Why the Church needs to stop reaching out

I was reading through my Facebook feed recently and saw that someone liked an interview with Jennifer Knapp. It was a person I do not generally associate with being LGBT affirming, so I was surprised to see an interview with a gay Christian where she spoke openly about her faith and orientation on their page.

As I read what they had to say, I gained a bit of understanding. They posted the article so that “Christians can minister to those in the gay community.”

I often hear (and have said myself) that the Church needs to reach out to those in the LGBT community. You may also hear that the Church needs to reach out to liberals. And agnostics. And atheists. And any number of “others.”

But here’s the thing.

They’re already there.

Whatever group it is that we think we need to reach out to, they are already attending your church. They’re sitting beside you in the seats. They’re taking communion with you. They’re holding your babies in the nursery. They’re singing on the worship team. They are all around you.

We have to stop thinking of groups as being outside of our churches. They might be outside of what your church teaches, but they are still inside of your church. No matter how small your congregation, some “other” is a part of it.

We also need to be wary of focusing on groups, because that can cause us to become lazy with our words. If we’re “reaching out” to gays, we might not be as careful with the crude caricature of an effeminate man from the pulpit. If we’re “reaching out” to atheists, we might be tempted to make a sweeping generalization about a lack of faith in our small group. If we’re “reaching out” to liberals, we might go ahead and make the Obama joke during sharing time.

Whenever we’re consumed with “reaching out,” we’re potentially neglecting those who are already among us.

Perhaps instead of reaching out, we should begin by embracing those we see around us. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love  one another.”

Rather than looking for opportunities to find groups of people to minister to, perhaps we can focus on loving the individuals right with us. Take time to get to know them. Share a meal together. Play a board game together. Create together.

Let’s treat the people that we go to church with as our mission field. Because it’s by loving them that we best reflect Christ.

By loving the individuals that we see each day, we begin to reach out.


Is there a group that you’re tempted to “reach out” to? Is there someone closer that you could get to know better?

I’m so happy for you…really!

A whole stack of my writing friends just released new books.

Another group just signed publishing contracts, some for multiple books.

Friends signed with agents. Friends with speaking engagements. Friends with writing jobs that pay the bills.

I read their status updates and their tweets and I’m genuinely happy for them. It is exciting to see a dream realized and they are my friends, after all. I read their writing, it’s good, and I want more people to have the opportunity to soak in their words. Any time you seek to make a living doing something creative, it’s a risk and it’s a joy to know that risk is working out for people who I like.

Sometimes I worry that my congratulatory comments don’t sound as sincere as I intend for them to be. Because let’s be honest, while I’m happy for my friends, I a little bit hate reading those updates.

It’s not so much that I hate their success, it’s just that it reminds me of my lack.

One section of my proposal is explaining why I am the best person to write the book that I hope someone will represent and eventually publish. Seeing updates from these writers makes that so much harder for me to do. I don’t have any formal writing education. I don’t have any training in counseling. I don’t have any official Bible training. So my qualifications come down to “have a blog” and “have friends who are willing to let me write about them.” As I was writing that part, I felt exactly like this.

I think a big part of my frustration is that nearly all of the writers that I know, I know only in the Virtual Village. We haven’t had the chance to sit down over drinks together or talk about our favorite movies or give a real hug to each other. Don’t get me wrong, I value the relationships that I have with the folks online. But there is something extra special about time spent face to face. It’s a unique and beautiful thing.

Tomorrow I head to Story where I am going to get to meet a bunch of these folks that stir up feelings of joy and jealousy. We’re going to have a chance to drink and talk and hug. And I think at the end of that, the next time any of these friends post their good news, my well wishes will be all the more sincere.

At least, I sincerely hope so.


This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading


Hello friends! I’ve got some fantastic links for you here. Be sure to stop by and let the authors know what you think.

