Yesterday, I shared that my family moved to Oklahoma when I was a teenager and how, even though the transition was tough, the Lord set me up for some great things in that season. In fact, one of the biggest blessings I found was a vital youth group. As a ministry of Church on the Move, it was one of the largest in the country and had well over 2,000 young people in attendance each week. They had their own building half a mile from the main church campus, and from the minute I walked in, I felt welcome. It was a high schooler’s paradise, and as I looked around, I saw industrial cages with guys playing three half-court basketball games, a DJ up top spinning Christian rap tunes, an arcade, a pool table, and even free pizza. I don’t know what I liked the best, but I know that whoever put this place together went out of their way to make sure that teenagers were at home. After attending for a while, I became an altar counselor, and I found that being committed to serving kept me consistently involved. Though I had become a Christian not too long before arriving, being folded in by this group strengthened my faith and solidified my spiritual identity. Looking back today, it’s clear that had I not been as welcome there, I might have sought belonging somewhere else. Gangs, drug addicts, and rebels don’t require you to meet a standard before acceptance, and neither should the church. Because I found safety in God’s House, I was sheltered from destructive influences and my life was changed forever.
My friend, welcome others before requiring them to prove their worthiness. Knowing that the worst parts of society will readily accept people where they’re at, resolve to make Christ’s Church equally as hospitable. If you’re involved in a local congregation, influence the culture there by embracing those from every walk of life with the understanding that if they belong, they’re ultimately much more inclined to believe!