Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. Hebrews 13:13
“Hi, my name is John, and I’m a sinner.”
That’s the way church should begin. Before the Call to Worship; before the opening hymn — even the Invocation. Church should start with, “Hi, my name is John, and I’m a sinner,” to which the entire congregation responds in a resounding voice, “Hi John!” as if to say, “We get it, John. We’re sinners, too. You’re one of us! You’re at home here!”
Wouldn’t that make you feel good? Wouldn’t that make you feel better than if you were with a congregation of well-behaved righteous people all doing the right thing at the right time?
You see, it’s somewhat disgraceful to go to an AA meeting. A lot of people who should be going to AA don’t, because of that very reason: it’s a disgrace. They’re too proud. You only go if you hit bottom. As Bob Dylan sings, “When you got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose.” Going to AA is an announcement that your life has become unmanageable. You need help. And being disgraced doesn’t matter anymore because you already tanked your pride getting there.
Isn’t that a little like meeting Christ “outside the camp” where we share the disgrace He bore? And what is that disgrace if it isn’t our sin, and the fact that we need help? And what kind of people do we meet there? Other people who are familiar with the bottom, and totally indebted to God’s grace for everything that really matters in their lives. Call them “outside the camp” people. They are what we all come to be in Christ. What if it was a disgrace to go to church? Well then, perhaps we should all meet outside the camp where disgrace becomes grace turned outward.
One of our Catch citizens has written a book I highly recommend called God is Loser Friendly by Tim Callaway. He’s got it. It’s a book for “Outside the camp” people and you can find it on Amazon.
You have me contemplating AA meetings and church services. I am not in AA, so I have only second-hand knowledge. These days I attend a “rock concert followed by TED Talk” church that does not even attempt at connection. However, I think your version of church sounds like what I’d prefer. I decided to bite the bullet and read the 1,000 pages of “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. He packs many insights into that book. One—Gately goes to an AA meeting. He wondered, how could those meetings be so orderly when no one seemed to be in charge. And, there seemed to be no sergeant-at-arms to maintain order.
That seems to me to be an Acts 2 vision of a church. You gather, you share, you pray, you break bread with no one in a robe with Master’s or Doctor’s degree scarf around the neck to tell you what to do. Just folks. Thanks.
Yes! I think so!
John, your introduction of the individual to the “outside the camp” people – those folks familiar with the bottom; those whose pasts contain many a deep, dark, or horrific secret which they’d rather not reveal but confess anyway; those whom at their lowest (and possibly worst) season of life came to their senses and chose to set their future on a trajectory toward True Peace – reminds me of a poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk from Viet Nam.
I’ll not print the entire poem here but I’ll put the link for it, along with the author’s story, below. While there may be theological or philosophical disagreements, I still encourage everyone to read the complete text for a better understanding of how this humble man came to write this significant poem.
I would consider this as “outside the camp” thinking –
Please Call Me by My True Names – by Thich Nhat Hanh
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive…
…My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.
Shalom, Peace to you and ALL of us…
That’s very cool. Thx much!
After 11+ years in AA, my wife and I are grateful that we have met so very many Believers there. Our Sunday morning meeting we’ve attended all these years is very much akin to church. Indeed, we gave up church because we desperately needed to go someplace to deal openly and honestly with our addiction to alcohol. It has become church for us because this is where we and many others in recovery choose to respond to His teaching, and we love being in fellowship with one another.
Thanks so much for the lead on Tim Callaway’s book. I’ve downloaded it and will enjoy it through the two-day rain storm unleashing itself on us here in Indiana tomorrow. Blessings to Marti and you!
Thank. you, Greg! A good word.
Thx much, Greg! (And John!)
Many great messages about being outside the camp. Well, cannot say it enough that its the best place to be because you are right there with Jesus and its a humbling experience. I hope that these great messages have touched millions and will lead them to Christ. You all take care, God Bless, and have a great week.
Thank you, Toni. Keep spreading the word!