I have lived in Ann Arbor for what will be two full years come February and as I prepare for 2014, one thing is evidently clear. Ann Arbor needs grace. As we look to some of the headliners in 2013, Pope Francis for Roman Catholics, and Carl Lentz for Protestants were making waves for reviving things that were written off. Many said that the Roman Catholic Church had lost touch with everyday people, and was stuck in a myriad of issues that would hinder it from being able to proclaim a clear and powerful picture of what it means to follow Jesus. Enter Pope Francis who has now grown a large twitter following and is constantly in the news for upsetting the balance of power, and the view of grace. Francis has had dinner with the homeless, living out Jesus call for a grace filled banquet found in Luke 14, where God tells his servant to "Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled." Francis has understood that the grace of Christ does not compel us to make waves of political legislation, but to give people love that will compel them to enter into God's house, His Kingdom.
Carl Lentz has well confounded critics, growing Hillsong NYC to one of the largest churches in New York, where many people have said church plants go to die. Why, Lentz has been quoted as saying "Sometimes, if people are drowning they don't need an explanation of the river, they don't need a book on how to swim, they need a hand up, and they need to be pulled out from what they are drowning from." Lentz believes that for the church to thrive, inclusion, love, and grace are key. In response, the people of New York have responded, and many who would be excluded from other churches have found a safe place to ask questions, and turn to Jesus. In 2013, some of the key attenders at Hillsong NYC have been Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, and Ja Rule. Durant has taken a large role working within the church to reach the community as well. Lentz's style is one of leading by example, and on twitter, and Facebook you can find Lentz not preaching, not sharing arguments, but going and loving the people he is surrounded by.
So what does this all mean for Ann Arbor? Working in church here as anywhere can be eye opening, some people have come to believe the church needs to make known all the things it is against, and to make rules and regulations for those who may enter their doors. However, this is not the way of Christ, and is not the way we must live in 2014. We must learn how to give grace, real deep abiding, life changing grace. That means we must take the time to learn from Pope Francis, and Carl Lentz, and realize the call of Christ is not to legislation, it is to love, and inclusion. In 2014, it is my goal to show the people I meet God's grace, that doesn't label, but fulfills. I hope in 2014 you will find grace, and will find that in God, you are not scolded for sinking, but see the hand of Christ extended to you just as He did to Peter.