I Once Was Lost. . . (Part 2 in Getting to know our church members)
Dylan is the youth minister at Main Street. He has a heart for youth - especially for those who don't yet know Christ or what it means to follow God.
I Once Was Lost. . .
Sometimes if I sit still I can vividly remember my home church. I can remember the feeling of the rough cushioned pews that matched the carpet. I can taste the half-burnt coffee in those tiny styrofoam cups. Sometimes if I think hard enough I can still smell the pages of the old “Heavenly Highway Hymns” book. I remember looking at the color patterns that would gleam across the church because of the multi-colored stained glass windows and be mesmerized by the windows patterns. “Turn your hymnals to page 426, Victory in Jesus”, is what the preacher remarked with a monotone voice. I knew when I had to stand up, I knew when to clap and I knew when to sit down. If the preacher man spoke, I didn’t. If the silver frisbee shaped offering plate made its way to me, I put the dollar mom gave to me before church in the plate. At the end of the service when the Pastor said, “heads bowed and eyes closed”, you did exactly that. All these things were taught to me over the years and now its second nature. Some of the things I learned in church I learned the hard way. Some of the things that I learned, I learned through time or discipline. Some things that I learned were obvious like, No playing air-soft in the church, no fighting or no drinking all the left over communion cups like its shots of alcohol. If you asked me to pen all the unwritten rules in church I could write for days. Some times in ministry though, I think we forget that’s what they are, unwritten rules. When something falls under the category of being unwritten it usually implies that it needs to be taught in some form or fashion. Most of the time we take these rules that we have created over the years and expect everyone and their grandmother to know them. When 90% of the time we forget to remind our selves that we were once lost and did not know these rules. Sometimes we shove aside Christ and stand next to these rules like we are justified by a list of works. I think we are overlooking the point and need to remind our selves that the law was set in place to show sin. No one can measure up to the law and that’s why Jesus came to set us free from it. Jesus came to die for the rule breakers.
A few weeks ago on a Wednesday night I was making my rounds at my church that I am serving as Youth Pastor at and was going through my standard routine. As I was going about my routine I ran into a new youth that I have never seen before. Automatically I could tell this particular youth came from a hard life. Tattoos covered his body, he reeked of cigarettes and his very first words to me were provocative. That night I got to play basketball with him and have him under my teaching. Over the course of the night I noticed many adults verbally discipline this particular youth and corrected his speech, wardrobe preferences and it usually always ended in the phrase, “This is God’s House!” The night went on and this particular youth got on his bike and left. The next week he arrived again, same clothes, same odor and same provocative greeting. After our game of basketball that night it was time to go into the fellowship hall and eat with the church. During that short time he got bombarded with adults and their matured disciplines. I could tell he was agitated because he started clinching his fists and then when putting up his plate he got corrected for his dress conduct. Loudly he remarked, “How am I supposed to know yall's rules if I have never been here before!” Turns out he has never been to church before. Those words have echoed in the back of my mind since and have convicted me rightfully. So I asked myself, "Why do we expect him or anyone for that matter to act like us if they are not?” Why do we expect lost people to act like saved people? Why do we hold people that are dead in their sin, to the expectation to someone who is alive and free from the law? Why do we ignore that we were once those people? Why do we expect people who have never been to church to follow our unwritten rules? Hear me out, I am not advocating that we do not have rules or disciplines and let people run with out restraint in our churches. I am simply saying that we need to remind our selves, we were once lost. I am urging for Christians to love the unlovable while discipling them to act like Christ not like our church. I am urging for Christians to open their arms and get dirty. In words of Levi Mcallister, “As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evangelism in terms such as outreach, which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm’s length away”. That is exactly what I am guilty of and that is what I see in the church today. Everyone wants to do something for the Kingdom of God until it requires us to open our hearts and get uncomfortable. Everyone wants change but no one ever wants to change themselves. I think it is easy for us to fall into complacency; even more so I think it is even easier to forget lost people are lost people. Lost people are not drowning in their sin, or not infected by their sin, they are dead. (Ephesians 2:1) Dead people need to be brought to life and then discipled. It has always been interesting to me how we try to disciple the dead and then bring them to life. Jesus Christ is not in the business of teaching us how to stack ourselves up to the weight of the law, because we will always crumble. Jesus called the Pharisees (the perfecters of the law) “white-washed tombs”, because on the outside they were perfect, but on the inside they were dead and rotting underneath. (Matthew 23:27-28)
So the last few weeks I have made it my mission to not necessarily try and make my ministry better, but simply love people like Jesus would. It is amazing how much changed once I simply loved people and stopped trying to change them. So here’s my challenge to anyone who is up for it. After you read this blog and go back into the world or back to your churches, just love someone. Actually sit down with someone and get know him or her instead of handing out favors or serving them. Take someone out to dinner and eat with them if they are starving. Sit next to the new person in church and invite them into your home for lunch. Next time someone asks for prayer, stop what you’re doing and pray on the spot. If a new person isn’t acting appropriately in your congregation, be their example not their disciplinary figure. If someone weeps, you weep with them and if someone laughs, laugh with them. If you hear of a congregant in the hospital go see them. If you notice a newly saved person is falling back into sin, cut something out of your day and mentor them. Simple acts of love echoe in eternity when they are done for the Kingdom of God. Creating Disciples for the cause of Christ is not about shoving people’s noses in the law and correcting their speech or the way they dress. Creating Disciples is about showing people Jesus, how to read his word and how to apply it to their lives. Let Christ do the transforming and let us teach them to act like Christ.