Life on the outside of the church is very different from the perspective of an insider.

It’s taken me awhile to get to this place, to understand it and to embrace it.  So, I’ll just write it “aloud.”

I’m an outsider.

It’s the way I’m built and wired.  It’s the way that I think. How do you define an “outsider?” Outsiders feel as if they are not part of a particular group.  Maybe, you’ve been there as well.  I’ve felt that way too many times to count.

I’m an outsider.

I can be the proverbial “square peg” in a round hole.  It takes some effort for me to find my place, to feel comfortable and to be myself.  I’m cautious.  Maybe even cautiously hopeful.

I’m an outsider.

I tried to be an insider for awhile and it really didn’t fit.  I went to the meetings, I led worship services,  I helped to make the plans.  Those insider groups talked a lot about outsiders.  Insider want to throw big events and attract outsiders.  For some reason, though, it takes a lot for insiders to open the doors to an outsider.

So, I’m an outsider.

I go to meetings sometimes now, but I certainly don’t lead them (well, except the one group I was asked to lead).  I don’t lead the services anymore either but I do attend and participate.  I find myself looking around the room to spot the other outsiders who might be sticking a toe in the water.  For some reason, I’m just more comfortable on the edges and fringes.

So, I’m an outsider.

When I was on the inside, most of the people I knew were insiders.  Many had been there for years.  Some even had things named for them on the inside.  I visited insiders and prayed with insiders.  I wrote sermons designed, mostly, for insiders.  The majority of my time was spent addressing the needs, the wants and the complaints of those on the inside.  But, that’s just not where my heart is.  Insiders spend a lot of time and worry on issues that outsiders just aren’t concerned about.

Now, I’m an outsider.

I’ve meet some interesting people outside the walls of that building called the church.  Some are in need, great need, and looking for some way to cope with life.  Some are hanging on and trying to avoid falling back into the trap of the bottle, the pills, the drugs, that their minds and bodies are craving. Some are trying to do what it takes to get by. Yet, for some reason, I feel most comfortable around them.

So, I’m an outsider.

Don’t feel bad for me: I like being an outsider.  It’s helped me to think differently about God, Jesus and the church.  I’m feeling more comfortable with Jesus when I see him from the outsider perspective.  It removes the barriers and strings and let’s you see Jesus in a new way.  Maybe, this perspective has helped me to see the love, grace, mercy and sacrifice of Jesus in a new way.  When it comes to worship, I’m finding myself more drawn to something is “Christ-centered” and drawn much less to something that fits within a denominational label.  I love real, authentic worship and genuine calls to commitment.

I’m an outsider.

I’m not a complete outsider.  Maybe it’s safer to say that I do navigate both worlds.  I am a member of a church, a part of the United Methodist Church and I have read a great deal of John Wesley.  Wesley loved outsiders and he loved meeting outsiders where they were.  But, still at the core of me, I feel some spacing and distance between myself and that now.  I’m finding that my beliefs are growing and adapting.  My experience with God is changing and the things I pray for are very different.

When I look at where I used to be and where I am now, I see Jesus.  And, I see Jesus has placed me on a path.  You might go so far as to say this is my calling.

The people at the edges, the people on the outside looking in, the people who don’t feel worthy to step into a church — I like those people, I love those people.  I love to hear their stories.  I love it when I’m invited to pray for someone on the outside.

I say all of this because I was listening to some music I had on my phone this week and I came across Needtobreathe’s “Outsiders.”  It’s a song that the group wrote about being on the outside in the music industry, of finding their niche and knowing who they are.

The song ends with these words: “On the outside, you’re free to roam/ On the outside, we’ve found a home/ On the outside, there’s more to see/ On the outside, we choose to be.”

When I thought about that, I remembered the passage from 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 when Paul talks about trying to reach all kinds of people for Christ.  I liked the wording of The Message when it comes to this passage:

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

That’s where I want to be now, at the fringes, at the edges.  It gives me an opportunity to share Jesus with others.  It gives me the chance to shine a glimmer of light into the darkness of others.

Anyone want to join me on the outside?

ReigniteMyStory.com is based on the idea that every life story can be reignited when we reset it, renew it and redeem it.  You can contact me with ideas, questions or suggestions at reignitemystory@gmail.com or by following me on Twitter at @reignitemystory.