By Lance Lefler
Lead Pastor, Anchor Church

My neighbor Robbie had just gotten out of prison for, as he put it, “tuning up” a guy in a bar fight one night. Robbie was massive, with a shaved head and lots of tattoos. His attire was faded jeans and an undershirt—year-round.

He loved to shock our nice, little Christian family. He had a fish tank full of piranha, and he had these Devil horns he would glue on his head at Halloween.

And he looked just like the Devil! Except bigger. And scarier.

Robbie came over to our house one day, needing help buttoning a fancy dress shirt. He was going to be in a friend’s wedding. I think it took our whole family to cinch that collar around his thick neck while my wife buttoned the top button.

When it came to religion, Robbie would make light of his relationship with “the Big Guy,” given his rowdy lifestyle. But he was open to Christianity because of our friendship. So when we invited him to church one day, he agreed to join us.

What a mistake.

I can still picture him standing outside the church entrance, taking it all in; shiny, happy, dressed-up people as far as the eye could see.

He nervously finished off his cigarette. I nodded toward the door. Robbie followed me in. I had a bad feeling.

It was a good church, but it wasn’t the church for Robbie. All the jackets and ties and Sunday dresses. He lasted 10 minutes before bolting out the back door.

I was changed by that experience.

Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of good people in that church, who would have embraced Robbie if he had been able to stick it out. But he couldn’t shake the superficial differences. This was a Sunday-morning-get-dressed-up kind of culture.

And for some reason we associate dressed up with got it together. Robbie did anyway. That’s why we don’t get too formal at Anchor—that and the fact I hate dressing up! What Robbie didn’t realize is that you can be just as messed up when you’re dressed up (yes, I did trademark that!). It can be a way of hiding, actually.

In the end, it’s not about tattoos and undershirts. This whole dress-code conversation is really a metaphor for something bigger: that the road to restoration begins where you are right now. That’s the whole point of the gospel. Jesus died to rescue us from our sin. But it doesn’t stop there. The gospel, which means “good news,” empowers us to change and grow. That’s why it’s such good news! That’s why we say, “Come as you are.”

Anchor Church meets at 11:00 am on Sundays at 103 Ponferrada Way (the campus of Christ Lutheran Church). Our Anchor KIDS ministry started on Sunday, March 5.