When we started a church in Cincinnati, I had as many as three jobs at once to make ends meet. My favorite was driving a school bus in the morning and afternoon. That was a time when I was so frustrated I was ready to ram a pencil through one of the delicate parts of my body.
The driving job was wonderful in that I was able to pray, listen to God, and often complain to him about what wasn’t happening. One morning during my driving/complaining time I sensed the Lord speak to me:
“If you’ll love the ones who come who are so broken they can barely function, then later I’ll send you the sorts of people every pastor wishes was in their congregation.”
As we’ve been involved in church planting one of the big challenges we’ve faced is how to work with what I call “EGR”s. That is the “Extra Grace Required” folks. Each of the churches I’ve been involved in planting has drawn a flock of EGR people. Many of those people have been castoffs in life, and sadly, sometimes from other churches.
Thank God for them! Do this for the EGRs in your life:
Assume the best
Believe the best
Hope the best
Assume, Believe, and Hope the best about them!
Avoid categorizing people. Think the best about them. Never, ever forget that YOU and anyone else, no matter what your family, home, or bank account looks like, are never more than four or five bad decisions from anyone else’s situation.
Many wedding ceremonies have messages with parts of 1 Cor. 13 – aka, the “Love Chapter.” The part that is often overlooked is the call of God to assume, believe, and hope the best about the other.
“Love hopes the best” about the other person.
“Love believes the best” about them.
In general, people tend to behave according to how they are treated. Treat them like the person they have the potential to be.
Appropriate boundaries are necessary.
Many EGRs struggle with severe addictions and/or mental illness. Every person in your church should understand that they are a welcome addition, but not the center of attention. Remember you cannot escape being the authority figure, and you are responsible for ensuring a person does not sabotage a service or program.
We’ve had to call the police more than once. Once we made the headline story on the late-night news when a woman off her meds tried to make off with a baby! A guy happened to see all of this take place and nabbed her in a half Nelson until the cops came.
We’ve had to tell some they have to take a vacation from coming to our place for a few weeks. That might sound harsh, but it has proved wise. Certain behaviors must have consequences; not only does this protect the rest of your church from developing a feeling of “this place isn’t safe” but it also is a teachable moment for the person displaying the disruptive behavior. If a person does not honor the consequence and returns before they are permitted, involve the police to show that you are serious about the boundaries you have put in place.
It’s Worth It.
The simple truth is it will always be easier to avoid the EGRs of your community, but what’s easy isn’t always (or often) what is right. Love these people like Jesus does and see what God will do!