The story has been told for years of a church that
split over an argument of whether or not Adam had a
belly button. It would seem a local artist painted a
mural in the church of Adam in the Garden of Eden.
He didn’t paint a belly button on him. The church
people began to discuss, then debate, and then fight
over the issue until there was actually a church
split. The group that believed he had a belly button
left mad and started the First Christian Naval
Academy. (Okay, I made that last part up, but that’s
We admit it: Lincoln Christian Church isn’t perfect.
We’re full of messy people. Our volunteers, staff
members, and leaders don’t have it all together. In
fact, every one of us is a sinner. Each of us has a
story about how Jesus met us in our mess and has
been changing us from the inside out ever since. And
the people who attend here are sinners, too.
Jesus didn’t seem to mind messy people. He spent
time with many messy people and messy situations. He
didn’t isolate Himself from messy. The same way a
doctor is moved to heal the sick, Jesus came to
bring healing to us (Matthew 9:10-13).
I guess the biggest difference between Jesus’ day
and ours is that being a mess was still unacceptable
then and now is widely acceptable. Just because the
world tells you to be tolerant of people’s mess
doesn’t give us permission to go against God’s word.
That kind of open acceptance is only adding to the
However, it’s messy people and messy ministry that
Jesus came to work with. He had the hardest time
trying to get the religious of his day to understand
that. One way he tried was in parables.
Take the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15). Like
so many of Jesus’ parables, this one was told in the
presence of two groups of people—people who
understood their lives were a mess and people who
were convinced their lives weren’t. And in this
case, Jesus was speaking primarily to those good and
The parable is simple: a sheep has wandered off and
the shepherd will not rest until he has found it.
What a mess the sheep had made of his life! How will
the shepherd react when he finds it?
•“You stupid sheep. How dare you wander off from
me?” No, he doesn’t rebuke it.
•“You dumb, disobedient sheep. I’ll teach you to
wander off!” No, he doesn’t punish it.
• “You filthy sheep! Clean yourself up right now.”
No, he doesn’t make it clean itself up.
• “I can’t have a sheep like you polluting my flock.
You will have to go now!” No, he doesn’t get rid of
Big shock. He hoists that heavy, dirty sheep
onto his shoulders and carries it home, rejoicing
all the way, and then He throws a party to
The point? God isn’t put off by messy people. He
loves to save sinners. He doesn’t save those who are
righteous and whose lives are all put together, he
saves those who are a mess. “I came for the sick,”
Since God is in the business of saving sinners, we
are a church full of sinners—those who are still
wandering and those who have only just been found.
If our church has the heart of God for messy people,
then we will be a church full of people with
problems, full of people showing the consequences of
a life of wandering.
Our church isn’t perfect. It is a place where people
don’t have everything together. It is messy. And
thank God it is.
[Ron Otto, preaching minister of Lincoln