11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Church of Misfits

Church of the Resurrection takes its name seriously, and it should. You can't name yourself "Resurrection" and then do anything less than work for renewal and make the choice for hope. Eighteen years ago the church started out as 25 people worshiping in a funeral home. Adam Hamilton, then 26, has since led this body to become the largest Methodist church in the country with more than 14,000 members.

This past week I spoke to a gathering of 1,700 church leaders who had gathered at Resurrection with a mission. A mission of renewal for the mainline church was clear, a renewal that brings together the personal and social gospel. While I preached to their church I was reminded of another pulpit. The pulpit of John Wesley. A pulpit that shook a nation.

I had the privilege of preaching for four worship services at Resurrection on Saturday and Sunday. The heart of my message was that the hope we have in Jesus Christ is not only the salvation of our souls but the redemption of the world. That when we embrace and live into both realities we experience awakening in our lives, churches, communities, nation, and the world. It is this kind of faith, faith for the big things, that moves mountains.

Watch or listen to the service here.

The spirit and mission of Wesley runs deep at Resurrection. After years of decline and decay in mainline churches across the country, the vision of revival and renewal is clear. Their pastor describes the church as one full of "misfits." Misfits who hunger for more from their church, misfits who want to give more to the world, misfits who believe that the way things are is not how things are supposed to be. Hamilton says his church is often not liberal enough for the left or conservative enough for the right. He calls himself a "liberal evangelical." History has taught us that it is when "misfits" call for the end of the status quo that the rumblings of revival begin.

It was misfits like John Wesley, William Wilberforce, and Charles Finney who lit the fires of revival that spanned two continents. They did not fit with the churches of their day because they were radically evangelical and unapologetically committed to a social gospel that challenged the evils of slavery.

I wrote the foreword to Adam's newest book, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics. In it, he challenges Christians to go deeper. Not to be satisfied with shallow answers or easy faith but to dig down into a "radical center," or what I call the "moral center." If you are a pastor or church leader working for renewal or are ready to go deeper with your own faith, it's well worth reading.

Often feeling like a misfit myself in a divided church, I felt right at home at the Church of the Resurrection. And I saw the future -- a congregation full of both liberals and evangelicals, old and young, many formerly unchurched but now committed Christians, suburban but involved in the renewal of the St. Louis school system, mainline and Methodist but also evangelical and ecumenical, full of families and kids, 1,000 teenagers in the youth group, both traditional and contemporary worship, intellectual but warm-hearted, successful but humble, both Democrats and Republicans who believe that God is neither, and, most of all, fervently committed to a gospel that is both personal and social and refusing to divide the word of God or the body of Christ. At every service where I was blessed to preach, the pastor and congregation said they want to be a congregation for the next Great Awakening. I know I got renewed at the Church of the Resurrection.

Jim Wallis is the author of The Great Awakening, Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners and blogs at

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