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