Recently I went out to eat at a local restaurant by myself. I used the time alone to refine the vision, mission and goals for WE, Inc. while I enjoyed my favorite food – Mexican! I had a waitress in her early twenties who was very friendly and provided great service. She had jet-black colored hair, piercings in her chin and tongue, large gauged ear piercings, and multiple tattoos. Not wanting to stereotype I asked her if she went to church. She told me that she did not go to church anymore, but had in the past. She was very engaging and willingly told me her story.
She grew up in a family with a Jewish dad and a Methodist mother. She found the worship experience in both the temple and church to be stale and ritualistic and she felt that it offered nothing relevant or personal for her life as a young person. She had some friends that had invited her to a more dynamic, ‘evangelical’ church, but her experience was even worse there. She showed up to church wearing a music band shirt and was promptly told, “You can’t wear that in here!” Her response was predictable – she felt unwanted and judged and had no desire to return.
This waitress was now in her early twenties and classified herself as a Buddhist – not because she wholeheartedly embraced the religion – because it was a religion where you were accepted. I decided to ask her a probing follow-up question:
“If you could go to a Christian church that was authentic and real, where people hungered to know God personally, where you could be who you are without judgment, but where people loved you enough to help you genuinely grow in your faith – would you go to a church like that?”
Her response was immediate and questioning, “Absolutely! But where does a church like that exist?”
That is a sad commentary on the christian church today. Many of us hunger for the kind of authentic church I described, but we are failing to follow the example left by Jesus.
The interaction of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well is the perfect guide for us. The Samaritan woman had a ‘triple rejection bulls eye’ on her back. In the Jewish culture of the day Samaritans were considered ‘half-breeds,’ she was living with her current boyfriend after being married five times, and she was a low-life woman!
Despite all these ‘unacceptable’ traits Jesus asks HER for a drink of water and engages HER in conversation. Jesus takes the gospel to HER! He demonstrates love, treats her with respect, extends compassion, speaks truth with boldness, and invests quality time in her life by staying an extra two days to mentor her and other ‘low-life’ Samaritans in the gospel.
We would do well to follow the example that Jesus left for us. We all tend to lean more to one side of the spectrum or the other – to judge mercilessly without sharing the real gospel or wholeheartedly embrace without sharing the real gospel. Jesus demonstrated that we are to accept, love, embrace, and show compassion to people while still delivering the full gospel truth.
As we closed our conversation the waitress asked me more about what I do. I told her about the nonprofit I was starting, WE Inc., that wants to touch hearts, change lives, and impact culture for Jesus Christ by inspiring young people to live authentic, purposeful, integrated lives in Christ. Her response was telling, “Cool! I think people could get behind something like that! You know, my brother started going to a Christian church and I really have seen his life radically changed. He was really messed up before and he is a different person now. If I thought I could experience the same thing, well…” Her words drifted off as she went to run my credit card for the bill.
Yeah, there is a lot for us to learn from the tattooed and pierced young lady with the outgoing personality. It is the same lesson that we can learn from the Samaritan woman. When we present the authentic Jesus to people, they want to know more! That is what WE hopes to equip other young believers to do, and to do well!