WE ARE RADICALLY INCLUSIVE.
This was our very first core value at Oasis. Back in the day, our team of about forty-ish adults would gather and discuss how to create an atmosphere that didn’t just attract the unchurched, but actually INCLUDED them into our community. We expressed a desire for people to “belong before they believe” and we prayed that God would send us the people who didn’t have it all together. This is my favorite thing about our church. We will go out of our way to include people who don’t always feel included in other faith communities. A person who does not believe in Jesus, does not live according to Christian morals or values, and does not agree with everything we teach can still feel VALUED as a human, be ACCEPTED by others, and feel LOVED at Oasis.
As a result, the church is growing. Just a couple of weeks ago we saw over 600 people in attendance on a mid-summer Sunday. That’s crazy! It’s growing way faster than we expected, and the people who are coming to the church are EXACTLY the people who we prayed God would send us nearly 3 years ago. God is sending us people who are addicted to porn, having sex with people they’re not married to, smoking all kinds of stuff, popping prescription pills, getting drunk and bragging about it, carrying around all kinds of bitterness, resentment and hate in their hearts. These people are NOT perfect. In fact, they are really messed up!! And many of them have recently become Christians.
To truly be radically inclusive means we must become comfortable with people who aren’t christians living like they aren’t christians. It also means we give grace to new Christians who are still trying to work out their salvation. It means we accept people right where they are without expecting them to change or “get it together” before they can become a part of “us.” It gives people permission to be real, to unapologetically be their most authentic self.
Personally, I like being part of a church where I don’t have to put on a face or be fake. I can just be me…the jacked up, flawed person that I am. And I hope that others also feel this way when they are around the people of Oasis.
There are a few people in our church who are carrying the weight of leadership at Oasis. They understand this vision, and are truly interested in including, loving, and serving these people. They are the kind of people who are comfortable with the mess. They are patient, kind, and gentle. It’s really cool to see how God is using them to care for messy people.
But some folks are not adjusting so well.
The “messy people” seem to bother some and cause them to feel very uncomfortable. Either they weren’t around when we prayed and asked God to send the messy people, or they were around and just didn’t know exactly what they were getting themselves into. Either way, it’s causing a little bit of discomfort, ESPECIALLY for those who have been Christians for a long time.
As a result, I am learning to be really patient with people when they say things like “Bill, I know your heart, and I know your intentions, BUT…
“Oasis is too worldly.”
“You need to teach more on repentance.”
“You should tell ______ that he needs to change his behavior.”
I understand EXACTLY where these people are coming from. These statements are birthed in the hearts of people who genuinely love God and want to see everyone in our church experience Jesus the way they have.
Obviously I want this as well. I want people to follow Jesus, grow in their relationship with Him, and mature as Christians. And this is happening. It’s just happening slowly…really slowly.
So, I’m writing this letter today to clarify a few things about Oasis as we move forward:
#1 – The vision of Oasis will never change. We have always and will always strive to extend God’s kindness to our unchurched friends, neighbors and coworkers, inviting them to follow Jesus with us. So many of our non-Christian friends are just one invitation away from meeting Jesus.
#2 – We will run TOWARD the mess. We will not run away from people or immediately try to clean them up. We will invite anyone and everyone to be a part of our community at Oasis, no matter what. Our value of being radically inclusive might create tension, and it might get a little messy at times, but I’m comfortable with the mess as long as people feel loved & accepted by our church.
#3 – We will be patient with people. I believe God changes people, not the church. It gets problematic when we, the church, begin to rush and/or force behavior change that someone isn’t ready for or able to accomplish on their own. So, we will teach people how to listen to God, and encourage them to be obedient to his voice. One step at a time.
#4 – We will get personally involved in discipleship. If and when you ever make comments similar to those above, you should first ask yourself, “what have I done to make a difference”? (And complaining or venting to me doesn’t really make a difference, so that doesn’t count.)
My question to you is “WHO are you personally caring for and helping them grow in their faith? Today I am challenging you to have coffee with that person and begin a friendship that leads them closer to Jesus.
Will you join me in serving, loving, praying, and honoring the very people who make you feel uncomfortable? Will you pray and ask God to show you who you can care for and help them take next steps?