  • In the wake of the Aurora shootings, Shane Claiborne wrote a really powerful piece about the myth of redemptive violence. This was important for me to read.
  • Also following the shootings, Billy Coffey wrote a beautiful post about James Holmes. The questions that his daughter asked were poignant and his responses in this post are lovely.
  • So many gorgeous posts in the “what’s saving me today” synchroblog that Sarah Bessey hosted, but I particularly loved Jen Luitwieler’s contribution about compassion.
  • The World Vision bloggers were announced this week. I was so happy to see my friends Shawn and Joy among the list. Be sure to follow along with all of their stories when they head to Sri Lanka next month.
  • This is a repost from Gennon at Momastery, but it was the first time that I’d read it. I love (!!!) how she describes her faith.
  • Did you like the facebook page for The Wednesday Nooner? You should do that. Just a few days until the official release!
  • And speaking of romance, be sure to check out these awesome cakes over at Cake Wrecks.

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!

Chick-fil-A and Hate Speech

Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A had an interview with Baptist Press where he confirmed that he is a Christian. And that his stores are closed on Sundays. And that he opposes marriage equality.

But this isn’t new.

Nevertheless, the internet got its panties in a wad over this.

And this is definitely not new.

Now I totally understand why my LGBT and LGBT-supporting friends are upset by some of Cathy’s statements. Being reduced to an issue rather than a person is demeaning and I can appreciate that it is frustrating to see your life and your relationship debated in the public square. I hate seeing my friends being turned into an academic or theological exercise.

Too often we hear things that are upsetting, like Cathy’s remarks, and we go a little crazy (I am the chief of sinners of this). We start using our own language that is inflammatory and extreme. We get into arguments with people who we like. We start saying that comments like, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” are hate speech.

When we do this, we do the conversation disservice. We cheapen that phrase “hate speech” by applying it to people who say things with which we disagree. Legitimate hurt gets lost in the midst of emotionally charged language.

We can acknowledge that there is a difference between hurtful words and hateful ones. We should acknowledge that.

But, what also gets lost in this is the actual hate speech that is going on, not with Dan Cathy, but with Chick-fil-A.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and is protected under the first amendment.

One thing that Chick-fil-A has done is to donate corporate funds (not Dan Cathy’s private money that he earned from his job, but rather money from the corporation itself) to a hate group.

In 2010, Chick-fil-A made a small donation ($1000) to Family Research Council. Family Research Council (FRC) has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A hate group. Like the Ku Klux Klan or White Aryan Resistance. 

The folks at FRC engage in hate speech. For example:

  • “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”
    -1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys
  • “Now, back in the 80′s and early 90′s I worked with the state department in anti-terrorism and we trained about fifty different countries in defending against terrorism, and it’s, at its base, what terrorism is, it’s a strike against the general populace simply to spread fear and intimidation so that they can disrupt and destabilize the system of government. That’s what the homosexuals are doing here to the legal system.” -FRC President Tony Perkins, Washington Watch, April 2011
  • “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
    -FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

They lie about the LGBT community and they spread hatred. Not mere disagreement, but actual hatred.

This is a group that Chick-fil-A, the company, not Dan Cathy the person, has supported financially.

It is a small contribution. I understand that. In the grand scheme of things, $1000 is a puny amount. But if they donated $1000 to Westboro Baptist Church, I would be upset. If they donated $1000 to the KKK or the Aryan Nations, I would be upset. The amount is not the issue, it’s to whom the donation was made.

Money is speech and Chick-fil-A used money to promote hate.

This is why I, and many others, choose not to patronize Chick-fil-A. Not because we disagree with the owner’s views on marriage equality. Not because we believe that denying marriage rights means that you hate those to whom you are denying those rights. Not because we believe that Dan Cathy’s statements constitute hate speech.

But because Chick-fil-A has funded a hate group.

When people dismiss folks who have chosen to boycott Chick-fil-A for this reason, they perpetuate the idea that genuine hatred is acceptable when dealing with the LGBT community. Not because they actually believe that hatred is okay, but because they either mock those who acknowledge it, or they turn a blind eye to the hatred itself.

And this, like choosing to ascribe inflammatory language to mere disagreement, is hurtful. It causes pain and cuts off dialogue.

But I believe we can have a fruitful discussion.

I don’t think we’re going to agree. Not about whether or not to eat at Chick-fil-A. Not about marriage equality.

But we can ask for forgiveness when our words cause pain. We can acknowledge where there are genuine concerns. We can acknowledge ways to move forward together to stop actual damage.

We can move beyond hate speech into something that is pleasing.

Let my words and my thoughts
    be pleasing to you, Lord,
    because you are my mighty rock
    and my protector.

