the balance of truth and grace: HE wasn’t afraid to call sin out, but HE did so in a compassionate-non-degrading way.  The Church must react the same; though unfortunately it doesn’t: either we tend to call out sin without loving the person, or we love the person and ignore their sin.  We can’t play a particular side while ignoring the other – there needs to be a balance.

We can’t force JESUS down anybodies throat, but we also can’t survive life without HIM.  GOD’S grace walks hand in hand with HIS truth.  The two cannot be separated

Burke offers this question:

What would people say about your church?  Is it the place to come to get well?  Or do you need to “get well” to come?

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