I can't believe that grace is completely free and can change lives as emphatically and deeply as it has amongst the student and twenties community at Citygate Church. It's a glimpse of glory to see life after life radically and deeply enriched by the presence of The Holy Spirit, doing a deep renewing work amongst His people. Now I am not painting a picture of a bed of roses, and it's not always sunny, it doesn't always feel like things are going right - but when it comes back to looking at the tangible and evident fruit of God - it's clear that something's going on amongst us.
I have recently been encouraged, really excited and inspired by a great book I can recommend called "No Perfect People Allowed" by John Burke. It's about creating a come as you are culture in The Church, welcoming everyone (just as they are) and creating an obvious culture which sees everyone in Church as a work in progress. I have loved the way John talks about community which welcomes the gays, the living-together-unmarried's, the single parent, the drop out, the homeless, the broken and the emotionally needy - making people feel welcome and relaxed (whatever their like, or their past experiences) but not selling out on Biblical Truth. Wouldn't that be incredible?!
: A place where everyone feels valued (because in reality God values us all equally), everyone knows they may be at different places spiritually, but that that no question is invalid and no person is off limits to the Grace and community of God. What would that look like in Citygate? Where we'd welcome the "special" person, or the person who genuinely believes that God is somewhere out there, but hasn't found Him yet. A place where the emotional wreck could sit down and feel that everyone isn't starring at them, where a house mate could come along and not feel targeted as the newbie - but each and every person loved with a genuine love and care for them, just as they are. No strings attached.
"...it's not always sunny, it doesn't always feel like things are going right - but when it comes back to looking at the tangible and evident fruit of God - it's clear that something's going on amongst us..."
In the book John tells of a close gay couple who came along every Sunday, sat quietly in their seats during the meeting and just took it all in for well over a year. It took a whole year for them to experience, test and see that this was a genuine bunch of loving people who really cared who they were, and that their God was not just as loving - but loved them more. After a year, they made a connection, made a commitment, and God saved them. The point? It's about loving someone no matter what they look like or do, but who they are. Being patient and still more patient when they get it wrong and don't understand, but patiently loving everyone who walks through the door and into our lives. I've come to understand it's not us that changes people, not our well thought out theology, events or intimate times of quality worship - but God and only God by His Holy Spirit who decides the time is right to save someone and change them. Maybe it's strange, but I have found that incredibly liberating. I don't save someone, stop them mucking up, or push them into Gods presence at 5SmoothStones, but God alone can change someone and save someone. Now that's freedom!
Next Saturday we're at a training tract called So Who Am I? - looking at how we identify ourselves and secure ourselves in God. He's called us out to be raised up; these sessions will radically impact our perceptions, and as we welcome God, we expect Him to meet us where we're at. Join the day, it's free and in the evening we'll celebrate all of God's goodness at our annual welcome dinner. Evening tickets on sale this Sunday at £10 incl formal three course dinner (with drinks), for your chance to join in buy them from the students & twenties team.
Annual Welcome Dinner
No Perfect People Allowed