I was both fascinated and somewhat shocked by an article in the Guardian this morning. A vicar in Stoke on Trent is seeing many immigrants to her local area coming into church and converting to Christianity. I suspect that this situation isn’t unique to Rev. Sally Smith’s parish either.
A vicar reaching our to whoever happens to be in her community and people of other faiths being baptised in Christ’s name are two things to celebrate! It certainly fulfills the Great Commission – going out to make disciples of all the world and baptising them in Jesus name. So what if the whole world comes through your church doors and you don’t actually have to go out to find them? That’s just efficiency!
And yet some of the established congregants don’t like what’s happening. They see the new members of their church as outsiders and think that the vicar should be looking after longer standing members, not new arrivals. I have to ask myself if their feelings would be as strong if the newcomers were from the local area, rather than being immigrants to the UK?
Rev Sally Smith is doing exactly what Jesus would have done. He loved people regardless of who they were, where they were from or what they’d done.
As we pray for a revival, to see more and more people coming to know Christ, it’s not going to be pretty. In answer to our prayers, we’ll see folk come through our church doors who are very different to our established congregations. People with hang-ups, problems, addictions and chaotic lifestyles.
Yes, if we’re being honest, people that we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to befriend. And yet that is exactly what we’re called to do. Jesus didn’t say “Take the Gospel to the whole world and make disciples of all nations. Oh but only the clean and shiny people – the ones that look like you and don’t have too many problems.”
He said take it to all people.
All of them.
And that is going to get pretty messy sometimes and we should rejoice when it does. When someone whose life has gone down a dark and dangerous path for years comes to know Jesus, their walk into the light has begun! Things will start to turn around for them – we’ve see this happen in our own church.
So if we’re going to pray for a revival in this nation (and we all should be) then we’d better be ready to roll up our sleeves and love whoever comes through our church doors.
Because we don’t get to choose who they are.
And it might get a bit messy.