Luke 7:36–50 narrates the encounter between Jesus and a sinful woman who anointed his feet at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Mike Clarensau opens From Belonging to Becoming with this story because it illustrates a choice all church leaders and members must make: Do we accept the woman as Jesus did, or do we reject her like Simon the Pharisee did?
Clarensau is senior director of the Assemblies of God’s Healthy Church Network. Before taking this position, he was senior pastor at Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas. It was during his tenure as pastor that this passage in the Gospel hit him with the force of a revelation. Raised in church his entire life, working as a vocational ministry his entire adult life, he realized that much of the way he thought about and ministered to unbelievers reflected Simon the Pharisee’s perspective more than Jesus’. And he noticed that this was true at other churches as well.
The “assimilation process” at most churches—that is, the path by which nonbelievers become fully committed followers of Jesus Christ—looks like this: believing, becoming, belonging. In other words, you believe in Jesus, become like Jesus, and then you can belong to our church.
With the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, the “assimilation process” looked radically different: Jesus’ acceptance of her—i.e., her “belonging” to him—made possible a change in her believing and becoming. John Maxwell likes to say that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Clarensau agrees with this and adds: Once people know that you care, they care what you know. In other words, building loving, Christlike relationships with people helps them become fully devoted followers of Christ. Hence the title of his book: From Belonging to Becoming.
Clarensau divides the book into three parts. Part 1 explores how we view the “sinful woman” when she comes to our church. It exposes the Pharisaic rationalizations we offer for excluding her in contrast to Jesus’ practice of welcoming and including her. Part 2 offers insights into how our vision of church would change if we looked at it from the perspective of the sinful woman. And Part 3 offers practical advice for creating an “assimilation process” that puts belonging first, without sacrificing either believing or becoming. In other words, both doctrine and practice must be part of following Jesus Christ, but assimilation begins with loving relationships.
I heartily recommend this book to pastors, church leaders, and lay ministers who want their churches to become Christlike not merely in what they teach and in their manner of life, but also in the way they do church. Whether they agree with everything Clarensau recommends, they will his reading of Scripture and practical sights challenging to status-quo ways of thinking and doing.
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