It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were filling the church to its fullest capacity! As they entered, each were given a bulletin filled with announcements, topic of today’s sermon, what songs they would sing and who to pray for. At the end of the line stood an older man. His clothes were filthy and you could tell that he had not bathed in days. His face was covered in whiskers where he had not shaved for a very long time.
When he reached the usher, he removed his tattered old brown hat in
respect. His hair was a long, dirty, tangled mess. He had no shoes on his feet, and wore only soiled, black socks.
The usher put his fingers to his nose and glared at the old man and said, “Uh, I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid we can’t let you in. You will distract the congregation and we don’t allow anyone to disrupt our service. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave.”
The old man looked down at himself and with a puzzled look on his face, he placed his old brown hat back upon his head and turned to leave. He was sad as he loved to hear the choir sing praises to the Lord. He loved to watch the little children get up in front of the church to sing their little songs. He carried in his pocket a small worn out Bible and loved to see if the minister preached a passage from the Bible that the old man had underlined. He was respectful enough and didn’t want to cause any commotion, so he hung down his head and walked back down the steps of the big brick church.
He sat down on the brick wall near the edge of the church yard and strained to listen through closed doors and windows to the singing going on in the church. Oh how he wished he could be inside with all the others.
A few minutes had passed by when all of a sudden a younger man came up behind him and sat down near him. He asked the old man what he was doing. He answered, “I was going to go to church today, but they thought I was filthy and my clothes are old and worn, and they were afraid I would disrupt their service. Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is George.”
The two gentlemen shook hands and George couldn’t help but notice that this man had long hair like his. He wore a piece of cloth draped over his body tied with a royal purple sash. He had sandals upon his feet, now covered with dust and dirt.
The stranger reached out to touch George’s shoulder and said, “Hello, George, don’t feel bad because they won’t let you in. My name is Jesus, and I’ve been trying to get into this same church for years, and they won’t let me in either.” (author unknown)
Innumerable members of “society’s garbage” face rejection every day. But the most damaging of rejections is not in the hands of society. It rests in the hands of Christians. In a place where hope and love are the focus, you would expect to find a safe haven, a hospital to heal the spiritually wounded. But for those who dare to stand from among the crowd, a different reaction is received. These people search for hope, but find it withheld, and in the name of Jesus are shunned. These are the stories of those disenfranchised: The Thoughts of the Social Rubbish.
I’m going to do it. I’ve wanted to for a long time, and I think if I don’t, I will simply go mad. There is no question about it: tomorrow I am going to church.
People have told me for years that God is love. Well, if so, then I think I definitely need in on a little bit of that. And I have to believe in it. If some all-powerful God created everything, then it must mean that I matter to him, am I right? He wouldn’t create something he didn’t treasure.
I guess that it all boils down to the fact that this is my last hope. People don’t care about me. People don’t understand me. I envy those people who have a lot of friends and good parents and guys flocking around them. I’ve never had that.
Looking back, I don’t recall having a friend, unless you count the boy in kindergarten who always shared his crayons with me during art time. When I’m at school, everyone makes fun of me, shouting “Hey! It’s not Halloween, ya know!” Or worse yet, they stare. Its awkward to walk down the hall and have people stop their conversations and just gawk at you. No one even tried to get to know me.
My parents don’t like me. They have been sucked into the belief that kids in black are directly affiliated with Satan himself. That’s just a bunch of bull that the Halloween cartoons spout out. But that doesn’t matter to them. Mom still buys me white button-up dress shirts and pleads with me to take off my makeup. Dad still hasn’t talked to me since last month when he found my grade card.
As for guys, I think I’ll be without one of those for awhile. The guys around here can’t talk to me without breaking out in hives. I think they secretly believe I’m a vampire and I’ll try to transform them if they get within grabbing distance of me.
I’m not trying to complain. Really, I’m not. It’s just hard, you know? But I think this whole God thing might be different. Maybe Christians will treat me better than everyone else.
Church isn’t what I thought it would be.
Today I woke up at 7:30 in the morning, a most ungodly hour if there ever was one. I got dressed up; I figured since I was going to God’s house, I should probably look my best. I wouldn’t want to offend him. I wore my nicest crushed-velvet skirt and a leather vest over my bell-sleeved black lace shirt. I spent extra time on my hair and makeup; this was an important day.
