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Editor’s journey

What I learned from an unbeliever

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — A conversation with a stranger reminded me how some people outside the church view faith and religion. Well-spoken and in his mid-50s, he said he had tried attending a mainline church but found it “stiff and unfulfilling.” So he quit — taking with him the following impressions of God and the church.

• God is angry.

• The church spends a lot of time condemning people.

• You must conform to other Christians to be accepted.

• The offering is the most important part of the service.

• The sermons don’t apply to everyday life.

• The church is more interested in itself than in the community.

• Church services tend to be sad and somber.

• People attend church out of guilt and obligation.

I assured him that many churches do not fit this description. “There are thousands of congregations that reflect God’s love and compassion. They care about people and reach out to those in need.”

He threw me a surprised glance. “Where?” he asked.

“You can attend almost any Assemblies of God church and know that the people there are real,” I replied. “And there are other churches as well that offer what you’re looking for.”

He smiled, saying, “I’ll give one a try.”

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I wish I could have handed him a copy of this edition of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, because this magazine would have illustrated my point. This edition is filled with examples of generous and caring Assemblies of God people.

But this stranger reminded me that the world is weary of condemnation, distrusting of isolationists and disinterested in ritualistic religion. They want to be part of a loving spiritual family that responds to hurting people and worships a God who forgives the imperfections of His children.

May the Assemblies of God continue to be a church that extends the hand of hope to people in need and offers another chance to those who have struck out …because millions are secretly searching for a place they can proudly call their church home.

— Hal Donaldson

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