Last week I spent a week helping lead the kids ministry for a Christian camp. Such a ministry can often require a sizeable team and we therefore had to look further a field for volunteers who would be willing to take the week off work. Two of the recruits were a young non-Christian couple; one of whom had grown up in the Church. Both excelled throughout the week, showed a real love for the kids and by the end of the week had given their lives to Jesus.
How amazing is that!? It was a great week...but one thing caused me sadness. Before the week had even begun I separately spoke to two mature Christians who were both unhappy that the Church leadership would allow non-Christians on the team. Their concerns were understandable and they weren't out to hurt anyone; but I was struck with the thought that at times the Church is so hesitant to allow people to belong that we end up hindering people from experiencing God's love.
The Church community cannot afford to be a closed community with a member's only lounge that others can't access! We must allow people to get up close to see our lives and experience his love. When we allow people to belong before they believe or behave; we simply model grace. Jesus' perfectly modelled it with Judas. A man who has robbing him and who he knew would betray him... yet a man he allowed in his life from dawn til dusk, for 3 life changing years. Jesus withheld nothing from him, treated him like the others, sending him out to heal (Mark 6), embracing him instead of rejecting him...he even washed his feet.
The challenge is to make a way for people to belong in your life and your Church. What people experience through belonging will soon break what they believe and bring their behaviour into line. Lives will change when they are allowed to get close enough to experience God's Love.