The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment (1 Cor. 4:12-13)
The very same is kind of the theme verse for the Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, which members of Five Iron Frenzy helped co-found along with current pastor Mike Sares. A few years ago, Mike wrote a book called "Pure Scum: The Left Out, Right Brained and Grace of God".These were stories about Mike's life leading up to his current role as a pastor to the "outcasts" of society and tragically, the same people are outcasts of the church. After graduating seminary, Mike found himself.. not in the field right away, working in sales, a school and a steel factory before being a pastor. When searching for a ministry job, a mentor told him not to pursue a job right out of college, but a regular vocation in order to better relate to the people he would minister to. This feels like where I am right now, two churches said no (but God really said those no's for me). Currently I am working in a grocery store, with about 90% non-believers.. actually, pretty sure I am the only one. Sometimes, I act like the others to relate to him. If I am asked, I share my faith and that is the extent of the conversation. Sometimes if people are going through drastic things, I will ask if it's okay for me to pray for them. I don't force the Gospel message upon them, nobody wants that! People want us to be real! But at the same time as my youth min professor Brett Andrews used to say "[You] might be the only Bible some people read". I think it takes wisdom where one should blurt out Jesus-y kind of things in a secular setting. One day while walking downtown Kitchener, I saw a man literally on a soap box, blurting out convictions and the Christian message. "These buildings are a metaphor for success and failure. Buildings crumble and ALL fall short of God". Now, I kind of wanted to punch him in the face but people evangelize differently (even though that method is flawed). I digress: after being in a Christian bubble of Bible College and camps for 4 years I honestly feel a little sheltered. Exposure to the real world (well.. because I didn't have the luxury of a Christian home) benefits me.
Back to the book: One chapter that stood out for me is:
Chapter 6: Real "The Importance of Being Honest: What makes you different than anyone else?" The name of it alone was daunting and familiar. Mike talks about.. well being real! Simple as that. At a youth conference, the DJ's interviewed a woman who had to be in her eighties about what it takes to be in youth ministry "Just be real with [the youth]". She says, voice trembling while receiving a standing ovation.
Another thought from the book: A poetry night was scheduled on Christmas Eve one year and a young woman wanted to say a poem that was.. raw.. honest.. REAL.. beautiful. But one problem: it has a couple of F bombs. Now any typical pastor would rob anyone the right to dare say a swear in the house of the Lord but Mike knew that F--- is how some people talked at Scum and let whatever happened happen. Mary-Kate did cut the bombs out, but the impact of an "R-Rated poem" shook the whole church. Only God knew the impact it would have. Many in the congregation were in a state of complacency and wrote positive reports about how real the service was! One even said "This service was so real, which means God is real. I could go on about this some more, but I highly recommend reading it, order it from Amazon.. worth a read.
My closing thought, with this book full of Five Iron Frenzy stories, I could not help but think why Reese Roper wrote Brave Saint Saturn's beautiful song "Under Bridges".. we are all guilty of casting people aside only because they are homeless, have more tattoos than skin, "look" different or have a different worldview, without having regard for their well-being.. Jesus wants all to come to Him, those who are weary.
Read these hauntingly beautiful lyrics.. I had to bold some significant ones
Yesterday while walking,
Beneath an overpass,
I saw the figure of Jesus,
Standing barefoot on broken glass.
His beard was graying,
The smell of urine filled the air,
Asking if I had some change,
Anything that I could spare.
His shaking fists balled up,
Influenza and pneumonia,
Begging God to take his cup.
So different from his pictures,
Breathing air through yellowed tubes,
Jesus Christ, dying of AIDS,
Can look right through you.
And all have hated,
Crucified and walked away,
The Savior of the prostitutes,
Drunkards, rapists, and the gays.
With hands raised,
From the ghettos they praise his name.
Broke and crippled in the dark of night,
Raise your voices to Jesus Christ,