EGR is phrase coined by my wife. An EGR is a person that you are trying to love, trying to serve, but they make it a little more difficult than normal. Perhaps it is because they don’t catch social cues. Maybe it is because they are oblivious to anyone’s needs or situations but their own. Whatever the reason, it takes more to love, serve or even just be with them. They are an EGR. Extra Grace Required.
Now understand, the phrase is not a putdown. It is just that some people require a little extra effort. They tax your patience. They force you to rely on God’s grace if you are going to love and serve them. And for my wife and I, EGR functions as a sort of ministry shorthand. If I am going to meet with someone, I will let my wife know that I am meeting with an EGR. This lets her know that it may take a little longer than usual. And that I could really use her prayers.
Now, it may seem simple to love an EGR. You just serve and minster to them as you would anyone else. But then something happens. You are teaching a small group Bible study and an EGR completely dominates the discussion. Most of what they say doesn’t really make sense. You see the blank expression on other’s faces as they mentally check out. And suddenly, loving an EGR is bereft with all sorts difficulties.
The easy and obvious answer is to minimize the “damage” an EGR can do. We turn bible class into a lecture. We make sure an EGR never has the microphone during worship because we don’t know what they will do or say. And we do this all with the wonderful intention of following Jesus. We want to serve and love the EGR. So we follow the words of Jesus, who said, “it is more blessed to give than receive.” We give to the EGR and they receive. And by doing that, they never rock the boat.
But I think that is a misuse of Jesus’ words. Yes, we need to become people who care more about giving than getting. And serving an EGR can truly be an act of sacrificial service. But when we push others into positions where all they are allowed to do is receive, we deny them the blessing of giving. Too often, in the name of loving and serving the EGR, we keep them from being able to love and serve others.
So what does it look like if we actually help EGRs participate in the full life of the church?
Bible class becomes a time not only to explore the depths of Isaiah or Ezekiel, but a time to practice loving each other. It takes an extra effort to include the EGR and help their words contribute. But it is worth it. Because as we include the EGR we help everyone participate in the love of Christ. So Bible class is suddenly transformed from a classroom into a laboratory.
Worship becomes a place where we not only declare the love of Christ for all, but we actually see it. When we give EGRs a voice, our worship exemplifies the inclusive nature of the gospel. Someone walking into our time of worship would immediately know that we mean it when we say “everyone is welcome here.”
Every event, every gathering becomes an opportunity to demonstrate the profound depth of the gospel. The biggest gripe the world has about the church is we do not practice what we preach. But when we involve in every aspect of church life those who do not fit easily, we preach the beauty of Jesus without saying a word.
This does not imply that involving EGRs in all we do is easy or without complication. But rather that the gospel is not easy or without complication.
Now some may be offended that I classified a group of people. Shouldn’t we all just be the same? Of course. But Jesus pointed out the healing of lepers and good news being preached to the outcasts and poor as signs of God’s kingdom being present. Our fervent desire should be for churches that look like the kingdom to which He was pointing. That cannot happen if EGRs remain on the fringe. But, when those that are hard to love move toward the center of our churches we are reminded that the beauty of the gospel is that it truly is for all. And we learn that ultimately, we all require some extra grace.