Psalm 19:14


How do you help keep perspective in the midst of hurt?

You Don’t Have To Take Your Clothes Off To Be Egalitarian

I used to be a complementarian.

I believed that a wife was called to submit to her husband. I believed it enough that when I got married and wrote my own vows, I included “obey” in them.

Granted, this was a lot more about the words than any kind of actual submitting. I’m not sure we ever really sorted out what “biblical headship” or “biblical submission” looked like. Mostly we just treated each other with love and respect and if we ran into an area where we disagreed, we’d figure out who felt more strongly about it and let that be our guide. But the label we would have used would have definitely been complementarian.
'After love making' photo (c) 2008, Matthew Romack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

But there was always one place where mutuality reigned, and that was the bedroom.

When we read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, everything in that passage screamed mutual submission. We weren’t in charge of our own bodies, but we were to give them willingly, mutually to one another.

Sex. An act where we were told over and over that women are supposed to be givers and men are supposed to be takers, this was where mutuality was supposed to occur. An act where we are at our most vulnerable and exposed, we were to treat one another as equals.

Eventually the questions overwhelmed me. Why would God make me equal to my husband when we were getting it on, but not when we were getting a new car? Why would we submit to one another when we were making a baby, but not when we were making parenting decisions? Why would we be partners in the bedroom, but leader and submissive in the living room (well, unless the kids weren’t around and you know…)?

However, mutuality in the bedroom certainly worked. It meant that we both had power, but that we also both had an obligation to use that power responsibly. It meant that we were both entitled to pleasure, but that we had to be generous with pleasure. It meant that we belonged to one another. We didn’t have to rely on tired stereotypes of how sex was supposed to work with one person as the initiator and the other simply going along for the ride, instead we were free to enjoy it freely, without either of us being forced into constricting roles.

Surely if it could work for something as complicated as sex, it could work in the other areas of our marriage.

We found that stripping off the complementarian label was as easy as stripping off our clothes. Because the truth is, we didn’t have to take our clothes off to celebrate equality in marriage.

Though, damn if that isn’t still my favorite way.


This post is a part of Rachel Held Evans’s Week of Mutuality: One in Christ. Be sure to follow the #mutuality2012 hashtag on Twitter for more participants in this synchroblog.

Things That Have Gone Missing Because My Husband is an Atheist

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When Jason came out to me about being an atheist, I assumed that there would be a litany of shared interests that would be missing due to his lack of faith. Some are what you would expect, like attending church together regularly or having a singular vision for our children’s spiritual education. To be sure, there are times when I absolutely miss these moments.

But I have also discovered that because of his deconversion, there are other things that have gone missing, many that I didn’t expect.

  1. My assumptions about what atheists think about Christians. Obviously I don’t know all of the atheists in the world, but my interactions with the bulk of the atheists that I’ve met online and those I’ve met in person through Jason have pretty much shattered how I assumed that group felt about Christians. I thought that atheists believed that all Christians were stupid; most simply feel that Christians are wrong. I thought that atheists hated Christians; most don’t have any problem with Christians. I thought that atheists were angry; most are considerably more laid back than some of my evangelical friends. Over and over I’ve found that my assumptions keep being proved wrong and are slowly disappearing.
  2. My assumptions about how Christians would treat us. When Jason came out to me, I asked him not to talk about it because I was afraid of how the Christians in our lives would react. I knew that people were going to treat us (and more to the point, me) differently. What I found, however, was that when we finally told people, most embraced us with even more love. I almost never felt like someone’s project, and I’m certain that at least a few times when I did feel that way, it was more perception than reality. I know that plenty do not have such a positive experience, but I do believe that we need to be more generous with our assumptions about people in general.
  3. My assumptions about hell. Before I was close to someone who had no beliefs about an afterlife, I never really gave it much thought outside of “believers go to heaven, unbelievers go to hell.” In the past two and a half years, I have read considerably more about hell than I did in the previous 30-something years. I still haven’t completely settled on what I believe about the afterlife, but I no longer accept that things are as black and white as I’ve always been taught. I’m far more hopeful now, not just for me, but for everyone that I meet. Which leads me to the next thing that is missing…
  4. My assumptions about life now. Because my beliefs about the afterlife are in flux, this has affected how I view the here and now. When I was sure about who was in and who was out, my primary goal was simply to make sure that everyone ended up in the same place. Now that I’m less convinced of this, I am far more interested in knowing everyone’s story. When I can demonstrate that I care about the thoughts of someone I previously saw as being on “the outside” without an agenda, we are able to have a more honest dialogue.

