The church I pastor is based out of a hospital open 24 hours a day to serve some of the most broken people in Los Angeles. The vision is nothing like what I had when I came to this city. Honestly, I thought I would just come to church and people would naturally show up because I had it all together and that was it. The road didn’t take me down that path.
God decided to give me – a pastor who is totally out of his league, out of his level of understanding, and a total work in progress – a 400,000 square-foot hospital to help people. A prayer I often pray is, “God, help me to stay teachable, never having it all figured out, but perfectly fine with the fact I don’t understand the next step.”
Now I pastor a church of misfits: girls who are victims of human trafficking, homeless families, people in rehab who have had lifelong drug addictions. It’s a beautiful collection of people who are realizing day by day that God doesn’t throw away leftover pieces. He redeems them. He collects them to reuse.
You are unique! Don’t live in self doubt. Realize that whatever you see as a flaw or lack is an opportunity for God to use that beautiful place of vulnerability for His glory. We are all out of our element in some way. We are all in need of God’s grace and His miracles.
Realizing you’re a misfit means you understand you have more questions than answers. Maybe you feel out of place because of the way you were raised. Perhaps your parents pointed out your flaws. Or maybe in high school people noticed something about your personality that was different. Life simply has a way of breaking us down to the point where we feel our uniqueness is a curse to this world instead of a blessing.
Jesus loved working with rugged fisherman, prostitutes, and people whom nobody wanted. In fact, He loved misfits so much that he placed Rahab, a known prostitute, in His hall of heroes. David, whom he warmly called “a man after my own heart,” also made the list (Acts 13:22). The same man who committed adultery and orchestrated a murder plot known as a man after God’s own heart? This guy is in the ministry hall of fame? Yes, and it’s an amazing picture of just how much God loves us.
He doesn’t condone the mistakes in our lives, but often, when misfits realize that they need God for everything in their lives, it’s a glorious connection. A life so perfectly attached to God’s heart. Do you feel incapable? Go ahead and pray sincere prayers. Those are ones that say, “God, I need You to show up because You are so much bigger than me.” Misfits tend to pray for things that require God to show up.
Let me tell you about some people God used. When my church finally started to grow, we were hitting an attendance level of around 50 people. The challenge is that more than 40 of those 50 were people who came on our buses from Skid Row. Skid Row is a place where people line both sides of several streets in a Los Angeles business district, sleeping around bonfires, cardboard boxes, and tents. Sadly, women and children occupy these cold, dark streets. There are pockets of Skid Row where people line up against walls and practically inject needles until they die – hence the name Skid Row.
Many years ago, our church received its first donation of a brand-new bus. We were so excited. We took the bus down to Skid Row, and during the course of a few months 40 homeless people began regularly meeting us to ride to church. Can you imagine looking out on Sunday morning and nearly every person in the church being homeless? I was a pastor who didn’t understand anything about homelessness, and I had a congregation of homeless people who just came for the free food after every service. A misfit pastor and a misfit congregation. We were all out of place.
Shockingly, the people started to come to church and bring their friends. Since 80 percent of the people in our church were homeless, we didn’t have many volunteers, so God gave us an idea for a position called “Street Deacons.” (Don’t judge. You have to work with what you have!) I appointed these guys as church staff to help me get as many people on the bus to come to church as possible. You should’ve seen the smiles on the faces of some of these men.
They couldn’t believe someone would love them, believe in them, and give them such a great title. One man cried when I told him that he could be a Street Deacon. Several of the men stopped drinking because they were so honored that they would have this chance. Many of the guys sobered up, dressed up, cleaned up because a pastor had given them a chance to have a role in the church. They went out on the streets and gathered up friends. Every week they would check in with me and give updates on their progress.
They lived for this chance and they made the best of it. They just needed someone to believe the best in them. The first staff members who joined me were an interesting collection of individuals. However, they were the seeds that would later grow into the miracle we now call the Dream Center.
We are often put in places where we know we are called to do something but don’t really know how it’s going to be done. Give God your limitations, tell Him about the ways you feel unqualified, and then give Him whatever you have left even if it feels like it’s just a big bag of burdens. It’s all God has ever wanted. That’s what the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
God loves uniqueness. He loves you. Upon this foundation, we continue by saying, “Welcome, misfits.” God’s been waiting to use you.
Watch Matthew and one of his miracle stories this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Reprinted by permission. This is an excerpt from Misfits Welcome: Find Yourself in Jesus and Bring the World Along for the Ride by Matthew Barnett. Copyright ©2014 by Matthew Barnett. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.