Andy Stanley’s book “Deep & Wide” focuses on the idea of reaching out to the unchurched people of our culture. In his book, Stanley shares a quote from one of the other staff members of the church where he labors named John Hambrick: “We walk toward the messes.”
The context of the quote is in a discussion of grace and truth. Some churches are extremists committed to truth and overlook grace. Others are extremists who are so committed to grace they abandon the truth. A church committed to trying to balance both grace and truth enter into what Stanley describes as a “third sea of complexity” which he describes as “gloriously messy.” And that’s when Stanley shares Hambrick’s quote: WE WALK TOWARD THE MESSES.
I grew up in a church that didn’t walk toward the messes. And I have worked with churches that didn’t walk toward the messes. They didn’t want to. Early in my work in a discussion on evangelism, one member loudly proclaimed in class, “Those people don’t want to learn the truth!” In another discussion years later at a different work, one church leader asked, “Where are THESE people coming from?” in a very derogatory way. It was quite clear that “THESE people” weren’t welcome.
What I found interesting is that both of these mindsets were contrary to what Jesus did. He ate and spent time with THESE people. In fact, that was one of the greatest complaints that the religious elite had about Jesus. He spent too much time with the dregs of their society (Luke 15:1-2; Matt. 9:9-13). Jesus walked toward the messes.
Why did He do that? Perhaps it’s because He “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
And guess what? The lost are messy. Sometimes they are real messy. But here is the best part of this – Jesus can take that mess and turn them into a saint who reflects His glory. And we play a tremendous part in that as His disciples. We walk toward the messes. Not so we can justify their mess. Not so they can stay messy. But because we know the secret that can take the mess away. We know the Gospel.
Walk toward the messes. That’s what Jesus did. We should, too.