Letting go of assumptions can be difficult. They can feel as comfortable as many of the more positive areas of our relationships and when there’s already a lot of upheaval, our instinct can be to cling to that which is familiar. But I’ve found as I loosened my grip on my assumptions, I haven’t really missed them as they’ve slipped away.


If you’ve had a relationship change, what kind of assumptions did you notice no longer applied? Even without a change, what assumptions do you need to release today?

Dear Child

I spent most of yesterday afternoon crying about the words said by Sean Harris to his congregation about kids who don’t meet gender norms. As the mom of kids who don’t fit most stereotypes, it breaks my heart to hear that kind of harsh treatment suggested for young children. I’ll let others who are more eloquent speak about the pastor. Today I’m just writing to the kids in his congregation.


Dear Child,

Do you know that you are dear? If you hear nothing else, read that and hold it in your heart. Keep it close, because I know you may have heard that you’re not dear. But with all of my heart today, I want you to know that you are.

I’ve listened to the words that your pastor shared with your parents and I just want to hold you. I want to hold you if your parents take his advice and hurt you because of the way that you are. I’m so sorry that you are enduring abuse at the hands of people who have been entrusted with the position of caring for you. You are a treasure and a gift and should be treated as such. Your mannerisms, your sexuality – none of these should detract from the love that your parents show you.

Even if they don’t hit you, I want to hold you because those words damage without any direct action. Hearing that you “need to be attractive” if you’re a girl can hurt you if you don’t feel like you’re attractive enough. Hearing that you have to dig ditches if you’re a boy may cut at you, especially if that’s not your idea of a good time. When the way that you look or the things that you enjoy or the people you love are criticized by your pastor, the shame of that goes deep.

But, my dear child, please know that love goes deeper.

Photo by A. Witt

You are not a cockroach. You are not a problem that needs to be fixed. Your value is not based on your looks. Your worth is not tied to your ability to do “manly” things.

I’m sorry that this is a lesson that you’re being taught at church. In a place where you should be loved, you are taught that you are unlovable. In a place where your unique gifts and abilities should be celebrated, you are taught that you must fall within certain parameters to receive praise. In a place where you should never have to earn love, you are taught that receiving love depends on your behavior.

Dear child, you are beautiful just the way you are. Not because you look or act a certain way, but because you bear the image of God. He delights in you. He sings over you. He dances because of you.

He loves you. I love you.

If I could hold you right now (and oh, I want to hold you right now), I would whisper that to you over and over.

He loves you, I love you, we love you. You are loved.

Dear child, I’m telling you that today. And if you need to hear it years from now, I’ll say it again.

Because no matter your age, you are, and always will be, a dear child.

A Bit Much

I absolutely love meeting new people. One of the goals for my “do year” was to put faces to some of my friends in the virtual village. It’s easy for me to say, “Let’s get together,” and then never actually do anything that furthers the cause. I wanted this year to be different.

One of the ways I was going to meet some people was through the Sacred Friendship Gathering. For months, I was really excited about having a chance to meet David Nilsen face to face. I’ve felt a connection with him since we met a year ago online, and I was very much looking forward to seeing if that translated to the real world as well.

But as the date closed in, I got a little bit nervous. When I say that I’m an ENFP, I can’t stress enough how much of an “E” I really am. Whenever I take a Myers-Briggs test, I score heavily to the extrovert side of things. This means that I have absolutely no problem in crowds. It also means that I have a very big personality. Very loud, very boisterous, very…much.

Often a bit too much.

Normally people have a chance to get to know me over time. They can observe from afar and then ease into a relationship with me if they want.

But when we’re meeting for lunch at Chili’s for the first time, there’s no escape. It’s just me and my off-color sense of humor, my aggressive hugging, and my loud, loud, loud laugh. I try very hard to let people know what they’re getting into before they meet me, but I know there’s no way to explain ME.  I hate making people uncomfortable, but when I’m meeting someone who I feel like I know, I feel like I should be me. And when I’m me, I can make people uncomfortable.

