Can Your Church Handle the Truth?
Recovery ministries demand a level of honesty many congregations aren't used to.
July 13, 2009
I am afraid that in many American churches, we are not telling the truth—at least not the whole truth.
In many churches we assume that once you accept Jesus as your Savior, you get involved in church and your life gets better. This is the standard story repeated in "testimony time" on Sundays, and the unspoken assumption regarding discipleship.
This "narrative of ascendency" has become the dominant American narrative of the gospel, rooted in American optimism and confidence. It is beautiful, compelling, and powerful. But is it the whole truth?
The church in America has struggled to embrace an equally true "narrative of descendency," the part of the gospel that is grounded in the One who descended into the depths of human darkness, and who calls us to face our particular and ongoing struggle with our own darkness.
We avoid this part of the story. We want a new life without a death. We want to ascend to Heaven before we descend into hell.
But the gospel includes both descendency and ascendency. The very process of recovery is understanding that there is a death, and there is a resurrection. They are inseparable, and it's a process that continues throughout our lives. The story of Mercy Street is a story of a community of faith in Christ that sees the gospel in both of those narratives.
My snowball interviews
Thirteen years ago, I had finished seminary and was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I called Jim Jackson, a friend who was the senior pastor at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, to ask him to help me think through some of the decisions I had to make. He asked me to work with him for a few years and get some ministry experience under my belt. ...