Michael Sares is an evangelical pastor who has made a ministry kicking against the current. He pastors Denver’s Scum of the Earth Church, an evangelical congregation famous for welcoming those other churches might turn away, and author of “Pure Scum: The Left-Out, Right-Brained and the Grace of God.” Their monthly newsletter is called “Rubbish” and among the “rejected slogans” on Scum’s website homepage is “Our congregation can kick your congregation’s ass.” It’s safe to assume that Michael Sares’ isn’t your run of the mill evangelical pastor (if you don’t believe me, see the video tour of his church’s bathrooms below).
But Sares’ uncommon approach has been successful. Each week, hundreds flock to his church, which has now thrived for more than a decade. Here, he shares a glimpse into what drives his thinking and why he advises pastors to “burn the fake plants” and “pray their church loses members.”
RNS: Scum of The Earth received some media attention in the early days for being a punk-rock-goth-artist church. How has your congregation changed and is it still a place for spiritual and cultural misfits?
MS: We used to be the church which got that kind of attention, but we’re not getting it as much any more. As a result, we are not getting as many weird-looking people flocking to Scum. A lot of the goths and punks have aged and their roles have changed. They are parents and employees. They may not sport mohawks or wear black polyvinyl anymore. By the way, punks and goths normally don’t get along really well. It’s a mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in us that they can coexist at Scum.
It’s hip right now to have weird and artsy people at church. There are many churches who welcome these people as a way of being culturally relevant. I even heard about one mega-church in town putting photos of all the congregants’ tattoos on a wall inside the church building. So we are still a place for misfits but we are not as hung up on that. Being a club for weirdos is not as important as being the church.