I suppose I could avoid these situations. Keep things safe. Lower my laugh. Make small talk.

And no one would get to know me.

So instead, I walked into Chili’s with David, Lyndie, and Melinda and gave them me.

It may have been too much, but it was me.


What’s your Myers-Briggs personality? How do you feel about meeting new people?


This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

We’re All Stories

Both Netflix and my daughter have been trying to get me to watch Doctor Who for quite some time now, but despite my geeky ways, I spent a long time resisting the recommendation. But a few weeks ago I finally gave in and started watching the show. And of course, they were all right. I have absolutely loved it.
As we were wrapping up our viewing of the fifth series, one quote grabbed me. The story-line is convoluted, but basically he’s speaking to his future companion while she sleeps as a little girl. He’s telling her the story of their travels through time and space. He’s about to step through a crack in time that will mean that he never existed, that he will just be a figment of her imagination, a story that she made up.

And then he said the line that made me run back the recording.

We’re all stories, in the end.
The only way for him to exist again was for Amy to remember the stories and realize that they weren’t her imagination, but that they actually happened.
The stories are what made him alive.
I love this.
When I think about those closest to me, it would be easy to classify them and move on. But what has enriched my relationships with them has been discovering their stories. Taking the time to sit with them and hear about their childhood. To listen to what their upbringing was like. To discover not just what they think, but why they think it. Spending time together, learning about their opinions, their convictions, their hurts, their dreams, their joys, their disappointments, their lives. Their stories have made them more real to me and have deepened our friendships in countless ways.
Much of the time we attach labels to one another, sometimes as time savers, but often as ways to simply dismiss people. Oh, he’s a conservative. Oh, she’s a feminist. Oh, they’re Christians. Whatever group that we can use to categorize and cast off.
But we’re so much more than that. We’re the stories that brought us to this viewpoint. We’re the experiences that shaped our thoughts. We’re nuanced, intricate, winding tales.
You’re more than a label or a classification or a brand. You’re a story.
We’re ALL stories, in the end.
Have you taken the time to find out the story behind the label of someone else? How has that changed them in your mind? And what’s your favorite Doctor Who quote?

Not Alone Blog Tour

October 1 was the official release from Civitas Press of the Not Alone book. In order to celebrate, I’ve asked the contributors and some other blogging friends to share portions of their stories and their impressions of the book. This link-up will be active all week long and I hope that you’ll stop by throughout the week to check it out and see what people are saying about the book.

If you have read it, I’d love it if you would consider leaving a review at Amazon. I genuinely believe that this is an important book and I would love to see it reach as many people as possible.

Thanks again to all who are participating in the blog tour. I know this wasn’t an easy book to read and I appreciate you taking the time to review it. And of course, thank you a million times to all of the contributors. Your stories are powerful and dynamic and I am incredibly grateful to you for your generosity in sharing them.

Now, start to the clicking!

(Quick note to those linking up: Where it says “your name” please type the name of your post or your blog. That’s what will be displayed in the link-up. And in the link, please include a direct link to the review. Thanks!)

1. Sonny Lemmons 11. Robin Farr (contributor) 21. Megan Wright
2. Matt Cannon (Seekingpastor) 12. Joy Wilson 22. Elizabeth
3. David Henson 13. Not Alone Book Release: My Piece of the Story (Tamara Out Loud) 23. ” You’re Not Alone! No, really!” (Sarah Moon: Christian Skeptic)
4. Katie McNemar 14. Megg 24. Jennifer Luitwieler
5. Chad Jones (randomlychad) 15. Knox McCoy 25. If you’re depressed, you’re not alone (Kyla Cofer)
6. Christie Hagerman (Hammock Librarian) 16. The Family Chaffins 26. David Ozab
7. April (For What It’s Worth) 17. See Preston Blog 27. Shawn Smucker
8. Kristin Tennant (Halfway to Normal) 18. Unbeautiful Beauty (Shanda Sargent) 28. Lisa Colon DeLay
9. Kellen Freeman 19. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side 29. A Coffee and a Book Review Friday (This Time Around)
10. You Are Not Alone! (Consider † his!) 20. Leigh Kramer (Hopeful Leigh) 30. You’re next