Since my parents weren’t about to drive me anywhere, I decided to walk down to that little church by the park. It looked friendly, and it has really nice architecture. The church was six blocks from my house, and by the time I got there, my feet ached (imagine walking that far in big boots!).
I walked up the steps, my heart pounding in anticipation. This was going to be great. For once I was sure I had found the place where I would fit in, where people would love me. Time stopped as I walked in. The hum of conversation ceased, and all eyes landed on me. I smiled nervously and waved. They turned back to their conversations, murmuring nervously.
I walked into the sanctuary and slid into the pew next to a sandy-haired boy of about five years. He focused his large green eyes on me, completely mesmerized. He seemed to really like my claw ring; so I let him try it on. His mother yelped and clutched him close. She tore my ring from his finger and threw it back at me. She dragged him away, chastising, “I told you to never talk to strangers.”
I sat with my boots on the pew in front of me, anxious for the service to begin. Two gray-haired ladies walked by.
“Look at that!” gasped the short fat one just loud enough for me to overhear.
“What is a heathen like her doing in the house of the Lord?” the other demanded. She glared at me down her witch’s nose.
They whirled around and strutted away in a huff. The taller of the two marched straightway to a little old man in a black suit, carrying a polished maple walking stick in his hand and a wiry moustache on his face.
He looked at me through hollow eyes. Time stopped as he hobbled towards me. His knees bent slightly outward with each step. An eternity later, he stood before me, fidgeting with his cane.
“Miss, I think you’ve come to the wrong place.” He said sternly. “We are a church built on the principles of the Bible. I’m afraid you stand in defiance of our beliefs. I think you should leave.”
I grabbed my purse and slowly stood. I think he was scared that I would scream or fight or something. But I didn’t. I just slowly walked towards the door, my head held high. The door slammed behind me, and so closed my hope for the future.
Estranged from his past
I shouldn’t have cared when it happened. It wasn’t my church. It was my parents.’
I had been raised in this church. My mom and dad had been married here, and it was at this altar that I was dedicated as a baby. It was in this nursery that I said my first word, and it was in this Awana group that I invited Jesus into my life. But it wasn’t my church.
Everyone thought I was the cutest baby and the most adorable child. But all good feelings towards me disintegrated freshman year when I first dipped into the mascara.
That was when I noticed a change. Those women who played with me in preschool stopped telling me what a handsome young man I had become. As a matter of fact, they stopped talking to me at all. My old friends sat with me less and less and it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting alone.
Today seemed like any given Sunday. Seventeen and clad in black, I walked into the youth room. Conversations hushed to a low murmur; all eyes were on me, as they always were. I slid into my seat and waited for the class to begin.
When our youth pastor walked in, he flashed a disgusted glare my way. I had never seen such hatred and nausea combined in one human’s eyes.
He stood at the front of the room for several silent minutes. His eyes flashed. He preached the angriest, the most passionate, the most fire-and-brimstone-are-your-destination sermon ever—about proper church attire. When I looked at my handout, I noticed his intended sermon was how God delights in us.
It ended, and not too soon for me. But before I could make it out the door, he caught me.
“Josh! What is this?” He swept a hand through the air at me. “You’ve changed. You’re not the boy that grew up here.”
“Maybe I just found a style I like.” I shrugged.
“Well, God doesn’t like it.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “And I know your parents raised you better than that.”
“My parents raising me has nothing to do with my clothes. And what happened to ‘God made each of us unique’? I guess that only applies to us until we decide to be ourselves.”
I turned and walked away and didn’t stop walking until I was at my car. I sped down the highway, his eyes flashing their hatred into my mind.
“God, you know I love you.” I said aloud in my empty car. “But I really can’t stand your wife.”
I kept driving, not knowing where I was going, but knowing I was walking away from what they called church.
The Last Hope
The gun lay idle in my hands, it’s offer most tempting. I could almost hear it’s call, “I’ll take you to a place where you will hurt no more.”
A world without hurt and entered through death—a most enticing offer. I was one of those guys who gets all the tough breaks. I was quiet, which most mistook at shyness, so I had no friends. Although in school I had made excellent grades, the teachers treated me with utter disgust. At the ripe old age of eighteen life as I knew it came to an end. The day of the celebration of my birth, my parents disowned me, and I spent the night curled next to a trashcan in a dark alley.
A world without hurt.
“That’s what I want.” I thought and raised the gun slowly.
A box fell from it’s perch on my table. It’s contents spilled on the floor. I noticed the corner of a worn leather book peek from under scattered papers.
