I was just reading an article this morning about the wildlife we like to attract to our garden. It talked about the fact that all of us love to see nice furry creatures like squirrels and winged creature like colourful birds and buuterflies out our windows. We tend to ignore the destructiveness of some of these creatures – the racoons and deer that eat an entire row of corn in the night for example. After all they look so cute while they devour our favourite plants. Most of us are not so keen on the less loveable creatures – the stinging, slithery and slimy critter like toads and snakes and spiders. They make some of us shudder just to think about them. Ironically these are the creatures that we most need in the garden.
When it comes to preventing damage to your garden, however, these critters are the ones you want visiting. Snakes, frogs, carnivorous lizards, wasps and eetles help keep the true pests in check.”
As I thought about this I could not help but think about the similarities to the church. What makes a healthy church? We love to attract the well dressed and the wealthy. We love to attract the energetic and the likeable people. We are not so keen on the outcasts – the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled. Yet so often it is those that look good on the outside who do the most damage in the church. A pretty face and a well packed wallet can easily disguise a deeply broken personality that suddenly erupts in broken relationships and destructive behaviour. The perfect pastor or church elder who is suddenly caught in an adulterous relationship. With the outcasts we are often aware of the sins and the brokenness right up front. And they scare us because as a result of their own brokenness they are able to see through our facades. They know our churches are not healthy, they know the well dressed are as broken as they are. It amazes me how transparent my struggles are to those who are often ostracized and disregarded by the church. Maybe that is part of the reason for our rejection. We don’t want to face up to the areas in which God still needs to transform us and unfortunately in the process we turn away the very people that can make our churches healthy.
Just as the garden needs the stinging, slithering wasps and reptiles so our churches need the homeless and the marginalized. We need the broken and disabled people in our midst to enable us to confront and eradicate the real pests both in our own lives and in the life of the church.