Getting inside out, and letting outside in


Thanks to Catch citizen John Fagliano for the following quote from Tim Keller in line with yesterday’s Catch about God desiring mercy over sacrifice.

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.

That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

Hearing Keller’s comments brought to mind an experience I had last summer attending a concert at Hollywood Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California by a singer/songwriter friend of mine from early Jesus Music days. I thought it would be a fun surprise reunion having not seen him for years. I took with me a professor from Biola University whom I knew loved that era of music. It turned out to be everything I hoped but there was a unique twist to the evening as well.

As we drove into the church campus, we passed under a freeway overpass that had been turned into tent city for the homeless. There must have been 20 or 30 people camped there less than a block from the church. It created a stark contrast — the juxtaposition of tent city next to the staid brick Gothic structure established in 1923. It was the broken and marginalized up against the buttoned-down.

On our way home that night, the prof and I talked about what it would have been like to invite the homeless people outside to the free concert inside. They would have loved it, and the people inside would have loved them. Barriers would have been broken down. Us/them thinking would have been defeated. The stereotypes Keller spoke of would have evaporated. But why didn’t we? Why didn’t I? I thought of it, but talked myself out of it by not wanting to disrupt my friend’s concert. However, the real reason was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of hostility from people less fortunate than me. Fear of crossing the line.

We’ve got to get over this, people. We are all one big “We.” There is no “us” and “them.”  We are all in need — the people in the tents, and the people in the pews. We are all much more the same than we are different. We need to get the inside out and let the outside in. Let the church truly be the church of saved sinners — diverse but so much the same.

In a poignant commentary on this situation, one of my favorite songs by the songwriter from that concert is about Jesus clearing the temple of hucksters of religious wares and it ends with these words: “Jesus, He came on through here today and asked everyone to leave.”

Jesus drove the religious hypocrites out and brought in the needy, the sinners and the marginalized. When we welcome these, we welcome everyone.


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5 Responses to Getting inside out, and letting outside in

  1. David says:

    I sincerely pray that I wouldn’t be one of the hypocrites that He asked to leave. Thanks John. I’m curious who the artist is that you quoted in the article?

  2. Sandie says:

    Thinking of several other songs from the same time period:
    The Steeple Song / Don Francisco
    Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows / Petra
    Mansion of Opinion / Scott Roley
    I’m sure there are others. They all convicted me – I even covered two of them in our band. So many years have passed and I still can’t seem to drop the suspicions when I see someone who doesn’t (according to me) belong where I am. I am a product of my upbringing and experience, and now that I am older and no longer so physically spry…I let fear in instead of His Spirit.

  3. Mark D Seguin says:

    Great Catch today Pastor John as I read it, found a tear rolling down my cheek of thankfulness & kind of a joy too. Simply now b/c of having a stroke and living in Section 8 housing, which as many may know usually doesn’t attract the “upper levels of our Society,” but I needed help getting my hot pan out of the oven of vegan Sheppard’s pie and called my neighbor to ask her for help. She said sure & came over, she has Cancer, so please say a prayer for me friend Cheryl.

    Anyway, it was sooo funny when she walked in my place, I go, your hair is looking nice (she lost a lot of it a while ago from Chem, but it’s grown back) She goes to my compliment Oh quit your bullsh..t and I jus cracked up.

    As she was leaving i told her I loved her & praying for her – she goes I know, you often tell me that & I love you too.

    PS I love living here! Plus waking up in the morning when I feel like it is a blessing & answered to pray – That was once my very motivate of doing Amway, LOL

  4. jwfisch says:

    Thank you Mark. I sent you request to our prayer warriors. You are an important part of the kingdom of God right where you are.

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