My wife and I were attending a church in California for a while and met a guy that always seemed to be in the background. During services, he sat in the back against the wall, as people entered the church, he stood off to the side out of the way, when people congregated in their little groups he stood patiently by and watched. For the sake of this story, we will call this guy, Ted.
Ted stood about five-ten and had long graying hair, a scraggily beard, tattoos, and a standoffish way about him. His face looked like a roadmap from years of sun exposure and when asked a question, he responded with short, concise answers. He could have been the poster boy for the Hell’s Angels!
One Sunday, I got to church early as I was going to help set up. I hate being late for anything so arrived about 30-minutes early. Ted pulled up on his three-wheeled homemade motorcycle and took off his colors (a leather vest with his motorcycle club logo). As he approached, I noticed he was pulling the keys to the building out of his pockets. It turns out; Ted was the church custodian and had been for over six years.
We talked for a while and I learned this was an easy going, easy to get along with guy who loves Jesus and his “colors” were for the motorcycle club, “Veteran’s for Christ.”
He seemed like someone Mary (my wife) and I would get along well with, so we invited him to dinner. After dinner, we relaxed and just talked and enjoyed our time together. What I heard blew me away.
Church was held in the gym of a Boy’s Club so had to be set up and torn down each week. For six years, Ted had faithfully arrived thirty minutes before anyone else and stayed after to put everything away. Some days, he had to do it all, himself! He said, “I showed up, set up, tore down, and nobody even knew I was a part of the church.” “In fact, this is the first time anyone has ever invited me to their home.”
Often, we don’t think about the people behind the scenes. We show up for church and everything is as it should be. We take in the message, free coffee and doughnuts, then head home or out to lunch. It certainly doesn’t hit us that, that “biker looking dude” has anything to do with OUR church.
Another story I ran across: Justin is a tattoo artist in Pennsylvania with his own studio, In The Blood (www.inthebloodtattoo.com). When asked, he says he no longer counts the number of tattoo’s he has, he measures by percentage now. He is at about 85-percent. Justin enjoys dirt bike riding and rock music. He is married to Danielle and has a little girl, Sadiefay. Would you expect to see someone like this in your church?
Justin says that as he is walking around town, Christians will come up to him, give him a tract, and tell him about Christ. Then they will ask if they can pray for him. “Of course, thank you,” he would reply. What he didn’t expect was that they wanted him to “meet” Jesus! It never occurred to them that Justin is a devout Christian who loves Jesus and shares that love through his tattoo studio. He also pointed out that the tract had a picture on the cover of a tattooed dude behind bars.
He feels let down every time this happens. His prayer continues to be, “God, show us what to do and who to help.”
One more story… There was a guy in his early 30’s who was homeless, didn’t have a good pair of shoes (sometimes had to go barefoot), had long uncut hair, and didn’t really ask for anything from anybody. He wasn’t very well liked in the communities in which he roamed, yet he wandered freely and dropped in to various places, as he felt moved.
Does this sound like someone you would invite to your church?
Here’s the problem: the Bible tells us not to judge others as we will be judged the same way. It also tells us that through our hospitality, we may be entertaining angels.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Did you know that there are churches out there that are devoted to certain groups? For instance, there are biker churches all over the country that teach the Bible and the love of Christ very well. There are places like Rising Son that support house churches and doing things that are not considered conventional by today’s standards. If they are not welcome in your church, God is happy to provide a place where He can meet with them.
Concerning the stories above: Ted, the first guy, continues to go to church and faithfully serve the way God has called him to serve – despite being ignored. Justin continues to operate his tattoo parlor and share the love of Christ with his wife, daughter, and patrons – regardless of how he is treated by well meaning Christians.
The third guy continues to provide forgiveness and everlasting life to those who ask and claim His promises. His name is Jesus!
Let’s re-evaluate how we look at people. My wife used to tell the kids, our skin is the peanut butter jar and our insides are the peanut butter. Our life is not what we show the world on the outside, it is what is on the inside that counts.
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When we quit judging by outward appearance, we become more like Jesus. Furthermore, instead of chasing believers out of church because of our bigotry, we could be welcoming in people who loves Jesus and may contribute to you growing even closer to God. Don’t underestimate what God can do and who He can do it through!