No Strippers or Gang Bangers Welcome
Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
I love the church that God has placed me in.
For those of you trying to find me, you can typically see me at the 11 AM service at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship on any given Sunday. I also lead the young adult ministry, United, every Wednesday at 7 PM as well as am a member in a couple other ministries.
CCF is a mega-church ready, medium-sized church. We have enough seating for at least 750 per service but serve approximately 800-900 during non-holiday weeks. During the holidays, I’ve seen it so packed that the Fire Marshall threatened to report us. I have seen funerals there where hundreds of people would stand in line to see the body. Our music on any given Sunday would rival a Hillsong concert and the message would rival any TED speech.
But none of that is why I love CCF.
The reason I love CCF is because of the diversity among the congregation.
Yes, we are a very conservative, literal Bible believing church.
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
But that is not all that attend there.
The congregation is made up of the sinners, the broken, the weary, the accused, the guilty, the homeless, the rich, the unloved, the popular, and the overall dregs of society.
There are stories that have been shared during people’s testimonies that would make you wonder what kind of church we run that would allow them into it.
I have attended churches that would never allow anyone in there that would upset their view of what church should look like.
Those are the churches that are dead or dying.
Those are the churches that cause Christianity to have a negative view in this world.
Those are the churches that are showing few or zero conversions yearly.
Those churches are nothing like my church. We are 20 years old (I have been going there since 2002, so for about 12 years now). We have hit plateaus, and we are currently hitting one now, but God has blessed us with such strong men and women of God that we will prevail through this because of who God is. The community views CCF in a very positive light. While not everyone can be pleased all the time, when community organizations like assisted living homes and low income housing authorities are calling you up to minister to their people groups, you have got to be shining Christ in some way. And CCF has shown amazing fruit. There are not too many weeks that go by where someone doesn’t come down front to give their life to Christ.
Acts 2:41 – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
But CCF is an anomaly (for those of you who like Lecrae, check out his new album Anomaly. It is AMAZING!).
You see CCF truly understands what it means to love the sinner but hate the sin.
Tolerance, to biblical standard, is practiced fairly well at CCF. That definition of tolerance is NOT the world’s definition. We will NOT water down the Gospel. We will not twist Scripture to fit what our view is of it. We use Scripture to mold us into God’s desire for our lives.
Re-read that last statement.
Scripture should change us. WE SHOULD NOT CHANGE SCRIPTURE.
Sometimes that change is uncomfortable. If you are a stripper, we would love to have you come to us. You DO NOT have to clean up your act before you do. All we want you to do is show up and get a Gospel message and perhaps meet some amazing Christ-centered people who will walk alongside you in your journey.
Now, if you decide that you are going to make a decision for Christ, then….we will NOT tell you that because of your lifestyle God will not accept you. That simply isn’t the case.
What we will do is explain to you that this Christian life is a journey and that because of your new found love for Christ, you will find yourself compelled to change your lifestyle. And then we will be there, ready for the day when you tell us that you want to change. We will be there to walk this life with you.
Luke 15:1-2 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Same thing with gang bangers. Can you imagine what the average church would do if someone from a very aggressive gang, known for drug dealings and mafia-style killings, were to walk into the church wearing their gang colors?
I can only imagine that the congregation would be on edge. The pastors would be looking sideways at them and the head trustee would shadow them the entire service. Not very inviting, eh?
But fortunately, at CCF, we have people who have come out of the gangs. Our church is made up of people wearing colors, whether they are football team colors or street colors. It is made up of people from all walks of life, in all manners of dress. Some have tattoos and piercings all over their bodies and others, like me, have none of that (although I am getting very close to getting a cross tattooed on my wrist).
Christ, when he was on earth, sat with and ate with sinners. He hung with the degenerate. He understood them better than he understood the religious elite. Jesus was much more comfortable in the streets engaging the woman at the well than He was hanging out at the synagogue.
If Jesus were here today, right now, we would most likely find Him hanging out at the shelter down the street from our house. We would probably find Him in the hospital, praying with the people waiting for test results. We would find Him in the assisted living facilities and mental health hospitals working with those who may not even comprehend language. We would find Him on the street corner, standing between two people as the drug deal is going down or the transaction is happening between the prostitute and her John.
And then the religious elite would most likely come by and crucify Him, thinking that He is doing something wrong for being open to all walks of life.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Our churches need to perform the behaviors that Christ modeled. The churches need to be a beacon of light for Christ, not simply a big, warm, sweet interior glowing that goes no farther than the 50 or so that fit the rules of your little club.
Church is about Christ.
But it is about Christ reaching the sinner.
And the sinner noticing Christ through the body of the church.
And making a decision to follow Him because of the desire of the body to embrace them.
And then growing in maturity together as they walk alongside each other and sit at the foot of Jesus simply studying about Him, loving on Him, and seeking His face.
That is when ALL strippers AND gang bangers WILL BE welcome.
Isaiah 55:1 – Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.