I recently received an email from a parent of a 7th grade girl in our student ministry. "Bucky," she wrote, "I just wanted to let you know about a situation I'm sure you're unaware of. My daughter came home tonight from the U [our Wed night program] and said that the boys behind her were talking about drugs. I thought the older students were supposed to set the example for the younger kids. I knew immediately that you must not know about it, so I thought I would email so you can deal with it."
I have to admit that over the years I've gotten several emails like this. Parents are always a little taken aback to find out that not only do I invite students who are using drugs to come to our church, but I encourage our student leaders to do the same
Sometimes after explaining that I do that because I believe the Gospel is powerful enough to break addictions, they understand my position.
But, there are still others who do not.
I'm afraid too many of our churches and student ministries are like whitewashed tombs.
We're so concerned with making sure that the outside looks clean and perfect, and that no one seems to be struggling with anything or involved in any sinful behavior, that we absolutely ignore the mission Christ has given His Church: to seek and save the lost. Here's a pretty radical reminder for us: lost people act lost.If we hope to have any impact on this generation for the cause of Christ, we need to look them in the eyes to tell them there is ONE who has paid the price they're desperately trying to pay themselves.
We can't look lost people in the eye when we keep them at arm's length.
Below is my response to that mom.
Thanks for the email [mom's name]. I'm glad [student] enjoyed last night. While that must have been frustrating for her, this is a perfect opportunity for her to learn a great truth. We encourage our students to bring as many of their lost friends as possible to come and be exposed to Christ and to Christians. We LOVE to see tons of kids that are searching for truth and may still be on that journey even after they leave us. At the same time, we can't expect lost kids to act like saved kids. Many of them have never been in church before and have no concept of appropriate behavior. Hopefully the longer they're with us, the more they "catch" that, but it doesn't happen overnight.
The great lesson we can help your daughter see is that just as Jesus hung out with the outcasts of society and those that the established church at the time would have deemed "bad examples," we have to seek them out and lead them by our example and God's Word to Christ. Your daughter may be the very example an older student needs to see! What a perfect opportunity to help your daughter's heart look more like the heart of Christ! Thanks for your investment in your daughter and in our church and student ministry. It's rare, but so good to see parents investing their lives as you are. Anything for His Glory, Bucky
Maybe I'm wrong. I pray the Lord will convict me of it if I am. But when I read Scripture, the safe, clean, sterile situations were not the ones Christ sought out. It's time the Church took some hefty risks for the sake of the Gospel and the hearts of the lost who desperately need to know the way home.