Monday, November 21, 2011

A Letter to Serena Woods

My friend Rachel introduced me to Serena Woods a while ago. Serena is one of those ladies that instantly catches my heart: the splash-makers, the word-mongers, the misfits, the broken, the grace-lovers, the scripture-queens, and the ones who deeply love Jesus. Visit her blog at, she's a firecracker.

I started writing this in an email but I wanted some more input from you all. Plus it gives me a chance to plug her stuff, because I think it's pretty cool.
Dear Serena,

Forgive me in advance for being wordy, I am not gifted with brevity :)

I have loved my time in the blogging world because it often feels like I am hanging out with a bunch of friends. I enjoy reading your blog because, as my friend Dan Merchant says, "you make me feel less crazy." Your struggles with life, church and culture make me feel like I am not the only one who "doesn't fit." Thank you for that.

If we don't get to be real-life friends, please come find me in heaven. FYI, I'll probably be hanging out with the guys, and I will be talking too much.

I'm writing this to you because I feel like we're good friends already and there is something that has been bothering me ever since we met. Not "bothering" in a "please stop saying 'supposably'" kind of way but something that I think is not quite right. I can say this to you without malice and with humility because the reason I recognize it in your words is I have heard it so often in my own. 
I know you've been deeply wounded by the church and by people who are supposed to be God's ambassadors. But there are times when I think that you may be too eager to burn those bridges.

I have no problem with challenging the institution, I enjoy it in fact (too much, maybe). I think we do need to be shaken from our "rigor mortis" at times. But I think just maybe your response to the failures of the church is a little misguided. See, girls like us can get passionate about our causes, especially when people are being hurt. We can get overzealous and end up causing further harm. I know I have.

For example, you said in Grace is For Sinners that you would be happy not going to church. You also said in a recent post that there are times when God calls you out of community to benefit your spiritual growth, that "sometimes God calls you into a wilderness where you feel disconnected from everyone else."

I agree...kind of.
See, you're right that God called Jesus, John the Baptist, and Moses out into the wilderness for a time, but don't forget that He called them back. And where did He send them? Moses didn't go back to preach to the Egyptions, Jesus didn't go to the Parthenon. They went back to God's people.

Because God loves his people. He loves his dirty, messed up, adulterous Bride.

I think if we were sitting down to coffee together you'd be nodding your head right now, am I right?

The reason I'm writing this is to ask you to have a little more grace with the Body of Christ, I don't mean the cultural institution of church, but the fallen, broken, legalistic people in those churches. The people trying to be godly people, trying to do the right thing, who have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because, as screwed up and hurtful as they we can be, Christ has chosen them us to be His hands and feet in His absence.
One of the major issues addressed in the epistles is divisions in the church. 
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:11-16 
I think the Church does need to be shaken, but I don't think the way to do that is to walk outside and start breaking windows. I think you come inside the church. I think you go to bible studies and potlucks. You plant seeds, you challenge norms. You have those difficult conversations in bible studies; not to create division but to sow truth. You hang out with the people because they matter. They aren't going to hear what you have to say if you have abandoned them.
1 John 5:1 says "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him," (emphasis added).
A man I respect very much, Jerry Cook, made another important observation: Jesus never spoke and made people sick, Jesus never touched someone and killed them. Jesus Christ always brings life and hope. 
The Church may frustrate and even enfuriate me at times but I am not allowed to simply jump ship if I don't find the fit comfortable or even nuturing, because the Church is ME. More importantly, loving the church is loving the Father. God wants His kids to love each other, to have grace with each other, because we're sinners too.
I don't believe it is your heart to wound the people of the church as you, yourself, were wounded, but I fear it may creep into your ministry; we are all in danger of this. Please take care that it doesn't, because this message, your message, is too important.
My prayers are over you, your family and your ministry.
Much love to you,
-Sarah Elizabeth


  1. Well said Sarah, good reminder for all of us, not just Serena. :)

  2. This is a really great letter. I hope she responds to you. I have her book, but haven't read it yet. This just makes me want to read it more. :)

    There are so many problems with the church - I am struggling with a few issues myself - but you are totally right. The church is US, its who we are, and if we are honest with ourselves, we make the same mistakes "they" do.

    Thank you for the thought-provoker.

  3. Thanks Kalyn,
    It's a good book and I like that Serena is out there poking those sensitive places in the Church so we recognize when things definitely are not okay.

    I find myself struggling with the same issue and like to put myself in the "good guys" camp, forgetting that I share blood and DNA with those people I'm criticizing.

    Thanks for the tweet!