Friday, March 15, 2013


~ Please Listen to This Song. There Too Many People Who Only See This as an Option~

As many of you know, I have been preaching on a fairly regular basis (not as regularly as I would like) at the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ in Mandeville, LA. In a discussion with one of the elders, he commented that people who I have met that were not church people -- liked me. I asked him how he felt about that. His response, laughingly (He was kidding), was he was concerned about that. So I said, those were the people Jesus spent his time with. In fact, if you were to make two columns; on one side Jesus's interaction with "those people" and the second, the Religious establishment's response to Jesus' actions or comments. Which column best describes most of our churches? Aside from the legalism and self-righteousness of the Pharisees and Priests -- they couldn't speak the language of broken people. 

I was raised in an alcoholic home, that has its own baggage. One of my earliest memories was my Dad taking me out. He said it was a surprise, it was - a bar. I remember I was little and he was going to let me play pool. That translated into him putting a coin in the pool table and putting the balls on top. He then lifted my up and I spent a long time rolling the balls around and he would resupply the table with coins. All the time I was playing he was getting shovel-faced at the bar. I remember growing up with my "Mom" passed out and me heating a TV Dinner and watching TV until the channels signed off, (Yes, they used to do that). I grew up on the streets around gang members, bikers, druggies, winos and just the general throw aways from our society.

So, when I became a Christian, a great deal of that baggage came with me. I tried my best to fit in. I would overhear the other young people, in the youth group, talking about going out for pizza, I would not get the invitation. So, I would just show up and act surprised. I had to FIGHT my way into our youth group. I knew I wasn't like them and they knew it too. I had been a violent teen and we didn't speak the same language. They had what I called, "Leave it to Beaver Homes". ( I had no idea of the dysfunction and family "secrets" that even plague those homes). I had no idea what it was like to come from a normal home. As a Christian, I failed over and over in ministry and with my family. It wasn't until I met a man named Lynn Anderson who taught me about the grace of God. Even through my failures, he was still there. He said I reminded him of King David. David messed up royally (really bad pun) but he "had a heart after God's own heart".

So now back to my affinity for the brokenness  Matthew writes these words about Jesus:

"When he saw the crowds, 
he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd."
(Matthew 9:36 - ESV)

I guess I understand why non-believers view Christians as having nothing to offer them. When I am talking to a person who does not share my faith -- I listen. I listen to their story and I listen to their happiness and pain. I have NO judgment in my heart toward them. For many, having a group of people who will love and accept them is all they want. That is why so many just hang out in bars. Remember the line in the theme song from the sitcom Cheers? 

"Making your way in the world today 
takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same.
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

That is the lie of bars, they just continue to equip people's addictions and they fall further and further into darkness. One the other hand, if I can persuade them to come to a group, class, meal or assembly - I pray they will feel accepted. If they stick around they will have questions about Jesus. Then it is time to share his grace with them. Too many Christians want to start right in quoting Scripture, most broken people are not ready for that -- it is a foreign language to them. They really are looking for belonging. If we can just love these people and be there to listen and allow God to open their hearts, they will follow Jesus. I think, since I have had so many personal failures in my own life, and being a broken person, I am a little bit more patient with people coming to faith. This is the start to fixing our churches.

Please pray daily for those you may know who do not know the Lord.


  1. Al, you always know how to warm the heart. And the lyrics from "Cheers" almost brought a tear to the eye. Your blog post could be used to fix a broken congregation.

  2. Matthew 9:26 is one of my key ministry verses.

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Matthew 23:37

    I will be discussing this in Tulsa next week and I couldn't agree more.

  3. I love that last paragraph... So important to reaching out to others.

  4. Thanks Al. I was brought up in a fundamentalist "Leave it to Beaver " home (for which I am very grateful), but that to is 'broken' and dysfunctional. Anyone who thinks s/he is not broken needs to look at their denial and shadow. Is this what prevents us from reaching out? Perhaps we're afraid of simply encountering more of our own self. It's not the institution that reaches out, it is the people! Keep up the good work Al.