A Community of Castaways

He sat with his back toward the entrance of the cave. 

Though this position of vulnerability might put most battle-hardened warriors on edge, this fugitive felt completely at ease. He had nothing to fear because his men were on guard. They had his back.

And beyond this motley crew of misfits, he deeply believed that God was his greatest protector.

His confidence seemed to sway like a palm tree in a storm. From total assurance to timid anxiety, his faith wavered from hour to hour. Yet he would attempt to stay strong and bold for the sake of the men. 

All of these men! They kept coming.

Day after day more would arrive from Gibeah, Shechem, Beersheba, and even as far north as Dan. And they were all so different from one another. They dressed differently, spoke differently, and thought differently. But their diversity paled in comparison to the unifying feature that brought them all together, to live in a system of caves. 

They were all castaways.

Each of them in distress, in debt, or discontented.

Just like David they had all been ostracized by their communities and were now looking for refuge, community, and a future.

He turned back to his vellum scroll and continued writing, “Refuge has failed me; no one cares for my soul.” 

David had come to the realization that God didn’t mind a blunt conversation. He’d learned to be honest with God about his feelings and his aching heart. His mind raced from image to image of those who once loved him and had now deserted and denied him. His family in Bethlehem were certainly disgraced. His inheritance gone. His fellow soldiers in Hebron were probably being questioned as to David’s whereabouts. His career destroyed. And now he was even being hunted, like a dog, by his very own mentor and hero. King Saul discovered his wilderness hideaway, and now David felt as if he had no refuge.

Yet, then he remembered.

Picking up his writing instrument David penned,

 “I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, ‘You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living.’”

Suddenly the poet was interrupted.

“David! We have another group of men.”

“Wonderful! Bring them in. Let me meet them.”

David’s men hesitate. Awkwardly, they looked at one another. Asahel finally mumbled, “Um. Yeah. One of them is a Hittite…

…So, there’s that.”

The Hypocrisy of King Moonracer

I’ve always had an affinity for the Christmas stop-motion animated classics like Santa Clause is Comin’ to TownFrosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It seems that every year we watch them. And every year I seem to find more and more holes in the plot. For example, Kris’ toy bag completely disappears after he’s taken captive by the Warlock. But then he pulls a toy train out of his sleeve that is nearly the same size as his entire upper body. How does that happen man? Come on!

But the most egregious offence takes place when Rudolph and company arrive on the Island of Misfit Toys. After a heartwarming explanation of the Island’s purpose Rudolph innocently asks, “Hey, we’re misfits too. Can we stay here for a while?” The king of the island, who bears a passing resemblance to King Aslan but demonstrates none of his compassion, refuses the request on the basis of flimsy reasoning and incoherent bias.

Shouldn’t a misfit feel welcome on the Island of Misfits?

Phew! That felt good to get that off of my chest.

The Original Disciples of Jesus

The prophet Isaiah told us that the messiah would “set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”[1]

This prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled during the Millennial reign of Christ. But it is certainly applicable to the ministry philosophy of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry.

Jesus gathered the arrogant (Peter), the angry (James & John), the sinful (Mary of Magdala), the Pharisaical (Nicodemus), the sellouts (Matthew), the violent (Simon), the treacherous (Zaccheus), and the Insane (Maniac of Gadara).

He was known to attract the poor[2], the disenfranchised[3], the discarded[4], and even his own enemies[5].

His was not a club for the elite.

It was a family for the forgotten. 

This was His entire sermon that Saturday morning in the familiar synagogue of Nazareth. He simply stood up and read this prophesy from Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[6]

After He finished reading, he handed the scroll back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone was looking at Him like, “What was that? Nothing else to say?”

Jesus, in one of the coolest moments in the messianic story, looks squarely into the eyes of the crowd and says, “Today you are seeing this Scripture being fulfilled.”

WHAT?!?! Could He be any cooler?

And then he went out and did exactly what He said he would do. He gathered together all of the misfit toys. Like his great, great, great, great grandfather David – He attracted those in distress, those in debt, and those who were discontented with the society and culture of the day.

And what was His reward for doing this? He was slandered by the religious elite.

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.

Others Gather the Best – We’ll Take the Rest

Here is my heart for the local church I happen to pastor and the ministry network I happen to lead.

They are to be a community of castaways.

