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Study Guide: Church of the Scumbags

Sunday October 3, 2010 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:


Brief Summary:

Jesus never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. His life and death reflect an all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.


Extended Summary:

When Jesus was on the cross, there were two thieves also being crucified. One thief asked Jesus to “remember” him. Jesus responds, “Today you’ll be with me.” Notice what Jesus did not say during this exchange. He did not interrogate the thief to make sure that he had the right theology or ethics. The thief knew he was a sinner in need of grace and believed that he could find hope in this person hanging on the cross next to him and that is all Jesus needed to know.

This was Jesus’ pattern throughout his ministry. He never asked for background checks on people before he ministered to them. Jesus’ life and death reflect this all inclusive love and grace toward all people. Through Christ, God gives a massive bear hug of love and forgiveness around humanity.

If Jesus reveals a God who is so outrageously generous with his love and acceptance, and if churches are called to reflect the character of Jesus, why does Jesus’ attitude toward the thief on the cross seem so rare in Christianity?

Most communities throughout history are defined by their parameter, which defines who’s in and who’s out, thereby creating an “us verses them” mentality. The same is often true in the church.

But if a community is going to be centered on the Jesus who told the thief he’d be with him, no questions asked, it must be a community that’s defined not by the parameter, but by the center, who is Jesus. That is the difference between a bounded community and a centered community.

The Kingdom is to be a community defined by the center, not the parameter. There is no need for security guards to police the parameter. We hold up the center and together help each other move toward it, conformed to image of Christ.


Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting texts?
  2. What has your experience been with bounded communities that focus on the parameters? What were the perceived benefits of this experience? How did the focus on the parameters make the insiders feel? How did it make the outsiders feel?
  3. Why do you think the church is often so focused on the parameters?
  4. Close your eyes and imagine what a Centered Community might look like. How would you describe it? How is it different from a bounded community? Is what you see based on previous experiences?
  5. How would being part of a centered community impact your life? The lives of those around you in the church? The lives of those you know outside the church?

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