Daily Riches: The Church as Refuge (Rachel Held Evans, Kathy Escobar and Dallas Willard)

“Any successful plan for spiritual formation . . . will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.” Dallas Willard

“As a counselor, Kathy had encountered Christians who kept their battles with pain and depression a secret from their churches, so she helped found and pastor The Refuge, an eclectic and growing faith community in Denver inspired by both the Beatitudes and the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Kathy discovered that when a church functions more like a recovery group than a religious organization, when it commits to practicing ‘honesty for the sake of restoration,’ all sorts of unexpected people show up.

People who make $600 on mental health disability and never graduated from high school are hanging out with friends who have master’s degrees and make $6,000. …Suburban moms are building relationships with addicts. People from fundamentalist Christian backgrounds are engaging those with pagan backgrounds …orphans, outcasts, prostitutes, pastors, single moms and dads, church burnouts and everything in between are all muddled up together…. It’s wild.

…Rather than boasting a doctrinal statement, the Refuge extends an invitation: The Refuge is a mission center and Christian community dedicated to helping hurting and hungry people find faith, hope, and dignity alongside each other.

We love to throw parties, tell stories, find hope, and practice the ways of Jesus as best we can. We’re all hurt or hungry in our own ways. We’re at different place on our journey but we share a guiding story, a sweeping epic drama called the Bible. We find faith as we follow Jesus and share a willingness to honestly wrestle with God and our questions and doubts. We find dignity as God’s image-bearers and strive to call out that dignity in one another. We all receive, we all give. We are old, young, poor, rich, conservative, liberal, single, married, gay, straight, evangelicals, progressives, overeducated, undereducated, certain, doubting, hurting, thriving. Yet Christ’s love bind our differences together in unity. At The Refuge, everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.

Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.” Rachel Held Evans

“I will build my church.”
Matthew 16:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your church a place where “everyone is safe?”
  • Is your church a place where “no one is comfortable?”
  • Do others experience you as a “safe” person? …as comfortable with discomfort?

Abba, lead us into good places.

For more: Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow/share my blog. – Bill

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

6 thoughts on “Daily Riches: The Church as Refuge (Rachel Held Evans, Kathy Escobar and Dallas Willard)

  1. strongly disagree with this one …. while it all sounds so politically correct…… i don’t believe that is is biblically correct …knowing God’s love for us , changes us ….it gives us the ability to love others no matter what their situation ,,,, but we don’t keep them there ….. Jesus didn’t come to make us “church goers” or “meeting attenders”….. where we sit around and love each other …… we are to become His disciples, which entails more than just acceptance of each others faults…. but with His help to overcome these shortcomings ……by renewing your mind in the word , and understand our authority that Jesus has given us here on earth to over come all situations if we believe …… and believe in not the idea of love …. but the real thing ……His love……. and that will drive us out to the streets to tell others about His wonderful love for us all….. its a knowing ,,,, a believing…… and a doing… that makes us a disciple


  2. I think what you have in mind is the “no one is comfortable” part – where everyone is challenged by who Jesus really is as he is encountered – all our biases, prejudices, besetting sins, blind spots, etc. And that has to happen. The “safe” (love) part is just that people are allowed to be where they are in their journey, I think. People are going to be all over the map when it comes to that (in any church – whether we are aware of it or not), and God can deal with that. Even when we become the kind of mature disciples you’re talking about, we will still differ from each other greatly in our beliefs/doctrines (again, even in the same church), but hopefully our commitment to love each other and the Lord himself, and experience of him and his grace and love for us, will allow us to enjoy fellowship and life together in spite of our many differences. I think this is what they’re saying in the quote.


  3. Question: The Refuge seems to be an open, welcoming place for lgbtq folks. That’s good – but how does this reconcile with people who are part of The Refuge whose journey is not in a place of affirmation of lgbtq expressions of sexuality and gender/gender expression/ gender identity. How are those folks – who may believe lgbtq folks are valued and created in the image of God, yet believe acting on same-sex attraction or gender transitioning is not in keeping with God’s word – included? Are they able to voice those beliefs, and if so, it seems voicing those beliefs might negate The Refuge as a safe space for lgbtq folks who seek healing from condemnation experienced elsewhere? This is a thorny issue. In congregations that honor diversity in biblical interpretation, I’ve found folks unable to offer an open-lgbtq welcome because everyone’s not on the same page. As a result, the status quo controls or the status quo leaves if the congregation expresses a. corporate expression of explicit lgbtq welcome and advocacy. Or is advocacy even welcomed? Note, I only worship where there’s a consensus on welcome, affirmation and advocacy for lgbtq folks. I walk away where people are free to disagree – and do – on this. Like my abolitionist ancestors who found no middle ground on a supposed unity held by a “we agree to disagree conviction” and thus, walked away from churches where support for slavery was preached (while some parishioners disagreed in the spirit of “we agree to disagree”)


    • Wow Diane, good questions. Obviously you have thought about this a lot, and it’s not at all theoretical to you. My answer to most of your questions is “I don’t know.” When I was a pastor, in simpler days, I was never forced to deal with this issue, and if I were a regular pastor now, I don’t know how I would approach it. I would definitely want to provide a church which was a safe and welcoming space, but I wouldn’t feel I could insist that people unequivacably affirm LGBTQ folks. (I think welcome and advocacy are easier, and indicated.) I’m still working on this one, and it’s easier for me not to know because I’m straight – I have that privilege – one which many don’t have. I appreciate your thoughtful and irenic interaction with the post. I only wish I could give you a better answer.


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