Hangin’ with Others
If you have grown up in church, you know the church culture. You probably know most of the songs being sung, how to clap with the beat, when to stand up, and when to sit down. You are accustomed to the “unspoken” rules of the church. Maybe you can quote Acts 2:38 in your sleep, and it’s just common sense to understand the dress code of holiness regarding outward modesty.
And then suddenly, a family visits your church one Sunday—that kind of family. A blended family with five kids, the father is black, and the mother is white. They each have a child from previous relationships and then three kids together. Oh, and the mother and father aren’t married.
So they don’t look just like you or come from where you come from. You figure, that’s okay, you can work to adjust to that because Jesus did die on the cross to save EVERYONE, right? To make matters worse, they aren’t “church-cultured” so they don’t know all the unspoken rules about how to dress or behave in your church. They’re loud at the wrong times, and since you don’t identify with their background, you’re having difficulty conversing. So now awkwardness abounds, and you’re trying to figure out how to tolerate this.
What do we think when we read John 13:35? “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” If you’ve ever encountered instances like the one described above, the last thing on your mind is a scripture like John 13:35.
Let’s take a more secular look for a moment. Roger E. Hernandez, in his book Teens and Relationships, reports American teenagers display a wide range of attitudes toward people from different backgrounds. Some are more open and welcoming; some are less so. Some will embrace different cultures, while others shun people who look different, speak a different language, or hold to different traditions. Yet, studies show the United States is becoming increasingly diverse racially and ethnically in countless communities across the country. For example, Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia) has fourteen public schools with students from seventy different countries speaking about eight different languages.
Consider the following: the Gallup Youth Survey has found U.S. teenagers to be generally open-minded and tolerant when it comes to race or ethnicity. The Gallup Youth Survey also found boys are more likely than girls to be at ease with “different” people: 83% of boys and 73% of girls said they were comfortable with people holding different views, values, and beliefs. Surprisingly, the Gallup Youth Survey found that teens who regularly went to church or synagogue were less comfortable than teens who did not hold the same views, values, and beliefs. In fact, 70% of churchgoing teens said they felt comfortable, compared to 85% of non-churchgoing teens.
Please understand, as a parent I want my children guarded from wrong ways of thinking and spiritual beliefs. As a youth pastor, I wanted our students to keep their hearts and minds guarded from the wrong influences. However, I want my wife, my children, and our church family to be evangelistically minded in welcoming whomever God may send through our doors for the purpose of seeing His Spirit and truth change their lives.
Paul stated in Romans 1:14, “I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” Later in the same letter to the Romans, he instructed, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).
I’m challenging today’s generation of students this month to consider giving time to “hanging with others” for the purpose of doing what you can to draw them to the God you serve. You don’t have to be like them, look like them, or act like them to be welcomed by them. Your friends in your school or neighborhood, or that new family at church with kids in the youth group, are searching for something.
Simply be Apostolic to them and watch what God will do!
Chad Flowers is married to his best friend and teammate, Mendy. He’s a daddy to two incredible little girls, Jadyn & Keira, and he lives in Mesquite, Texas where he has a private practice as a licensed professional counselor and serves as pastor of Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.