Kneeling, I picked up the book. The Holy Bible. It had been years since I had seen this. Memories flooded my mind—my grandma taking my hand and walking me into the church building, her other arm clutching this book to her chest. Grandma serving chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to me with frigid milk in my superman mug as she read me a story from this book. Grandma laying in a coffin, her face drained of life, and this book resting on a stand beside her body.
I flipped it open and saw an underlined sentence. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Maybe this was the answer I was looking for.
I peeked around the corner at the church entrance. Old women in brightly colored business suits and old men in black or navy suit jackets scurried from their cars, up the stairs, and into the building. I looked down at my clothing. My black lace shirt fell unbuttoned across my pale skin. Black jeans hugged my long legs and were tucked into black combat boots. Grandma had always said that God loves us as we were.
“Okay, you’d better give me your best,” I said to a God that I wasn’t sure existed.
I sauntered towards the entrance. The couples froze, their mouths agape. The women clung to their husband’s shirt sleeves. The men glanced at each other, their eyes sending messages.
I continued to walk, although somewhat unnerved. I walked straight up the aisle to the very front row. I wasn’t sure if I believed in signs, but just in case finding the Bible was one, I wanted to be close enough to hear what He wanted to say.
A man in a dark business suit and a stiff white button up and navy tie walked into the room. By the way the crowd’s murmur hushed, I could only assume it was the pastor. He looked at me through clouded eyes. The crowd was as silent as an open prairie before a storm rolls in.
“Young man,” He paused and glared down at me. “We have no room for people like you.”
“I just came here for some answers,” I said to him.“I think I just got them.”
I turned and walked back down the aisle. The congregation as a whole bored their collective eyes into me as I passed. I hear you loud and clear, I told God as I left His house.
I sat on my bed, sweat dripping off my nose. In my trembling hands lay the gun.
I exhaled, raised the gun to my head, and pulled the trigger.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So what now? You’ve heard the stories of those who have been injured emotionally and spiritually. You can’t close your eyes; this isn’t going to just go away.
Without a drastic change in the church, many more will lose hope. They will turn to sex, drugs or suicide to stop the hurt.
Through interviews with those outcasts of society and with the pastors who reach to them, I have compiled the top ten ways you can change lives.
First off, do not generalize them. This flaw of human nature is the means by which most are rejected from the church. Despite popular beliefs, not all punks are rebellious or anarchists. Not all Goths are involved in the occult.
As a matter of fact, these groups are composed of such diverse individuals that they will constantly defy your labels. They can be rich, poor, or middle class. There is no set religion in either group, but many of those in each are, in fact, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are musicians, painters, writers, and plumbers. They can be introverted or extroverted, loyal friends or social butterflies. To slap a label on them relinquishes the opportunity to learn of different lifestyles, and it will most certainly cause them to disregard your words.
KNOW THEM INDIVIDUALLY
This second tip is very potent. Every human wants to feel important. Societal Outcasts are no different. What better way is there to fulfill that need than to let them know you care enough about them to learn about their lives?
Ask them about their jobs. Find out their hobbies. What are their dreams? Do they draw or write? Ask to see their creations. Within each of these people is a story to be told, an interest to be undertaken, a lesson to be learned.
Dive into their lives. Not only will you learn infinitely more than you can imagine, but you will give them the sense of worth that the human soul craves.
DON’T TRY TO CHANGE THEM
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. No matter how sickly you think she looks with her pale skin and black makeup. No matter how much you hate his mohawk—do not try to change them.
They dress in a way they find beautiful or attractive, and you cannot determine beauty for them. Clothing is an expression of personal taste and does not reflect the spiritual state of the individual.
That is not to say that in no circumstance is change necessary. If the person is endangering him/herself or others, interference is necessary. Approach this with caution and genuine love.
But do not attempt to change those characteristics that set them apart from the pack. Within each human are God-given traits that no human has right to reform.
My fourth tip may very well be the most difficult of the ten. You must be open. Share your soul with them. Share your joys. Share your sorrows. Ask for help in an area of struggle.
When you so open yourself, you will earn their trust. They will feel more inclined to share with you their own joys, sorrows and struggles. Through this you will know where their heart is, their spiritual beliefs, and how best to cater to their specific needs. This goes back to tip number one. You cannot generalize ministry. Each person will react differently to the same method of ministry.
