Do we really want them?
SPRINGFIELD, MO. — Every church wants the honor roll student who wears a dress to church and sings in the choir. Every church wants the well-mannered teenager who dons a suit and totes his Bible. But what about America’s wayward youth — do we really want them? Are they welcome in our sanctuaries despite their tattoos, street attire and sinful ways?
Too many young people have exited churches — never to return — simply because they felt the sting of a Christian’s frown or biting word.
Except for religious hypocrites, Jesus didn’t rebuff sinners. He befriended them and showed them a better way. Conversely, today some presume it’s their duty to ensure sinners are “clean” before ushering them to a pew.
Whatever happened to “Just as I am”? The storefront churches of our Pentecostal forefathers attracted the destitute and dying. They were sinner-friendly and sinner-transforming churches. When town drunks or troubled teenagers wandered in, they were treated as honored guests drawn there by the Holy Spirit. There were no dress codes painted on the door. Instead, the church signs read “Come as you are.”
Our Pentecostal forefathers believed in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives; they believed holiness was an outgrowth of the Spirit’s touch. And, as followers of Jesus Christ, their duty was to demonstrate Christlike love and acceptance and to model holiness.
When unbelievers walked through their doors, they were confident the Holy Spirit would convict, save and change their hearts.
Today’s young people possess that same confidence in the power of the Spirit. They know if they can get their friends into church that the Spirit will begin the cleansing process. But they do not want their friends met at the door with man-made restrictions or prejudice. They want their friends treated with dignity and affection — regardless of their appearance. Much is at stake, for how they are treated may determine whether they visit church again … and receive Christ.
In the next decade millions of desperate teenagers will cross the threshold of our churches. They will be brought there by Spirit-led young people. May they find churches that offer acceptance, friendship and a new way of life.
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