I asked to review Matthew Barnett’s Misfit Welcome: Find Yourself in Jesus and Bring the World along for the Ride (Thomas Nelson, 2014) because I liked the title and the cover. I’m glad I did! Reading it is a journey full of laughter and tears as Barnett describes the struggles and the successes of a ministry that has to resemble that of Jesus in its boldness.
Barnett is the pastor of Angelus Temple, and Founder of the Dream Center – a multi-faced ministry operating out of a renovated hospital in Los Angeles. This book is the story of how he left behind the church world he knew to go to Los Angeles to plant a church, and what happened along the way to that church plant becoming the Dream Center as it exists today.
Face it, in one way or another we’re all misfits, and Barnett and his staff, which he lovingly describes: “At our church we have ex drug addicts, pimps and murderers – and that’s just the pastoral staff. You know you've got an outreach church when your ushers wear ankle bracelet monitors” (p34), have found a way to reach even the most misfit of those misfits. And in the process lives are changed.
Jesus met people where they were, a fact that is often forgotten as churches try to draw people to them. Jesus served the ‘least of these’, and expected his followers to do the same. Angelus Temple/Dream Center seems to be reviving that concept. The renovated hospital serves as the base for hundreds of ministries, all of which came about because people some people were willing to reach out and try to meet the needs of others. Jesus looked for the lost, the hungry, the hurting and the burdened. He calls us to go looking too.
There are a lot of important lessons that this book offers, but I want to mention two. “God hasn't called us to point out the obvious, that people have sinned (I’m pretty sure they know it), but to show them a bright future that they never dreamed possible” (p129). And from page 35, talking about misfits and eccentrics: “Why do people like that feel so connected to the church? The reason the church has so many diverse people is that we are the only place that will welcome them”…The church as the greatest collection of colorful people because deep in these people’s hearts they know that Jesus is for everyone.
Barnett tells stories of how ministries came to be, but many chapters include the stories of those who were ministered to, saw their lives change, and are now in charge of programs ministering to others. This book is a great example of what an inwardly focused church is not. It’s a great example of what Jesus’ church should be!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”