November 23, 2010
The Scholar and the Scum of the Earth, Part One
Lots of IVP's authors know each other. A few of them attend the same churches. But there's probably no odder mash-up among our author list than Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and author of six IVP books (including two of the acclaimed New Studies in Biblical Theology), and Mike Sares, author of the Likewise book Pure Scum and pastor of Scum of the Earth. Here (over the course of three posts) Craig explains the divine logic behind his odd journey to membership at a church called Scum.
It was the last church move I would ever have predicted I would make. I am disproportionately left-brained. I live in the suburbs. In general, I relate better to people closer to my age than to those of entirely different generations, either older or younger. I have more in common with professionals than with blue-collar workers or the unemployed. I have comparatively little experience throughout my life of relating to the homeless. So if a decade ago you had given me the profiles of ten churches (each very different from the thriving, suburban megachurch we were attending, with both my wife and me in leadership roles and our two daughters thriving in student ministries), and if you had told me that we'd be joining one of those different churches a few years later, the tenth and last option I'd have guessed you meant was Scum of the Earth Church.
Scum, as it is abbreviated, was founded in 2000. The first thing that piques people's interest is its name--chosen from 1 Corinthians 4:13 and Paul's self-description by the young adults who dreamed of the congregation. At the heart of those founders were a Christian ska rock band named Five Iron Frenzy and a middle-aged Presbyterian pastor, Mike Sares. Early on, they developed a motto, or slogan, that encapsulated a lot of what was happening and what they prayed would continue to happen: reaching "the right-brained and the left-out."
Pure Scum: The Left-Out, the Right-Brained and the Grace of God is the story of the church and its ministry after a decade of existence. Mike Sares writes in a fun, easy-to-read style. The book is comparatively short; you can read it rapidly in an evening. But the vignettes Mike has chosen to include, to characterize key episodes, stages and people in Scum's short history, are riveting. They provoke reflection. They incite critique and second-guessing. They show God at work in very unpredictable ways, at least as often in spite of the plans and strategies employed as because of them.
The book is not one more how-to manual for a new kind of church; it's a celebration of God's grace that cannot be manufactured, formulated, packaged or imitated. But there are attitudes of the heart, kinds of decisions, and approaches to people and to God that should be emulated, even if the results in other contexts might turn out to be radically different.
Check back soon for part two.