Went with the lovely and gracious “Mrs. Just Charlie” to our favorite little Eye-talian place for lunch today. (I had just talked about getting back to the basics of church, and how the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost must be our driving passion, etc.).

So we pull up to Provino’s and there they were, in all their redneck-hip-hop-wannabe glory: about four guys and a girl,  all of whom appeared to be in their early 20s. Standing right outside the door, smoking, swilling Budweiser longnecks.

My first reaction was something like…

Crap! Why can’t they move it somewhere else so I can get in the door?

We went around this crew and headed in for lunch. Well, it gets better. As soon as we were seated, that whole crew came in and joined another very similar crowd at a large table across the room from us.

Another young woman joined them shortly, and it became apparent that this whole bunch was celebrating the first young woman’s birthday. (Or that they were continuing to celebrate her birthday might be more like it!)

I’d like to think that the language they were using would be offensive to the young woman (with the obligatory and very evident tramp stamp), but since she was the loudest and most obnoxious, I guess not.

Every third word from her mouth began with “f” and ended with “-kin'” and there was no “rea” in between. I had almost had all I could stand when she made this comment…

S**t! I was so f**kin’ messed up, I f**kin’ woke up with nothin’ but my f**kin’ bikini top on, and my f**kin’ bottle of Everclear was f**kin’ gone!

The rest of the table laughed and commented favorably.

And that’s when it hit me. Or I should say, that’s when He hit me. Right in the face. Hard.

My buddy, Gary Lamb, often says that most pastors who say they want to reach the unchurched really don’t want to, they just want to have cool, different ways of doing church for the already-convinced.

I know he’s right, but it hit home in a big way this afternoon over a plate of manicotti and garlic rolls.

I am not really ready to advance the Kingdom. I’m not really ready to storm the gates of hell and rescue people who are far from God. I’m good with nice, decent folks who just don’t go to church. But there were people, loved by God, created and designed by Him for a great purpose, people for whom Jesus lived and died, people being passionately pursued by God, and I couldn’t handle them. My anger and discomfort soon turned to great shame and I wept over my last bit of manicotti. Sitting right there in the restaurant, I wept over people far from God, and over my lack of passion for them.

God, help me see those who are far from You as You see them. Give me patience for the things I don’t like so I can have a passion for those You love. Help me be ready next time…