Surprisingly Receptive

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  • July 10, 2008

Over the last few days, Shainu and I have had some great opportunities to talk with 1st generation Indian folks about 7 Mile Road. And get this…none of them threw anything at us.

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but often I expect something to come flying at my head when I tell people in my parent’s generation about our call to plant a church. For a number of reasons, many are hostile to the idea of a new church being started to reach a younger generation. But from the beginning, we’ve been doing our best to be respectful and maintain good relationships with the churches and denominations that we grew up in. A repeated prayer of ours has been for the blessing of these established churches. A deep hope of ours is that one of the ripple effects of planting 7 Mile Road will be the renewal and revival of the churches that my parent’s generation planted some 30 years ago. So every now and then we get to share our call and vision with these older folks and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by their response.

For example, one older couple came to Shainu’s parents house to see us and to see Hannah. As they were about to leave, they asked if they could pray for us. They prayed the most faith-filled, bold, earnest prayer you’ve ever heard. I beg God to hear their prayer and to prompt them to continue.

Then another couple came over. They began to tell us about their experience having recently visited an “American Church.” They talked about how they loved the sermon, loved the music, and loved the whole thing….but they had a few hangups. For one, the people came dressed in jeans, and shorts, and tee-shirts! (I didn’t have the heart to to tell them that that was my wardrobe at 7 Mile Road…and I was a pastor of the church.) They couldn’t imagine how people could go to church without wearing their Sunday best. Shainu and I explained how this had more to do with culture than it did the Gospel, and they understood.

Once we had gotten past that, they told us how they left this beautiful service only to find people smoking in the parking lot! This led to a great conversation about the vision and values of church plants and 7 Mile Road in particular. We talked about how God has called us to reach people who would otherwise not be anywhere near a church on Sunday mornings; how we long for people who don’t know how to “act properly” in church; how we long for people who are not putting on a religious show with a white-washed exterior but rotten interior; how we long for people to change gradually over time as God sanctifies them. We talked about how 7 Mile Road must call religious people away from focusing on externals and start staring at the heart.

I don’t know if we fully convinced them. I don’t know if they’ll be running to join 7 Mile Road or will become our best supporters. But they listened patiently. They were surprisingly receptive. Sweet.

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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