The following was written by Avery Ross.

I never thought one of the most impactful lessons I would ever learn would come from a bunch of middle-aged ministers at a bar.

A few years ago, I found myself in a hotel bar in London with fifteen ministers from some of the largest churches in the U.S. It was fifteen of them, including my dad and me, sitting around some tables we had pushed together. They were nearing the end of their trip tracing the steps of John Wesley, the famous founder of the Methodist movement, throughout England and had just finished a long day of tours. The bar in the lobby was dimly lit, still, and quiet. Lots of leather and dark red, backlit panels on the walls. I sat close to the back of the group as they debriefed their past week.

About twenty minutes into the conversation, the topic turned to the future of the Christian church in the U.S. Primarily, they talked about how denominations would change and how, logistically and hypothetically, churches would handle controversial issues. I listened with clenched fists.

Churches were splitting all across the world as congregations couldn’t resolve their differences around hot button topics, and these guys were discussing a similar path. Shouldn’t they scoff at that idea and fight for unity? Shouldn’t they be bolder and braver? I judged them for not being more hopeful. I judged them for not dressing better. They didn’t look like mighty leaders, they looked like, well, dads. Their outer shells were meek and plain. I judged them for their dorky clothes, short-sightedness, and the fact that some of them ordered a Bud Light. Did I mention I was judging them?

My knuckles were white at this point. Most of my anger was directed toward God. These were the leaders of his church and this was the best he could do? Some middle-aged nobodies? Amateurs? God should have chosen mighty warriors! I was steaming.

Then it hit me. It was like truth, dressed as a waiter, walked over from the bar and threw a glass of cold water in my face. All the tension that had built up was released and my hands relaxed.

I closed my eyes, took a breath, and thought of all the stories I had been told growing up as a preacher’s kid. I thought of all the disciples. I thought about how scruffy they must have been, how unqualified, and how fearful they were. They weren’t imposing. They didn’t fit the leader mold. They were middle-aged nobodies. Amateurs. But then they had an experience with a guy who said he was going to rise from the dead and then did it. After that they did whatever he told them to do. Their pedigree, their appearance, and their fears all paled in comparison to the fact that they had tasted a better way.

I opened my eyes. When I looked around me I no longer saw out-of-touch pastors. I saw Peter, John, and all the other disciples. I saw people who had experienced something in their life that moved them. Could they be distracted or short-sighted? You bet. The disciples could too and God hand-picked them! And when those people screwed up, did he kick them off the team? No. He stuck right beside them while they learned and practiced a better way of living.

He could have picked the tallest, best looking and most imposing, but he didn’t. He chose amateurs. In one moment I resented this circle of people, and in the next, I saw them a heck of a lot closer to how I believe God sees them.


I am telling you this story because when I look at the world around me I am confused. I cannot keep up. I feel as though something should be done, but I’m not capable of helping. However, when I think back to those preachers in London, I am reminded that God, for some weird reason that no one can fully grasp, wants me and you to participate and entrusts his work into our clumsy, amateur hands.

When we are tempted to fall into despair, our faith calls us to stop and take a second look. This second look allows us to see that each of us, like the preacher’s in London, may appear unqualified and lacking all necessary equipment, but regardless of all that, and regardless of every single fear and doubt and insecurity, we are somehow the hands and feet of God.

C.S. Lewis put this so well, when he says:

“People say, ‘The Church ought to give us a lead.’ …By the Church they ought to mean the whole body of practicing Christians…But, of course, when they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to put out a political program. That is silly…The job is really on us, on the laymen.”

While we each have specific skills and talents and high degrees, we are amateurs at a majority of the activities we are called to. Yet we are called to them nonetheless and no one has ever given us a perfect pamphlet on how to do that.

In the same way he did for his disciples, Jesus gives us a direction to go in, not step-by-step instructions. Instead of a map, He simply asks us to follow him and to love. It is our loving, and loving well, that stitches the damaged parts of the world together.

I am comforted by author and priest Robert Capon who, in his book The Supper of the Lamb, states, “There, then is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace.”

You and I will “look the world back to grace” by seeing as God sees in every single area of our lives and responding accordingly, moved by beauty.

So as I try to convince myself it will all be alright for the 45th day in a row, I am struck with the fact that we are amateurs at this, but God is not. We are quick to despair, but he has never faltered or panicked and will not start today. We are quick to hoard and neglect and to put ourselves first. In Jesus, we see a better way. A way that gives, engages, and runs toward those hurting. With his help and our unqualified hands, we will look the world back to grace and all manner of things will be well. I am looking forward to the day when I can share a drink with some goofy preachers again. Who knows what I’ll learn.