"we may look like losers"

love winsthis post is part of a synchroblog coordinated by julie clawson; a lot of bloggers are writing today on the same topic.  you can check out the links at the bottom of this post or for the most up-to-date-list, go here.  the focus:  “where is the church emerging?”

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regardless of all the high voltage emotions surrounding it, i think the word “emerging” is just a word that describes the beautiful things breaking out, busting through, wriggling its way into the world despite the odds against it.  yes, despite a lot of the hard, weird, ugly things happening in Christianity & the life of the church, a lot of beauty, hope, and change is, indeed, emerging.

we planted the refuge, our little nutty eclectic faith community, about 4 years ago with a dream of “what could be” in our hearts and no money in our pockets. it’s been a wild ride, and every day i am reminded about the high cost of following Jesus & leading others down this road, too.  yeah, this path is not one of ascent, a moving “up” toward safety & security & power & put-together-ness.  instead,  it’s downward mobility, moving down into the low & dark & painful places of the human experience.

i think what’s emerging–here in my own backyard and in the yards of so many of my faithful, courageous, risk-taking, going-to-the-low-places friends in ministry & life–is a powerful spirit of love in action.  people are getting tired of talking.  they want to taste, feel, experience, extend the heart and spirit of Jesus in really tangible ways.  in our community, we say that we are together to learn how to love Jesus, others & ourselves & be loved by Jesus, others, and ourselves.   and that it’s a lot easier said than done.

what i see in the fabric of the refuge & others who are dedicated to cultivating missional communities instead of building churches is a spirit of humility, inclusivity, compassion, and community. and against the obstactles, i believe these values are emerging in the church right now.


the more i meditate on these 4 words, the more i see them as a powerful reflection of Jesus.  he embodied humility, inclusivity, compassion & community.   this is why it makes sense to me that the reflection of Jesus here on earth–his followers, “the church”–would collectively extend the same spirit.  unfortunately, there are a lot more examples of power, pride, exclusivity, self-righteousness and isolation permeating the body of Christ.

i think what’s emerging in the church right now is a call back to reflecting Jesus individually & corporately.  and this means we will have to reject the powerful systems & structures & the-pull-toward-legalism-and-quick-fixes that permeates our culture in the same way it permeated religion in Jesus’ time.  we will have to risk our pride, our safety, our security, our money, our reputations to live these values out.

the church that is emerging around me has a spirit of:

  • humility. this is the way of sacrifice, of not feeling the need to be right all the time, of actually admitting our weaknesses instead of pretending we have it all together, of embracing doubts, of soft & open hearts, of letting go of being know-it-alls, of trusting that not all things are logical, of remembering we are no better than the person next to us, of acknowledging our human tendency to control and aspire for power, of respecting and honoring our spiritual poverty & need for God.


  • inclusivity. this means an open table, all welcomed, and Christ’s spirit binding us all together despite our differences.  this means men and women, black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, educated and uneducated, single and married,  and everything in between side by side, equally loved, equally respected, equally included.   i am seeing this up close and personal at the refuge, and i’ll just say–it’s freaking beautiful.   and yes, it’s possible, but it requires a humility we’re not used to.


  • compassion. the good samaritan is one of my favorite gospel stories, a reminder that the religious leaders had better things to do than help the man at the side of the road.  a spirit of compassion in the church that’s emerging means we aren’t too busy to love.  we are the people who stop.  who give a rip when no one else does. who listen, who bandage wounds, who carry folks to the hospital, who ooze mercy. and where there’s mercy, there’s justice.  i love what john perkins says:  “justice and mercy are always dancing together.” i am surrounded by the world’s most compassionate people at the refuge.  really, they stop when no one else will stop. they go places no one else wants to go. and every time i see mercy up-close, i get a taste of God’s sweet justice on behalf of the least and the last.
  • community. this means people all tangled up with other people.  of sharing the good, the bad, the ugly.  of being dedicated to people who get on our nerves and drive us crazy.  of carrying each other’s burdens in more than just words.  of diffusing resources,  of respecting that the only way to practice the ways of love is to have  people to practice with.  how we love each other is how we love the world.   i have no doubt this is why christians have the world’s worst reputations.  real community is not navel-gazing or self-centered; in fact, its just the opposite.  it empowers us, strengthens us, and teaches us how to love. and i have absolutely no doubt that authentic community requires a crazy amount of humility, inclusivity, and compassion.

as i reflect on these 4 things, i am reminded yet again how counter-cultural Jesus ways were.  and how counter-current-church-models Jesus ways are.   the way of humility, inclusivity, compassion, and community is a path of descent, not ascent. a rocky road not a smooth one.  a path that to so many looks like a waste of time, a violation of truth, or extremely unproductive.

so often at the refuge we feel like losers.  no money, no beauty, no put-together-ness, no pat answers, no rising stars.  just a lot of people who are trying to be humble, open, caring, and dedicated to learning to be together and spread love, mercy, and justice in whatever small ways we can.   i think this is what is emerging in the church.  a groundswell of people who look like losers to the powers-that-be but are attempting to live it out instead of just talking about it. and no question, it’s easier to talk about than do.

