monkey-fish Been really enjoying the book The Monkey and the Fish by Dave Gibbons. It’s one of those books that I will pass on to a few people and simply say “see, this is what I’ve been trying to talk about.”

In chapter 5 he goes through three questions that are helpful for pastors and leaders (and churches) to ask as they look for answers to the mission and vision of their church.

The first question is: “Where is Nazarath?”

Now, this might seem like a strange question (it did to me at first). But when you begin to answer it, its very insightful. In the Bible, the question is asked about Jesus, “Can anything good come from Nazarath?” Dave gives another way of asking this question, “Can anything good come from that place on the other side of the railroad tracks?”

He goes on to ask a very, very helpful question…

“Where is the other side of the tracks in your city or region? In other words, who are the marginalized or the outsiders near you, people whom you feel pain for?”

I don’t think this is not a question that most churches ask seriously. Even those churches who do ask that question often don’t know what to do about the answer. He references further the passage in I Corinthians where Paul writes, “few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things this world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise…” (114)

Now, I’ve read that passage 100 times. And something struck me right between the eyes. This isn’t necessarily true of my church. My community is not necessarily made up of a bunch of people who society would consider foolish or outsiders. While we aren’t all that impressive and we are foolish in our own way, we definitely aren’t people who the world would consider from the wrong side of the tracks. Of course, we can’t help that on some level. I’m not about to turn people away from the church when they are seriously seeking God.

I hope and pray that more people “from the wrong side of the tracks” would find Jesus in our community. Of course, that always creates a challenge…

“so who in your community is the outsider, the misjudged, the misunderstood? Maybe the one who seems the weakest? Who are the strangers and the friendless? Focusing on them as a church may mean you won’t grow fast. And you may lose some people. But your church will be fulfilling the most beautiful expression of who God is…” (115)

The second and third questions will come later…