What would you say if I told you there was a church in Oregon specifically for registered sex offenders, so much so that they have a special service on Sunday afternoon so they can legally come to a church where no one under 18 is admitted? (Sex offenders may not legally attend church because of the presence of children.) The 3 p.m. service is also attended by former prisoners, a few gay and lesbian couples and the homeless. Actually, most registered sex offenders find this service by way of homelessness because who is going to rent you an apartment or give you a job after you have served time as a registered sex offender? And who will welcome you into church? Most churches can’t if they wanted to, except for Light My Way, part of the ministry of Sonrise Church in Hillsboro, Oregon.
They literally fell into this ministry by way of their service for years in downtown Portland to the homeless, the poor and disenfranchised. They were leading registered sex offenders to Christ but there was no place for them to go to church, so they created a place. Is that cool or what?
If you’re going to pick your sin, don’t pick this one; it will mark you for life. Even if you rehabilitate; even if you are saved and gifted of God with leadership abilities and a strong desire to serve Him; where are you going to do that? Nowhere, unless you happen to live in the Portland area.
In talking with Rocky Wing, associate pastor at Sonrise currently in charge of Light My Way, he used a phrase that immediately caught my attention. He talked about the people involved at Light My Way as people “with a past.” I understand how this phrase would come about, but it is a most unfortunate one. Why do these people have a past? Because their past is unusually bad? I mean, how bad can it be? Is their past somehow beyond the reach of God’s grace?
Are we saying that all those who come to church at 11 a.m. don’t have a past? No, it’s just that they are lucky. Their sin isn’t registered.
Don’t you want to go to the 3 o’clock service? That’s where it’s going to be real. No doubt about the gospel here. No doubt about grace here. And no doubt you will witness and experience “grace turned outward” in action.
I have an idea. I think we should all register our sin. Imagine going to church with registered liars, registered cheats, registered abusers, registered gossipers, registered back-stabbers, registered hypocrites — oh heck, why don’t we just call it registered sinners? I want to be around people with a past, because then I know they are also people who struggle with the present, and need God’s grace in order to have a future. I want to go to church with those people, don’t you?
Rocky called Light My Way a place “where they don’t feel judged.” What a shame that we have to create a separate 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon service for registered sex offenders in order to have a place where no one feels judged, when the 11 o’clock service should be the least judgmental place on earth. I think we need to start registering sinners.