17 August 2010

pure scum

In the late fall of 2001 I began working as the manager of Denver Seminary Bookstore while I continued work on my MA. It was then that I began to get acquainted with Mike Sares, who was in the early stages of something different happening in downtown Denver. He referred to it as Scum. It is now better (and more widely known) as Scum of the Earth, and it is a story that every church leader in our culture needs to hear.

There are many fun and touching stories that emerge from this motley gathering, but I confess that there was so much of the story of Scum that I did not know, until I recently read through Mike's own account of the work happening in this part of the Body. Yes, those who read this will find occasion to chuckle and laugh, they will encounter situations which cause them to question, and they will be emotionally touched by the happenings around this particular church. But there is also great opportunity to be challenged with the full-fledged work of the gospel as it is played out on the streets of our culture.

Frankly, most churches simply have no clue what to do with the very people Jesus has commissioned us to bless with the work of his kingdom. And this book highlights such a sad and stark reality.

Scum reminds us that the work of holiness very quickly becomes messy, and that it compromises everything that we presently hold near and dear - until all that we hold to is Jesus. God is not interested in our reputations or our cleanliness or our positions. He is interested in our willingness to follow his direction and reach those who are in need the most. The mission statement for Scum of the Earth is simply: "We strive to be a church that recognizes its need for a savior." How different our gatherings would be if we took this line seriously, instead of relegating it to the parrot talk of our doctrinal statements before pursuing worship in our own terms and slapping a Christianized slogan over top of it as though it were God's own approval.

This book contains part of God's story. It is told from the vantage point of Mike Sares, who has stood in the midst of God doing some great things for the kingdom as it is sparked in a not-so-great part of Denver. I don't spend time critiquing stories, but I do recommend them when I find it appropriate. The stories in this book will challenge our congregations to rethink their work for the kingdom. I remember some of the things that Mike would share on his visits to the bookstore, as Scum was first struggling with just how to deal with the type of crowd they were attracting. A couple of my favorites were not included in this book. I could tell them here, but they would certainly do damage to my blog's content rating.

Holiness is messy. But it is a holy mess that is driven by the Spirit of God.


MIke Sares said...

Thanks, man!

Craig Blomberg said...

That's my church! A nice review, Mike.