Sandals.  The name conjures up all sorts of adjectives in the minds of local "Christians" around these parts.  Some that come to mind…"Chics, cult, fake, real, blessed, cocky, young, flakes, self-fulfilling, Christ-followers, lax, changing, growing, too small, too big"…and the list goes on. 
    When I was in college the word was "Outreach".  The word did not mean what an average listener would think.  It was short for "Campus Outreach".  An ongoing Christian group meeting on campus for the purpose of "discipleship" and such.  The word conjured up many different adjectives, depending on whom you spoke with.  My friend Rusty for instance.  I know him to have had a good relationship with "Outreach".  So I assume when he hears the word he thinks of "life-changing, discipleship, molding".  Me on the other hand.  I think of "judging, elitist, fraternity".  One great organization.  Carrying out the Great Commission the best way it knows how.  2 very different perspectives.  Neither are wrong.  Both are right.  But flavor stays with you.  I got burnt.  Rusty didn’t.  So therefor we have very different views as to the same organization.  We all know.  That’s life.  It is so easy for me to make an opinion and spurt it out and walk away.  I get to do that.  I was a consumer of their product.  It is easy for me to throw it aside and search for something better for me.  But I am starting to see the other side of the coin lately. 
I work at Sandals church.  Have full time since Sept ’99.  When I hear people who have adjectives I disagree with I get protective.  Not only is this my job, it’s my life.  Everything I say and do is someway shaped by Sandals.  Some would call this unhealthy.  Maybe.  But in order to see this place become what it is today this had to be the case.  We have changed throughout the years.  But the core has remained the same.  We are just plain real.  Call it like it is.  This will always rub some people wrong.  But here is where I am starting to see the other side of the coin. 
When Campus Outreach was started, I am sure it was prayed over by God fearing men and women who wanted nothing more than to see young men and women become fully devoted Christ followers.  I am sure that that is the case today.  The truth of the matter is that if I look real hard, I had a problem with 2 people.  Suddenly in my mind they became the entire organization.  So for years I carried and spoke some adjectives about a great organization that were strictly built on a small groups actions. 
I am finding this to be the case with my church as well.  I will meet people all over Southern California who either love us or hate us.  I when I say hate I really mean it.  But what I am figuring out is that it is not Sandals they dislike.  (Hate is such a strong word) It is Joe or Jane Shmo leader who didn’t come visit in an adequate amount of time when baby was born.  Or Matt doesn’t preach the word because he’s too busy preaching on "relevant issues" of our time.  I think I have hit a good place with all this.  I am only 6 or 7 years in and I am done defending Sandals.  As we get bigger I am going to have less and less control over the adjectives that parade out of peoples pie holes.  When it was just me, Matt, and 60 or so other folk, I would die swingin’ to defend Sandals.  Now?  I don’t swing anymore.  I find it easier just to duck when "they" are swinging and let them walk on their merry way.  People will always have a problem with who you are and what you stand for.  I have learned that this is especially true of Christians against other Christians.  Hmmm?  I guess I should just realize that we will never be perfect at running a church.  Not as long as I am part of the "running".  And I should actually take pride in that.  Because who wants to go to that church anyways? 
    The other day I was dropping Sohaila off at Preschool.  One of the other moms runs into me and says…"Hey!!! I recognize you.  your the music guy at Sandals huh?" I respond politely.  Then she says, "Me and my husband used to go to Sandals.  Now we go to Magnolia.  No offense though!!!"  She was almost embarrassed.  I smiled real big and told her that Mag was a great church.  Because it is.  And I told her not to apologize about finding a good home. 
    Sandals will never have a "Living Christmas Tree".  We will never have hand bells.  Some people get their Christmas on to that stuff.  Old and young alike.  But we will have a dancing Panamanian who wears hats on stage and a Senior Pastor who said shit from the pulpit.  And from the looks of it.  Even though they don’t call.  The 1500 or so people who keep coming back every week speak louder in their silence than the skeptics to in their critiques. 
    Well.  Now that my self counseling session is over.  Have a good Tuesday.  And don’t bitch too much about everyone else.  Your most likely the problem.  I’m mine.
That would have cost me 80 bucks laying on some shrinks couch.  Instead you just got it for free.