Dealing With Lost and Messy People


By Vince Antonucci

I’ve found that many Christians are hesitant to get involved in the lives of people who aren’t believers. Churches can be nervous about someone far from God showing up and getting involved. Why?

We think that their lives might be messy. They might have struggles with sin with that are unfamiliar to us.
— Vince Antonucci

We think that their lives might be messy. They might have struggles and sins that are unfamiliar. We want to help, but we don't know how. Because we don’t know how, we become intimidated. Because we become intimidated, we finally decide it's best not to get too close to people who are far from God. We end up feeling guilty because we know God has called us to be his ambassadors, to invest in relationships with people who are lost and to become all things to all men as Paul encourages us to do. 

I have some good news for you. Some really good news. Yes, those people may have messy lives but it’s not your job to clean it up. That could end up being one of the most freeing things you’ve ever heard.

Paul uses a farming illustration. What can a farmer do to get crops? He can plant a seed. He can make sure it’s in good soil. He can water it. And that’s about it. He can’t make it grow. All he can do is create the right conditions for growth, and then trust.

All we can do is create the right conditions and then trust God to cause the growth.
— Vince Antonucci

The Bible says it’s the same for us who minister to other people. All we can do is create the right conditions and then trust God to cause the growth. The messy person has free will and can choose to give God room to work, or can choose not to. But that’s not your decision. You cannot choose for another person, and you cannot make a person grow.

All you can do is create the right conditions for growth. What condition is that?

LOVE. Love allows people to be themselves without the fear of being judged. Love gives the person permission to talk about their messiness. The Bible says confession is the path to healing (James 5:16). Only a culture of love will allow for secret sin to come out of the darkness and into the light.

Caleb Kaltenbach, the pastor of Discovery Church in California and author of the book, “Messy Grace,” says the most faithful people are usually the ones who are willing to admit they don’t have it all together. Church has to be a place where it’s okay not to be okay.  He says, 

It’s imperative that we have grace for people while they are still thinking, speaking, and acting in ways we might not agree with. And we need to overcome our own inner resistance to getting involved in a relationship with them. A real mark of spiritual maturity is how we treat someone who is different from us. Isn’t this how all of us want to be treated? Do any of us want to be outcasts from the church until we get all of our life together?
— Caleb Kaltenbach

 It’s not your job to clean up people’s mess. Your job is to create the right conditions for growth, a culture of love. That's something we can all do.

 

 

VINCE ANTONUCCI is the teaching pastor at Verve Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vince became a Christian out of a completely non-Christian background, which has led him to start two churches for people who don’t like church. Vince is the author of several books, including God for the Rest of Us.