18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When I was sixteen years old, I stood behind my father’s pulpit one Sunday morning and passionately spoke about evangelizing our community. There were people, right in our Bible belt, who hadn’t been brought into the church yet. People who thought churches wouldn’t want them. People who thought God wouldn’t want them.
I got a lot of “Amens” that morning, and when I got even more fired up, I said, “Who here wants to take this town for God?” I got an absolute chorus of “Amen” and “Yes” and “That’s right”.
“Great,” I said, “What’re we going to do about it?”
And then there was silence and awkward stares that said, “What? We have to do something? We’re already doing something—sitting in a pew is doing something.”
Christians really like the idea of evangelizing and reaching out to people, but most of them would prefer it if the Holy Spirit would handle all that without any input from them.
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
When Paul began his ministry, he did things a little differently. He reached out to Gentiles and he didn’t insist on strict adherence to Jewish law. He was doing something new and not everyone in the early church “got it”.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel…”
What’s happening with Fig Tree is different too. And that’s the point. If Paul were alive today, he might write something like, “To the disillusioned people who hide on the internet because traditional churches freak them out, I have become Fig Tree Christian…”
I was one of the first people to sign on when Fig Tree opened up for membership. Filling out that form was a big step for me. It’d been more than 15 years since I’d been active in a church.
About two years ago, I came across a link to one of the Meditations on Fig Tree. Over the next few months, I kept coming back to read and got to know Rev. Melissa.
Here’s the thing about me. Christians scare me. Put me in a locked room with Dracula, and I’d just stand there making fang jokes. But put me in a room with a nice, upstanding Christian dude and I’d be clawing at the door until my fingers bled.
I won’t walk into a church. I want to, but I can’t. I was so traumatized by my old church that sometimes I actually have panic attacks when I try to attend a new church. I don’t know if the Christians sitting in the pews around me are safe people or not.
What I will do is hop on Facebook and participate in Fig Tree’s Live feed. I’ll participate in online Bible studies. I’ll read the Meditations. And I don’t even have the language to describe what a huge step doing that is for me.
I’m far from alone. A while back, I started sharing my own experiences on my blog and on reddit. I was overwhelmed by some of the responses I got. So many people out there have been hurt or traumatized, not by individual people who happen to be Christians, but by entire groups of Christians within a church. And do you know where we tend to go after that happens? Well, not back into a church building. (Most people aren’t going to touch a stove after it’s already burned them.) We’re online, because who isn’t on the internet these days? Fig Tree is a safe place for all of us online church orphans.
But there’s a second step that needs to happen.
Fig Tree is in its first month of meeting as a physical church, offline. The whole thing is streamed live on Facebook so people like me can participate.
Now, I live way up in Michigan and Fig Tree is meeting way down in Georgia. If I lived in Georgia, I would feel comfortable enough to attend a physical church there. And that’s exactly what hurting people in that area need. A safe church. Because there are tons of people in that area who need to know they are wanted by a church and by God.
If you live in the area, I encourage… no. Scratch that. I beg you, on behalf of all the people like me who’ve been stomped on by people who claimed to follow Christ and desperately want to be part of a church that won’t do that again, stop in for a worship or two while Fig Tree is meeting. See what Rev. Melissa is doing. Understand that there is a vision there and there is a reason for doing things a little differently.
Go and support what we’re doing there. Show us that you care about the people who can’t come to the traditional Sunday morning worships. What Fig Tree is doing is new and it’s needed.
And isn’t that what we’re called to do? Go and make disciples.
Kristy is an ex-Mennonite adult PK who blogs about life, active pacifism, and wandering through the spiritual wilderness at kristyburmeister.com while consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee and pie.