The newest book I’ve read is Misfits Welcome: Find Yourself in Jesus and Bring the World Along for the Ride by Matthew Barnett. You should read this book!
Matthew is the founder of the Dream Center in Los Angeles, a twenty-four hour church that ministers to thirty-five thousand hurting people a week. They see everything: gangsters, the sick, addicts, and orphans. All the misfits of the world come through the Dream Center’s doors in search of hope. In Misfits Welcome, Matthew shares the simple, life-changing lesson he has learned from twenty years of ministering to the forgotten: Being a misfit prepares you to do the work of the Lord.
As I reflected on the book and the story of how our misfit-ness prepares us for God’s work, it became quite personal for me. If we were all honest, you and I would admit how often we feel like a misfit. Feeling out of place. Knowing that you are unprepared for what’s in front of you. Intimidated by all of the assignments. Afraid of the crowd that is probably watching you. But then God…
God steps in. Jesus saves. The Holy Spirit empowers. Now, my life as a misfit is a perfect platform for God to show up, make my life into something extraordinary, and accomplish ministry that is seemingly impossible. At least, that’s how it feels in my life.
In ministry and work, I fill several roles. For LifeWay, I am a publishing director. It means I manage several publishing departments, interact with authors (and their agents), and travel around the country for meetings. For The Fellowship, I am the teaching pastor and an elder. It means that I preach about most Sundays each year. On top of those two things, I serve as an assistant professor for Houston Baptist University, an adjunct for Union University, and speak in conferences and churches when invited. It is pretty evident that, as a calling from the Lord, I speak a lot.
It seems the most unlikely of outcomes for a guy born with a speech impediment.
My parents wondered why I did not speak much as a small child. Then, during a procedure to remove my adenoids, the doctor noticed the irregularity in my mouth. I was diagnosed with a submucous cleft palate and had surgery to repair it. I still carry the memories of standing beside my father’s chair and doing speech exercises. Learning to pronounce R’s and L’s and S’s properly. Pile on top of that a short stature, being the youngest in my school class, and a generally low view of myself and you get a person that the world convinced was a misfit. So, when I felt called to be a preacher, I thought that the Lord had finally made His first mistake. I was terrified to do oral book reports in class. How in the world was I supposed to stand in front of a church and preach? But that day arrived.
On a Youth Sunday in 1997, I was to preach my first sermon. So, of course, I prepared a message that any 17-year old would know a great deal about: suffering, faith, and the life of Job. What was I thinking? Preparing the sermon was thrilling. The study and planning was fun. That Sunday morning was terrifying. I remember it clearly. My voice felt shaky. My knees were even worse. But, I just dropped my heart into the hands of Jesus and said, “Please help me.” And He did. The first sentence came out with some effort. I said second sentence tentatively. The third sentence changed my life. It had boldness and courage I did not possess. It seemed to reverberate in that sanctuary. The misfit was preaching the gospel. My identity in Jesus was on display for the world and I was ready to take them along for the ride.
I still feel like a misfit at times. My voice is developed and I like using it for the Lord. I love preaching and feel my faith increase when I do. As others have said, it is a beautiful thing to fall into the hands of the Lord. May I never get over the feeling that to the world I am a misfit but to Jesus, I’m just the way He intended. Weak and willing. Because of Him, available and able.
So to all the misfits out there… Come to Jesus. You are welcomed by Him.