We are something of a counter-cultural community. One of our church's mission tag lines is 'Share Community.' Our others, for the record, are 'Find Your Life,' 'Discover Your Purpose,' and 'Change Your World.' As followers of Jesus, we all share a common bond in the blood of Christ, who died and rose again for us. The Church is called the Body of Christ in the New Testament, meaning that the Church is the tangible, Spirit-filled manifestation of Jesus in the world today. Something of his life, his character, his wisdom, his grace (his forgiveness, love, power, compassion, and on and on...) is found within the community of his people.
Imperfectly, of course. But there, nonetheless.
Perhaps you recall that Jesus scandalized the religious leaders of his day by associating with tax collectors, adultresses, unclean sorts, women of ill repute, and other 'sinners.' He wasn't much for standing on convention. He ate with such folks, hung out at their houses. It would appear he loved people. Full stop. But not everyone that spent time with Jesus followed him. Not all who were graced by his presence believed. Some believed. Some lives were changed. Perhaps many. But nowhere do you find Jesus saying that folks had to believe that he was the Messiah or the Son of God before he would spend time with them.
Which brings us back around to the Church. If we are truly to be like Christ in the world, then the gracious fellowship of our churches should be open to all manner of folks – including folks who don't know what they believe. We've tried to adopt the idea that we want to be a fellowship where people can belong before they believe. We will love people where they are. We will accept that they are broken and confused and uncertain because we are all those things too. It should be safe to be broken at church. God knows we are. That's why Jesus came. It really is true that the church should be less the seemingly sacred ground of the sanctimonious, and more the hospital for sinners.
So – we will share who we are in Christ with others and honor them with our attention, our friendship, our hospitality and time until they bump into Jesus in our midst. And we will rejoice all the more when they believe.
Whoever you are out there, know that you can find welcome with us. You can come and find a place where you are loved as you are, and you can belong. Even before you believe.