Summary: Do the most reviled of sinners feel welcome and loved in our churches?
“Prostitutes, Skater Kids, and All Other Manner of ‘Sinners’ Welcome!”
By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN www.graceumcsd.org
In their book Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live Will and Lisa Samson write:
“The suburbs seem particularly designed to avoid facing the bigger issues of life.
It almost feels as if these communities were designed to avoid interruption by anything unpleasant or uncomfortable.
Planned developments have ways of controlling who comes near.
And electronic garage door openers seal the deal…
…the burbs are safe, but they are safe at the price of keeping out questions of need, questions of poverty, questions of insufficiency.
In fact, they are designed to maintain an illusion of a particular life, the American dream, where no one is needy, where there is a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage (and a boat, and those tools we never use, and a riding lawn mower…).
Let’s face it—we don’t want to be bothered by those in need…
…whole industries exist to create pleasurable experiences that divert us from the real pain of life…”
In essence, we have become comfortably numb!
Let’s ask ourselves this question.
Would the most reviled of sinners feel welcome and loved in our churches?
Would drug addicts, prostitutes, those who have lived with multiple partners, those who have addiction problems, the homeless, the mentally ill, the depressed, the marginalized, those who have spent time in prison feel welcomed and loved unconditionally?
Would they know that we love them just the way they are…
…sins, warts and all—no matter what their lifestyles, no matter their appearance, no matter what is in their bank accounts….
…would they know we love them just the way they are?
And do we?
Do we really?
God loves us just the way we are.
For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…
…and Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him!
When folks come to our churches do they see in us the kindness and richness of God’s love and tolerance and patience and forgiveness?
Do they see Christ in you, in me?
When they see our churches, drive by them…
…do they think we are a bunch of hateful hypocrites or loving, inclusive, non-judgmental sinners—saved by grace—but in no means—stuck up or holier than Thou?
A friend of mine at another church has a really neat ministry going with skater kids.
You know who I’m talking about.
You see them around town.
They are the kids who dress a bit funny.
Their hair may be dyed a few different colors like orange, blue or green.
They are usually between the ages of 12 and maybe 16.
And they look troubled.
Anyhow, one day, a year or so ago my friend was driving in the Hixson—Soddy Daisy area, and he saw 6 or 8 skater kids riding their skateboards in a vacant parking lot.
He wanted to speak to them so he pulled into the parking lot and began to walk toward them…
…but when they saw him coming they took off fast!!!
You see, these children are so accustomed to being told to “get out of here” or “get off this property” by adults that they have come to expect this.
Anyhow, my friend saw where they went.
They had headed behind the Bi-Lo grocery store building across the street.
So, he drives over there…
…gets out of his car…
…and walks back behind the store building.
The kids were staring at him, preparing to bolt the minute he gave them indication that he was going be a threat.
But, instead he called out, “Hey guys. I want to talk to you. My name is Terry Davis. I go to Covenant Church up the road and I’d like to invite you to come skate in our parking lot!”
The kids were dumb-founded!
“Are you serious?”
You see, Terry knew that these kids who love to ride their skateboards have very few options—very few places to skate.
No one wants them.
So Terry and some other folks built a skate-park with professional skate ramps and all kinds of stuff in the church parking lot for the kids.
And the kids come there in the droves.
Terry tells me that most of these kids have virtually no parental supervision or love.
Many of them have one parent in prison and another parent strung-out on dope.
The kids often tell stories and lie about their lives because they are ashamed and insecure.
Before being invited to Terry’s church, many of them thought of Jesus only as a curse word!!!
Not too long ago, the Church I pastor, Grace United Methodist Church hosted a Christian Hard Rock or Heavy Metal Concert and we had a blast!!!