A Manifesto of a Pastor of a Messy Church

Growing up in our house we had two rooms with tables in it, the formal dining room and the kitchen; one was classy and clean, the other one was always messy.A Manifesto of a Pastor of a Messy Church

The formal dining room table was always immaculate, the furniture looked brand-new from little use, the table was big, the chairs looked like something from a castle, and the dining room had a hutch or china cabinet filled with the “non-dishwasher friendly” fine china. We only used the dining room for special occasions or if we had an overflow crowd for some reason.

A Manifesto of a Pastor of a Messy Church

In the other room, stood the kitchen table, always cluttered and well worn. It was where we ate our meals daily. The kitchen table was where we did our homework (Usually the day it was due- that’s how we boys rolled) it was also where we played cards and board games. The kitchen table was the place that caught the mail, the bills and groceries. It was the place we had many conversations and talks about life. Those discussions around that table brought laughter, tears, arguments, deep thoughts and solutions to our daily life.

The formal dining room was always clean; the kitchen was always a disaster. One table was used sparingly; the kitchen table being the “center of life” was constantly a mess. Yes that kitchen table was usually cluttered and messy, but it was where real life happened, the dining room seemed more for show.

When it comes to those two tables, sadly, some churches operate more like a formal dining room, very clean and tidy. They try to appear as if they have no problems or issues, they act in such a manner that many who visit aren’t even sure if they are allowed eat there or not. They wonder to themselves, is this room off limits? Did I dress appropriately, am I clean enough to eat here? Do you even want me in this room? It seems like it is for “special” people only. How should I act here?

The kitchen table doesn’t come with the same sense of trepidation and uncertainty, some churches just shout “come on in and make yourself comfortable.” There are no one worries about sitting at the kitchen table, other than if there are assigned seats or not (that’s another blog for another time) it feels more casual, comfortable, and less worry about making a faux pas or mistake.

Kitchen Tables Can Be Messy

The Crossing has been very intentional and protective about making everyone feel welcome at our kitchen table. We also are very aware that because real life is always happening around the kitchen table, there will be laughter, tears, difficult conversations and transformative discussions around that table. It is constantly messy, but the leaders at The Crossing would not want it any other way.A Manifesto of a Pastor of a Messy Church

This April, The Crossing Church will be celebrating our 5-year anniversary as a church. It has given me a lot of time to reflect back on the journey that has been filled with seemingly one beautiful mess after another. We are a messy church.

I am constantly saying from the stage on Sunday mornings and in other settings, “We are a church for messed up people, led by messed up people and we’re just trying to introduce you to the one who can clean up the mess.”

People ask us all the time, what has been the secret sauce of our growth, to that I jokingly respond, “there are a lot of messed up people out there, and once they find out being a mess is a prerequisite for attending The Crossing, they are coming in waves, the ones that haven’t darkened our door yet, are still in denial about being messed up.”

If you want to get a little messier as a church, let me share 3 of our core values that will help get you there. I guess you could also call them our “Messy Manifesto.” Disclaimer: As they say there is nothing new under the sun, so we don’t pretend to be the originator of all these ideas but they represent who we are as a group of messed up people that are trying to introduce them to Jesus- the original Mr. Clean.

Me Too

I first heard about the idea of “Me too” from Jim Burgen, Lead Pastor at Flatirons Community Church. It was a couple of summers before we started The Crossing, my High School daughter came back from a summer conference where he was the speaker and she had a t-shirt that said “Me Too.” It made a great impression on her and as she talked non-stop about it, it became the foundational philosophy that shaped us moving forward. It simply said what we needed to convey as a new church.

Imagine these conversations;

  • What-You struggle? Me Too.
  • You sin? Me too.
  • You are overwhelmed, fearful, struggling? Me Too.”

We are a church filled with “Me Too” people. And these “Me too” people have truly experienced and come to appreciate how much grace and forgiveness they received from God. The reaction to that action by God, “me too” people are more empathetic than condemning and more compassionate than uncomfortable around others who are presently struggling.

We are a community of people who welcome all people with the love of Jesus! It doesn’t matter what your past is, or even your present situation. We believe God can change your present and transform your future to something you’ve never imagined. After all, Jesus did that to “Me too.”

Warning- “Me too” is Messy, because you will have people coming to your church that are living life in certain ways contrary to God’s way. If you are a Messy Church, You will have those who identify themselves as LGBT, Adulterers, Pornography addicts, couples living together and no plans to marry, there will be gamblers, dishonest swindlers, maybe even a Business Owner of a type of business you would never set foot inside. There will be many addicted souls, and so many more.

Sure every church says they are filled with sinners, but most handle it on a superficial – “formal dining room” level, they never specifically share their struggles, or talk about their sin with others, they are too afraid too. In a Messy Church, just like being around the kitchen table, many will be living their lives out in the open rather than trying to hide it. At The Crossing, we are glad they are here; they are genuinely loved and welcomed. We have committed to Love them, Teach them and let the Holy Spirit do His part.

FOR the Community

I loved the Little House on the Prairie growing up. One of the things I remember about it now more than ever, other than crying every week, was in the “center of town” was the Church that also happened to be the school, which also happened to be the town community hall. Yes, those were the good old days when the church worked with the Community not against it; they loved the whole community even if the whole community didn’t attend the church. The Church was in the center of the Community.A Manifesto of a Pastor of a Messy Church

At The Crossing, we set out to be FOR our community rather than against it! We are constantly looking for ways we can help our community be a better place to live and then take action. We want our community to look at us as an ally not the enemy, an asset not a liability. We want the community to want us because of what we can do FOR them, not for what they can do for us.

Being FOR the Community gets Messy, because you have to actually spend time in the community and with the community. There is always a tension between being available for the community versus being available for your church family. Coach, join a business association, and hang out with the law enforcement community and first responders, volunteer at the School. Get out of the insulated church cocoon; it is a Mess out there, but it is also where we would find Jesus.

Radical Generosity

We practice irresponsible, radical generosity because we serve a radically generous God! We take what we have been given and reinvest it for the sake of spreading God’s good news to more people. We started with nothing in the bank (Actually, we started in the red by 25,000). We decided from day 1, to trust God to provide, if starting this church was what He wanted, five years later we have continued to trust Him by giving generously to “others.”

Here is what we have found out after 5 years, the more we TRUST GOD, the more HE ENTRUSTS US. Even when times have been tight, we have always leaned more to the side of generosity than hoarding/fear. From day one- we have supported Missions, New Church Plants, our Local Schools and Community Benevolence needs as well as practicing the Acts 2 church in taking care of those within our church family. God has never been late in providing what we needed, when we needed it. He is a generous God, we want to look and act as much like Him as possible.

Here is where Radical Generosity can get Messy, especially if you are a portable church like us, (with no mid-week space, no offices for 6 staff, no land of our own, etc.) It is easy to find things or have others find things that are a “better use” of the Lord’s money. It is easy to rationalize and justify spending the money on OUR NEEDS, and that is not always a bad thing, but it takes a strong commitment to radical generosity, to look at outward needs first. It gets messy when you endure the dissenting voices and continue to trust that God will provide EVEN WHEN you give money away to other people, missions, church plants and community needs BEFORE you address your own needs as a church.

There is more to The Crossing than those 3 values, but these are 3 primary reasons that I believe our kitchen table is a mess. But I must say, the Messy kitchen table beats the pristine hardly used dining room table hands down. Nothing ever seems to happen in the Dining room!

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Written by Kenny White

Kenny White

Kenny White is the Lead Pastor of The Crossing, a growing church plant in Williamsburg, OH (east side of Cincinnati).