While I was looking at a pastor friend of mine’s brochure for a fund raising campaign, I noticed that all the people looked attractive, thin, well dressed and successful! I asked him if they were members of his church, and he said, “No, they’re models chosen to pose for the brochure”. I can’t judge my friend: I have often found myself fantasizing about a pretty, strong, successful church. If only I could rent one for a while! The problem would be that they would demand a strong, thin, good looking pastor and fire me!
Come on, be honest: if you have been in your church for any amount of time, haven’t you found yourself daydreaming of trading in your church for a newer model? Something cutting edge, excellent, with that new church smell, no draining people, no broken parts and of course with an extended warrantee.
I’m not sure of the exact moment when the reality hit me that the church I pastor was about “as good as it gets”. It was crushing. My dreams and idealism died on the altar of this Ugly Epiphany that the church will always be flawed and weak. I had tried tongues, prophecy, deep teaching, fear, threats, guilt, positive confession, hip music, cutting edge power points, fasting, all night prayer, and anointed teachers, but when all the pretty dust settled, there it still was: a big pile of ugly church. What do you do with this revelation? Trade in my ugly church in the hopes of finding a prettier one?
Here are the options you have in reacting to the ugly epiphany that God’s church has always been made up of nobodies, the least, the outcasts, weaklings and sinners, who are just like you: (1 Cor.1:27-29)
Judge the church: they’re a bunch of hypocrites. Stay home, maybe watch Joel on T.V.
Bounce from church to church looking for a pretty group of people who will make you feel successful and significant, only to keep discovering the depressing reality, when you get to know them, that they are just as broken as you.
Give up on ever seeing any change, suck it up, and stay miserable in the church you are presently attending, praying for the rapture.
Let me offer just one more option:
consider attending the Ugly Church Conference!
This will be a conference like no other, offering no secret knowledge of how to make your church large and successful. There are many pretty church conferences to attend led by large church experts who have the keys to “your best church now”. The Ugly Conference will serve as a spiritual colonic purging us from church growth models that are based on our better performance, leaving leaders even more overwhelmed. We want to offer the liberating “Epiphany of Ugly”, the freedom of “doing church” in the beauty of God’s grace. You will discover the wonderful truth that our weaknesses are really our strengths, they are the soil God’s grace grows best in.
I have spent the past 35 years of my life as a pastor and let me say straight up, I love and believe in the church, agreeing wholeheartedly with Bill Hybels profound confession that, “The Church is the hope of the world”. The Vineyard Community Church in Cape Coral is a beautiful example of how God’s grace grows best in the ugly soil of our weakness. We want to invite you to come and laugh with us or at us, and maybe even experience the freedom to laugh at yourself as you discover the liberation from performance and false expectation with the joy in becoming an Uglier you. We would consider it an honor to serve you as our honored guests at the Ugly Church Conference. You may consider passing this invite on to your pastor and church leaders.
Let me close with a stirring invite to the Ugly Church Conference from a dear friend of mine who gets it about our church and the liberating truth of the Power of Ugly – Costa Mitchell (National Director, Vineyard Churches South Africa.)
“Every jaded, burned out pastor should attend this Ugly Church Conference. Everyone exhausted by the legalisms of the church should make it their number one priority for the new year. Everyone who needs the confidence to break away from the plastic, image-conscious, performance-driven picture of ministry should attend this. Come and laugh, come and weep, come and let yourself off the hook. Just come!”
For more information about the Ugly Church Conference, click here.
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