the other night at the refuge i shared this beautiful quote by brennan manning & it cemented something deep in my heart about the kingdom of God & the work we are dedicated to–a reminder of what following Jesus looks like.  “the church” is supposed to reflect Jesus, not the world, but this is what it means:

“the glory of Jesus lies in this:  in weakness, vulnerability, and apparent failure he has called forth disciples to come after him, willing and able to carry the cross and relive his Passion through a life of compassion.  they are marginal people, not part of the scene, irrelevant to the ‘action.’ in their ministry of quiet presence, they do not need to win or compete.  they may look like losers, even to themselves. the world ignores them. but they are building the kingdom of God on earth by reaching out in vulnerability and weakness to share the suffering of their brothers and sisters.  where the Compassionate One is, there will his servants be.”reflections for ragamuffins, may 27th

so today i have a lot of hope.  not that the church that’s emerging will get respected properly or noticed or appreciated or supported the way it should.   not that tomorrow i won’t have stress on how the refuge is going to pay its barely-anything-expenses.  not that all of the great divides will be crossed.   not that we will ever feel like winners.   but a lovely mysterious hope that despite all odds, a spirit of humility, inclusivity, compassion and community is popping up in all kinds of wild & unexpected places.  and i’m just thankful i get to see it, taste, it feel it, experience it.

it’s awfully pretty.

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other synchroblog participants on this one:

  • Pam Hogeweide compares the emerging church movement to a game of ping pong.
  • Sarah-Ji comments that the emerging questions people are asking are far bigger than any defined movement.
  • Sharon Brown writes about using labels as an excuse.
  • Peter Walker reflects on how the emerging church conversation helped him recognize his power and privlege as a white male.
  • Dave Huth posts a on new ways to talk about religion.
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber reflects on the the beautiful things she sees emerging in her church community.
  • Chad Holtz writes on our Our Emerging Jewishness.
  • MojoJules describes her organic entry into the emerging church and reflects on moving forward with a new public face.
  • Dave Brown comments on the emerging church and swarm theory.
  • Danielle Shoyer reflects on what is emerging in the church.
  • Brian Merritt offers his pros and cons of the emerging church.
  • Julie Clawson is grateful for emerging globalized Christianity.

Susan Philips points out that emergence happens as G-d redeems our shattered realities.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Oh man, Kathy, you just have a way of capturing exactly what so many of us “losers” are thinking and feeling. I wish I could move to Denver… then again, maybe I’m of more use to God here in Milton, Ontario. 🙂
    Thanks for continuing to share your life and heart with us.

  • Even though I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it in 1996 when I became a follower of Jesus, but it really was the beckoning of what we do at the Refuge that intrigued me in the first place. The questions of why one would want to do this whole Christian thing in the first place are for sure called into question when engaging into our crazy little Refuge world. What does it look like to take care of the oprhans and widows? How does it look day in and day out to be quick to listen and slow to anger, haha? Can we really share all we have, not just possessions but our hearts and giftings and time?

    I am so honored to be a part of a community that does not just talk about what the church is missing or not doing well, but tries so hard to live our faith in an inclusive, humble, and compassionate way.

    I will admit, however, we *could* still use prettier bathrooms. 😉

  • I feel honored too Stacy, and it is good to learn to walk in Christ’s ways with you alongside.
    About the bathrooms at the Grange, the style screams authentic “summer camp, 1954”. Tami will be painting in there sometime and could use some help. Please co-ordinate with her if you would like to help, or if you have some other donations/revamp’s you would like to do/bring/make happen.
    (Stacy, so the rest of the world can learn about our process at the Refuge I’m going to fill it out here. This isn’t about you, just a chance to reveal how things work at the Refuge for the “folks at home”)
    One of the things it took me a while to learn at the Refuge is that for most things, there is no top-down process that one would count on in other organizations. In traditional groups, you’d bring your idea before a committee, and if it is approved the powers that be would employ the people and money required to jet a job done.
    At the refuge, If one has an idea you are encouraged, but you are responsible for shepherding it along all the way through. Also, we don’t own the building, it is The Grange’s building, and it is shared use. We don’t have the usual landlord/tennant relationship there either, both bodies desiring community but being low on money and short on labor. Plus there are the two other groups we are in community with around the shared space of the grange (another church and a gardening/sustainability group). So there are potentially lots of folks to communicate with to get something approved, and not any bodies of support beyond one’s own body and the bodies of others who may share your passion for an idea. It can be a slow and frustrating process, but it is not meant to be that way, it’s the natural speed that results from being in a complex community without much money.
    We have definitely come off of the rails of consumerism, where everything is tied to the dollar, and one gets what one wants right away by just throwing money. It is a very different system, but one that I am learning to work with as I go.


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