One pastor writes, Two weeks after 9/11, I was in Queens, New York, training church planters. Every night I walked down to a local Irish Pub to eat dinner with some friends. A waitress named Fiona not only served us well, but seemed curious about our faith and what we were teaching pastors. Each evening our conversation deepened.
"So, why would you help pastors lead their churches if churches really don't do much good?" she asked.
Knowing that one-third of her Irish friends in the 1980s and 1990s were sexually abused in the Catholic school system, and that two of her friends were killed in "Protestant/Catholic" fights, gave me ample reason not to judge her criticism of organized religion. What could I say? How could I explain my love for Jesus without bringing the church into it?
I simply talked with her about the Kingdom. "Fiona, Jesus came to offer an alternative way of life from all the exclusive, religious, sectarian, and sinful ways people live. He called it the Kingdom, and it was huge for people back in the day and also for anyone looking for the real God."
"I've never heard about the Kingdom," she said. "Tell me more."
My final night in town, as I came in to say goodbye before flying back to Oregon, I heard Fiona yell over a crowded room, "That's the guy I was telling you about! You've got to hear how he talks about God!" As the bar room split and she called her friends over, she looked at me and said, "Tell them what you told me—you know, all that stuff about the Kingdom!"
That night everything changed for me. I started an entirely new spiritual journey that pulled me out of my jaded, consumeristic Christianity. What happened next? We simply grabbed a few friends and started a community that [was committed to] living out and inviting others into Kingdom ways of life. Before we knew it, a church was started without us even trying.
Listen, church, I am convinced that the reason many people distrust us is that we’ve spent way too much time standing for issues and far too little time standing for the gospel. It is the gospel that makes us holy, not the other way around. We overcome distrust when we develop a name within our community that we genuinely love the way Christ loved. No! We do not compromise! But yes! We do love not just in our words, but with our deeds.