He was at it again. The crazy street-preacher simply couldn’t keep his mouth shut. “The fire of Hell will rain down on you! REPENT! REPENT!” he shouted. A few interested onlookers watched as his “message” continued, while I managed to squeeze myself through the throngs of people in the city square. Rush-hour it was, and on time as usual, was the man who couldn’t stop preaching.
What was it that drove him to proclaim so boldly what he thought to be truth? Christianity was one of those things that was difficult to understand; so many versions, so many rules that could either bend, snap, or vanquish altogether. Heck, from the conversations he had managed with a few of his “believing” friends, it sounded like they didn’t even know what they were talking about.
What were they talking about?
It stumped his mind for hours. The endless tweets and status-updates about righteous living, conferences every so often that they would come back from “on fire for the LORD” only to fizzle out a few days later to be found in their same old hypocritical habits. At least he stood for what he stood for; the 3 G’s; Girls, Guns, and Grub. The women he slept with, or attempted to anyways, the guns he shot, and the food he ate made up who he was, in his eyes.
From a young age, he had heard his Mom say, “you are what you eat, which was true for Alex, a doughy, full-bodied young lad, who just so happened to eat a lot of pizza and drink a lot of beer. His nickname was “The Tank” and everyone in the neighborhood would cheer him on at the local bar during chugging-contests, because the kid could PUT. IT. AWAY. Goodnight to anyone who tried to beat him at his favorite sport, drinking.
Walking home now, Alex came up to the spot on the hill where the local church was gathering for “First Fridays”, the Friday evening Bible Study where young Christians spent the first Friday of every month together reading Scripture and praying. But who on Earth went to church on Friday night? Didn’t they know that was for Sundays and the rest of the week was for living, especially Friday night!
Tonight was different, though, he had nowhere to be. No parties to attend, girls to seduce, or movie to watch in his ‘bachelor-pad’ apartment. And curiosity was getting the best of him.
Sitting down at a bench across the street from the church, he sat down to people-watch. Outside, looking in, he had the perfect vantage point.
One thing was certain, the girls were sure cute, for Christians. What does that even mean, he thought to himself, surprised at his own confused thinking. For Christians? Alright, they were attractive, period.
But what made them so special? What was it about the men within this church that kept them at least attempting to seek out purity and mentor relationships, or what did they call it–discipleship?
The service was obviously about to start, as the line of people entering was dwindling down and the doors were about to close. Contemplating his options for the evening, he realized it couldn’t hurt to at least check into this so-called, “community”, and to see what they were truly all about. Rising up from the bench and taking the few awkward steps across the street toward the greeters, Alex made his way into the church…
What would Alex (a fictional-character, by the way) have been invited into if it had been your church? How welcoming are you to outsiders? It’s incredibly easy to become wrapped up in the communities we already have. Sometimes, an opportunity to reach out to an outsider is at hand, and we just have absolutely no idea. I sure hope that Alex would not have been ignored, no matter how many questions, or how much “baggage” he may have brought into the situation. Because let’s be honest, you were Alex at one point, in your own way, and so was I.
In the same light, what if the story goes differently, as it often does, and Alex decides to continue onward in life without ever visiting a church? What are you, The Church, doing to reach out to him, meet him where he’s at, and let him know that he is undoubtedly loved, despite [insert everything here]…?
Consider this a simple reminder for you, for me, for everyone to continually seek out way to be others-oriented in the way we “do ministry”. Dealing with personal struggles is certainly important, but please do not forget the outsider, the foreigner, the stranger. One day it was you and one day it may very well be you again. Be gracious, inviting, and loving hosts.