Southern Hills has become a refuge in the city of Las Vegas for people who wouldn’t be welcome anywhere else. God has brought the prideful, sinful, abused, lustful, greedy, rejected, mocked, and hated into this family. And it’s not only me He has saved. He’s brought others who have struggled in the same ways I have struggled.

Occasionally, one of us will forget how far we were from the Lord when Christ first called us to Himself. We get impressed by our own spiritual growth, forgetting it was the progressive sanctification of Christ that did the work in us. We disregard how far we’ve come and underestimate how far we still have to go.

In these moments we must remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”[7]

I see it happen with the Idea Network.

“Josh, did you see came to the summit?”

“Josh, aren’t you aware that your associations with such people might limit your opportunities?”

“Josh, I used to love Idea Day. But now, with all of these others, it’s just not the same.”

Yet, from the earliest days, the Idea Network was a community of castaways, an island of misfit toys, a cave near En-Gedi, a small clan of Jesus followers that nobody else wanted in their fellowship, conference, denomination, or college.

We are the outsiders.

We are the outliers.

We aren’t angry about being left out of the party because we’ve created our own.

And here’s the crazy thing. Everyone is invited!

You might be reading this and you see yourself as an outsider in your own tribe. You’ve been told to do things you don’t see as Scriptural. You’ve been told to teach things you know aren’t Biblical. You’ve been told to hide the truths God has been teaching you, lest you be cut off, blacklisted, banned, shunned, excluded, and shut out.

I have good news for you. 

You are welcome in our tribe. Our party doors are open to you. Granted, we are all still growing in our faith, recovering from our past, and striving toward the future for the one who has called us. We are a pretty peculiar group indeed. But we are also resting deeply in the grace we’ve found in Christ. We are NOT perfect. The closer you look you’ll see deep flaws in me, and in every one of our leaders. We walk with Christ but we’ve certainly not arrived at perfection. We don’t even agree about everything (though we do all hold to a common confession)[8], but we do care for one another and take time to talk about the issues that matter most.

I’ve come to recognize that churches are often in the business of gathering THE BEST people in town. The most famous, most wealthy, most connected, most influential, and most religious people are coveted and fought over. At our church we say, “Let them have the best, we’ll take the rest.”

I’ve come to recognize that denominations, religious circles, and ministerial networks can often fall into the same trap. We mustn’t allow this to happen to us.

At the Idea Network we continue to say, “Let them have the best, we’ll take the rest.”

Finally, I want to speak directly to the disciple of Jesus reading this that feels like a man without a country. God is doing a new thing, and you’re invited. I’m speaking to the missionary on the field that knows well what it will cost to follow Christ and his conscience. I’m speaking to the young pastor 3-5 years into your ministry, suddenly realizing that some things have got change, but you know the rejections you will face for obeying God. I’m speaking to the man or woman who has abandoned the faith because you’ve understandably conflated the Christian faith with oddities of your religious upbringing. 

I’m talking to the one who is dedicated to the fundamental doctrines of the Bible but is tired of the hyper-separatism and unbiblical legalism that is so displeasing to the Lord Jesus. I’m talking to the conservative who prefers their clothing choices, musical styles, and Bible preferences but knows that demanding conformity of others to your preferences is antithetical to the New Testament.[9] I’m talking to the one who is wanting to see racial reconciliation. I’m talking to the one who wants to see a return to religious liberty. I’m talking to the theology nerds, administrative geeks, and the philosophy gurus.

Guys! There’s not only a seat at the table for you, there’s a roundtable discussion we want you to lead.

And we?

We honestly just want to be your friend.

[1] Isaiah 11:12 (NKJV)

[2] Luke 4:18

[3] John 4:27

[4] Mark 1:40-45

[5] Matthew 8:10

[6] Luke 4:18-19

[7] 1 Corinthians 6:11

[8] https://www.ideanetwork.church/beliefs

[9] I often have conversations with men who happen to be more conservative who honestly think that to be accepted at the Idea Network you have change your music, your clothing choices, or your preferred Bible version. HAHA. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because others demand conformity to their preferences doesn’t mean we do the same thing. This singular distinction is incredibly difficult for those who come from such demanding expectations to put their minds around. No need to change. Just be nice and do what you believe God wants you to do in your ministry.

  1. Chris Chavez says:

    Consider this response. https://link.medium.com/VSAQ7MPOQdb. I spoke personally to Josh about this and pray it helps IDN for the sake of the Gospel.

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