This is dangerous. It’s scary. You will bare your soul to someone who may spread gossip or laugh in your face. This is when you must decide for yourself—is their eternal soul worth that risk?
The key to this area of ministry is as John, a local who pours his soul into helping today’s youth find Christ, says: “Only when you are in danger can you really find life.” This is essential. Tape it to your desk; make it into a plaque—keep it in your mind at all times. Once you realize this, you will know if they are worth the risk.
DON’T PORTRAY GOD AS A DICTATOR
As a friend of mine once said—who wants to serve someone who says ‘Make me mad and I’ll punish you for eternity’? While God is a just God, far too many times He is portrayed as an inhumane beast that will consume your body with flames if you screw up. He is not shown as the God who delights in us, who dances over us.
No one wants to serve someone who doesn’t love. Do we not know infinite people who do not care about us? Why should we dedicate our lives to serving another? God is Love. This must be shown. It is the very difference that separates him from the scores of false gods. Without love, God is nothing more than Allah—a god who demands perfection for the chance of experiencing eternal life.
Do explain that God does punish sin, but do not preach fire and brimstone and a God who sees us as annoying flies buzzing in His ears. Paint a picture of a God who finds them beautiful, wonderful and worthy of the most extreme love.
What greater power is there than that of love? Nothing hurts the soul so much as the starvation from love. Those who are shunned from society hunger for love the most earnest of desires. Wherever they go, they are hated. The media portrays them as monsters. Teachers see them as nuisances. Their parents see them as a shame to the family. Their peers see them as freaks. They need someone to say, “I love you.”
The church is the only place they can find this. Christians are the only people on the face of existence who know Love intimately, and only we can share that Love. We can be love to them. We must shine so brightly that they feel love emanating from us as we enter a room. This is the only way they can find Christ’s love.
DON’T TRY TO BE HIP
“What?!” you ask. “Wouldn’t it help to be in with today’s fads?” The answer in short is this: a little. Sure, wearing your $80 sweaters from Abercrombie may attract teens. But only certain ones. You may succeed in attracting many that dress in the same way, but there are some pitfalls.
Besides the obvious strain on your credit card balance, there lies the risk of alienating those who do not adhere to that dress code. Your youth group may be filled to capacity with those who follow modern fads, but you will be severely lacking in those who do not.
The best idea is this: Be yourself. If that means wearing JNCOs and a T-shirt, or if it means a suit and tie, strive to be your true self. The important matter is not what clothes you wear. If you truly love those you are reaching out to, they will know it no matter what your dress code.
Nobody likes a fake, and this is one definite way to lose the trust of those you are trying to minister to.
Don’t preach something to them that you can’t or aren’t trying to live up to yourself. If you preach against a particular sin, and they find out you are actively participating in the aforementioned sin, they will not be prone to change. The best example you can give does not come from a book of examples and illustrations for speakers and pastors. It is you.
DON’T PREACH AT THEM
Nothing will turn a young person away more than being preached at. The allusion that you are preaching down at them will assuredly ensure your reputation as conceited and out of touch with reality.
Share with them. You can say everything you want to say to them, but approach it in a different manner. Rather than preach the dangers of sin, share your life story and how certain areas of sin caused a problem for you. If you will share with them, it will put them at ease. If you realize that you are not against them, but indeed striving with them, your message will be delivered differently. They will see that you want to help them, not that you want to be better than them. We’re all in this together, better is it to have another at your side then behind you.
SEE THEM AS AN ASSET, NOT A PROBLEM
My final point is this: Do not see them as a problem. See them as a blessing. Each of those souls is a power that is or can be used to further the body of Christ. Rather than draining your energy attempting to rid them of their personality, infuse that energy into furthering their gifts.
There is no limit to the blessings that will be disposed to you if you come alongside of the societal garbage and encourage their active participation in the ministry.
Within your hands is the knowledge and the power to work miracles in the lives of those rejected from society and many times from the church. Many are without hope. You know the only real hope; you possess it. Endow this hope to the societal undesirables.
In all interactions, remember one thing. You are the “little Christs” by name. How you treat others will reflect either positively or negatively on Christ’s own face. You are the visualization of Jesus to the world.
Welshire Ridge Publishers
3090 Township Road 182
Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311
Released November, 2004
Released as an ebook January 2005
2004 Cynthia Johnson
Feel free to distribute this e-book to friends, family or church members whom you think it could minister to. Just have them drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for record purposes.