Church in the Cracks

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“church becomes Church 

when you move beyond affinity.”

– Bill Clem

Working as a bi-vocational church planter, has given me some of the best opportunities to learn about God’s love for the lost.  During my first church plant and only a few days into my job at Safeway and I had the opportunity to meet Bill. Or should I say, Bill met me… Bill is a friendly guy, but at first glance you would not give him much attention. He walks slowly and his speech is slurred from a palsy that also causes his hands to tremor when he shakes your hand. Bill showed some immediate interest in coming to our church’s meetings and I have to admit that part of me wanted to say “no”. Yeah, I realize that makes me look like a jerk for even feeling that way, but still the feeling was there. But I overcame that urge and invited Bill to come and join us for one of our Saturday Night Reunion meetings. It turns out; Bill is a great guy who is in desperate need of a caring community. His wife has recently passed away, and he is lost and looking for meaning in his life. Bill may not even know it yet, but he is looking for Jesus. Bill is exactly the reason I am planting this church and I am so glad God gave him to me.

The most interesting thing about Bill is that he does not fit into any of the demographics that make church planting organizations get excited. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked by potential partners, “who is your target audience?” or “what group are you trying to reach?” I have always resisted answering that question and, in part, Bill is a good reminder why. I have never met a church planter or a pastor who said a guy like Bill is their target demographic. Everyone wants to reach the middle class, middle age, middle American, but who is out there reaching the Bills of our world—you know, the folks who don’t exactly fit into our “ideal” demographic? For those of you in the know, lets just say that Bill is no “Saddleback Susie” or “Saddleback Sam”.

All this makes me wonder, do we still value church in the cracks? I sometimes think that in our fervor to reap a harvest for God’s Kingdom, we have put more value in reaching “blocks” of people more than people themselves. But what about the people who don’t fit into the big blocks? What about the people in the cracks? 

Do we in the church tend to look for the biggest needs amongst the largest groups of people so that our time, effort and money will reap the biggest numerical growth? 

Do we value only the needs that have an easy formulaic or pragmatic solution? 

Do we look to mega-church programs and pre-packaged studies because they really meet the needs of people we know or because they meet the needs of a targeted demographic? 

Do we minister based on our intimacy with the lost or our on our knowledge of the latest Barna survey? 

I just can’t help but wonder if we have not missed something or someone. How many “Bills” have we overlooked or undervalued? What about the needs of those not in the majority? Who is reaching out to the people who don’t fit into our surveys and demographic studies? What about the people in the cracks? Where is the church in the cracks?

By Joe Miller

Article info

The above is adapted from Joe’s book More Than Cake and you can read more about his vision for leadership in his 2017 book, Elders Lead a Healthy Family at http://www.morethancake.org/elderslead

Author Info

Joe Is currently planting his second church and is working as a professor at Southern California Seminary. He is married for 21 years to Suzanne and they have 3 sons who keep them very busy in San Diego.

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