December 10, 2010
The Scholar and the Scum of the Earth, Part Three
Lots of IVP's authors know each other. A few of them attend the same churches. But there's probably no odder mashup 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 (understandably over the course of three posts) Craig explains the divine logic behind his odd journey to membership at a church called Scum. Enjoy this refreshing story of how God brings diverse people together and uses them to bless the world.
After consulting with Mike Sares, I experimented for two years with an after-service time, once a month, for those who wanted to hang around in the small lounge adjacent to the auditorium and discuss issues in a "Bible Answer Man"-like format.
I was stunned that we would gather up to forty people, sometimes for up to a couple of hours. Skeptics and seekers alike attended. If a question was more an opinion than a factual one, I clarified and explained the range of Christian opinions as well as my own. Where I was dissatisfied with conventional evangelical views on a topic, I did not feel obligated to uphold them. Where there was truth in non-Christian or nonevangelical views on a topic, I affirmed it. All that seemed greatly appreciated. I thought of how often I had tried to create something like this kind of forum in other churches, even on my seminary campus, but people were always too busy or didn't feel they had the need for it. My wife also began to mentor--first one, then two, then three young women. Soon she was co-leading a Bible study.
During those two years we got hooked. After nine years as missions pastor in our suburban church (except that the church changed the title from pastor to director whenever a woman held the position--even though the job description remained unchanged), my wife realized it was time to move on. Our suburban church had voted to embark on a $33 million relocation and building program, only three years after the previous elder board on which I had served (now all rotated off) had unanimously voted that they believed God's will was for us to stay on our current property and maximize the growth of our facility there (subject to local zoning regulations). The new board discovered that those regulations wouldn't allow them to build everything they wanted, and "God's will" was, equally unanimously, redefined.
Scum, by contrast, got its first building of its own two years ago for $650,000, thanks to generous gifts from friends. A two-year internal capital campaign had netted only $100,000, which was actually extraordinary given the resources of the congregation. Average monthly offerings are about $7,000, of which $2,000 or so goes to benevolence and $2,000 goes to mission. Mike and the other, largely very part-time, younger pastoral staff all raise their own support. Despite all its dysfunction and dysfunctional people, Scum is a wonderful place to serve. The people there are more interested in keeping in touch with us outside of church than our suburban Sunday School class ever was.
The contrasts couldn't have been clearer. My heart was broken. I don't leave places or institutions easily. I cherish long-held friendships. But God's call became increasingly clear. We were to join Scum.
Please pray for us. Please read Pure Scum. And then ask God if there might be even a few small ways, as a result, that he's leading you to help change your church somehow.