by Rev. Dale Edwards – ABC Vermont/New Hampshire Region Minister
Circa 1993-94, my former church was stabilizing after a season of growth. It seemed as though God had brought people through the doors; non-Christians searching, finding Christ kind of people. Bruised, confused, disillusioned, dysfunctional people kept arriving. The new arrivals acclimated; some found Christ, some made recommitments to Christ, some just worked on their issues and passed on through, but maybe two thirds stayed. In this mix a new Christian community came into being. I sometimes thought, or wondered, how Dartmouth PhDs and homeless shelter residents worshipped together, partook of potlucks, prayed, studied and talked together. I regarded this as a small miracle.
However, my view of the miraculous was not shared by everyone. A well-meaning church leader expressed the concern that too many of the new arrivals “brought nothing to the ministry”. There were too many kids that squirmed in pews, managed by exhausted single mothers. There were too many college students and too many recovering addicts, too many working poor and hourly wage earners. Yet my efforts to name a couple of doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, engineers, nurses, and even some well-off retirees, was met with the refrain “Not enough. We don’t have enough of the right kind of people. We need stable professional families. A church’s future isn’t found in the kind of people we seem to attract”.
Now, as a pastor, I admit some people require more energy than others. I will admit it is good to add a couple of healthy tithing families. And, yes, to have a few mature Christians land on the doorstep is a pastor’s rich blessing. But, why am I grieved by the leader’s comments? Because God brings us people. He calls and challenges us to serve those he brings: to share Christ, to extend grace to those who have received little. And in Christ, we invest our trust, that those Christ brings to us are the ones for this season of ministry. He asks us to serve, to teach, and to love, as Christ loved us.
Examining my own heart, making finite, ragged attempts to love all, I don’t know who is “the right kind of person” to be embraced by Christ, as I too am receiving such forgiveness, grace and mercy. I still worry that if ministry and mission is only a transactional relationship, how dim my vision of Jesus has become.