Jesus was a man who went to the margins of society; he touched the lepers, he allowed the prostitutes to weep on his feet and he hung out with the disreputable and the hypocritical alike. So we should expect his followers to do the same.
I had a wonderful day in Sheffield visiting Dave, Dave and Jennifer who have done just that. The margins in question are the ones drawn by UKIP – migrant workers – and in this case a small community of Polish men and women, who had fallen out of work, and found themselves homeless and reliant on the bottle to get them through. Dave and Dave over the past couple of years have invested their lives totally in them and one by one seen them getting off the streets and starting to get sober and get on the road to working again.
Over the years they had invited the guys along to a larger churches meeting which although positive was not really a place they found a home. I joined them for one of the first meetings of the church that the Dave’s and Jennifer have formed for them.
We met in a church café not very far from Sheffield station. Few churches begin with a small tussle over putting aside the Peach Schnapps. Once that was over we ate a simple meal of Polish sausage and cucumbers, and tasted the Polish sweets on the table. We worshipped together, with hearty singing from the guys. People drifted in and out all the time. One guy had an epileptic seizure but recovered well with care from some others.
There was no rush and we had a short Bible study. The men are well-educated and some had good Bible knowledge. The week before they had knelt and all accepted Christ and it was clear that was a real and deeply felt commitment. Each of the men asked for prayer into their needs: recovery of a passport, a place to stay off the streets (all prayers answered I hear) and we prayed long and hard for them.
The meeting ended with a rush for the bottle for one guy, but for the rest they left peacefully. It was an oasis of peace and love for them.
This was a Fresh Expression of church. It is a group that is very distinct culturally with some very special needs and life controlling problems that would not be met in a normal church with its programme orientated worship and time bound services. There was a real depth of worship there, a hunger for God and a real sense of his presence, of love, of fun and some new disciples of Christ making progress on their journey.
I can’t wait to see them all on my next visit and how far they will have come.