Life At Its Best: A church without walls

Oct. 14, 2011 at 5:14 a.m.

Jim Graff

Jim Graff

By Jim Graff

As a young pastor, I would sometimes become discouraged by the lack of progress we were making as a church. I knew I was inexperienced, but I also knew God wanted us to reach the people of our community. I was confident we could see more hearts open to God and produce greater effectiveness than we were producing, so I began to fast and ask for God to show me how to lead Faith Family into more fruitfulness.

It was during this time that I was reminded of a high school friend of mine who my friends and I called "Yockey."

Yockey was a good athlete. He was the middle linebacker on the football team, the power forward on the basketball team and the catcher on the baseball team. Still, we all knew that when Yockey talked about getting high, he wasn't talking about his vertical leap. Yockey was rough around the edges, but despite his hang-ups, he was one of the first of my friends to show an interest in my newly established walk with God.

One day, I invited him to a small Bible-teaching church I'd been attending since I accepted Christ. He went and continued to go to several services including one of the youth events they'd planned.

After this event, I asked Yockey what he thought about the church and was a bit surprised by his answer. He told me that he didn't think the people liked his long hair, and that they certainly wouldn't want him dating their daughters.

I jokingly said, "Well, neither would I, Yockey."

He laughed and went on to tell me that what he really wanted was to be around people like me - people who were more concerned about his heart than his habits. Yockey had a sincere desire to know God, but was disappointed in what he'd found church to be.

As I rehearsed this story during my fast, I knew I had my answer from God, and it was clear: We were to build our church for Yockey. We were to focus on the hearts of people and on the future God could give, regardless of their past. We were to create an atmosphere in which those outside the church would feel comfortable and accepted by us and by God.

That's exactly what Jesus did during his time of ministry on Earth. The Bible says that the majority of people he helped and healed were outside the walls of the temple. In fact, 122 of the 132 of the encounters with people described in the Bible occurred in the common ordinary places. He went out into the streets and marketplaces to find those people who were certainly far from perfect, but who had a heart hungry for something that could satisfy them.

Let me ask you this: Are you seeking to help those outside the walls of your church? Remember Jesus' words: "It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." Church, it's time we recognize that we exist to help heal our communities through the life-changing love and presence of God.

Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria.



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