This weekend has been filled with wonderful learning opportunities. We had our Great Commission Conference at church - which was basically a conference about how to do evangelism. I think sometimes we look at the word evangelism and get scared or immediately think of it in a negative context. We weren't talking about going and harrassing people on the street! Rather, we talked a lot about how to welcome and accept people as they are and how to love well.
Our speaker was Jerram Barrs, one of Josh's professors from Covenant Theological Seminary. He has always impressed us with his teaching and his tremendous love for others. He spent the weekend teaching at OGC and sharing with us and other individuals about how and why we should be reaching out to the community.
One of the major topics that kept coming up is that of how to socialize with, accept and love those around us without getting sucked into their way of life. Specifically when raising children. How do you raise children to show mercy and love to unbelievers and especially to those who are from very broken families while still protecting them from some of the negative influences they will encounter? And here was Jerram's answer: You can't protect them. Instead, trust God to do that. Teach your children at home to love what is right and true. They won't long for the brokenness around them when they see the beauty of the gospel being lived out at home. And, in fact, it is very likely that your house will become somewhat of a haven for your children's friends who are from broken situations. They will long to be at your house and to experience the family life that you have in Christ.
So, that makes me think ... Am I letting my kids get out there and really meet others? Or am I sheltering them in the hopes that I can instill as much good in them as possible before sending them out? I don't believe that we overly shelter our kids, but I'm sure that they could be exposed to many more types of people. Evansville is not very culturally diverse and so as parents we need to be thinking about how to expose our children to more than just middle class whites from small town America. There is so much richness in experiencing and learning from other cultures and other walks of life.
On the adult side of things we need to be looking at our churches. Do we have a church that welcomes anyone who comes through the doors? Nomatter what they look like, how many tattoos or piercings they have, nomatter what clothes they wear or how they smell. If we are not welcoming to all people, then how can we really call ourselves Christ's church? Jesus came to heal sinners. That would mean all of us! Even though I may be uncomfortable around some who walk into church on Sunday morning, I HAVE to put that aside and seek to build a relationship with them that may eventually open doors for them to know God. No one is beyond His reach and so no one should be beyond ours. It sure does make you think about what your body language and facial expressions may be saying to the visitor who has finally mustered the courage to come to church for the first time.
Jesus said, "Go into all the world ...". The real question then is whether I believe that means going even to the unloveable in my own town. I believe it does. Do you?