The analogy of a church as a hospital has been one that has stuck with me for a long time. I actually wrote about it six years ago, predating seminary (Hospital). I think sometimes that analogy gets used and abused to create the idea that the hospital is about housing and collecting the sick, rather than fulfilling the true purpose of a hospital; healing and restoration. Come as you are, but there is no way you can stay as you are. We expect healing and restoration that leads to a far different life.
I was asked some time ago in a meeting, "How will you know if it's succeeding?" It was one of those moments where I hadn't really thought about it, but the answer just kind of fell out of my mouth, And it was good, real good. Sometimes I get lucky like that :)
"Success is when the patients become caregivers." Boom. Drop the mic. Walk out.
My dislike of being caught without an answer (lol) led to something off the cuff that was accidentally good, but that also really identified who we have been striving to become at Heathen Church. Maybe it was a God thing because goodness, I'm rarely that eloquent.
Grace and Heathen Church could collapse in the coming weeks or months and I don't think anyone could or would try to take away the crazy successes of that place. We could stop today and still feel pretty good about things. God has done things through our little motley crew that no one would have thought possible including myself. We've fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the thief, the addict, the drunk, and the dealer. We've stood in the divide, often, where few would dare to go. We've baptized and we've heard professions of faith. Yesterday I wrote that by the world's metrics we were a "losing proposition". By Church and Kingdom Metrics (you know the ones where we succeed in not confusing world metrics and church metrics), we have been a rousing success. But it feels incomplete, as if we are really just getting started. We have reclaimed and restored the building for ministry. We have opened the doors. We have put together a small, but awesome rag-tag bunch with a real heart for this type of ministry.
But success? The type that we're seeking, the type that we are working towards? We're beginning to see it. We've seen the lives of some pretty hard cases among the children transformed, they are beginning to help others. We've seen folks strive to make their lives better, staying away from drugs, alcohol, and crime. We've seen folks get jobs where previously they had been homeless. These are wonderful things to be sure, but...
We want to see disciples that make disciples for Jesus Christ. We want to see indigenous leadership on the team (we're getting so close!). We want to see people set on fire, who truly know what it means to have been freed by the Gospel, who were received in love; we want to see them unleashed on the world. I want to see the pastor disappear quietly into the background. We want to see the promise of the Church, the authentic Church, realized. Sound hyperbolic? Too good to be true? Come and see. It's happening.