I recently read an account in Alvin Reid’s book “Radically Unchurched” that rattled me. Reid starts out his work talking of a young man named Bill and says that Bill’s tie-dyed shirt, his wild hair and his shoeless feet are all indications of his being a “recent” convert. I had to reread it a few times.
It reminded me of the time a YoungLife speaker came to my church with a clean-cut girl and stood behind the pulpit and told us that when she first came to YL she had pink hair and a lip piercing and wore wild clothes. He held her up like a polished trophy to get us all excited about how she had so obviously changed. It was as if he was saying, “Just look at her now! Look at what we’ve done.”
That type of stuff hurts my heart. Why do we look at externals and make judgements on the internals? I’ve known so many, lost, frozen-hearted people with nice haircuts, pretty clothes and well-manicured outter appearances.
I love Shannon. Shannon is an interesting child of God. She dares to put what He says into practice. She drops everything and heads off to serve the poor and oppressed. She sits barefooted on park benches and shares her lunch with homeless people. Her hair is crazy, her look is unique and her life is not wrapped up in material things. She looks a lot like the YoungLife girl probably used to look like. She is totally sold out to Christ and she finds little use for sitting in church week after week without putting her faith into practice.
The rest of Reid’s book is quite good. It challenges the church in numerous ways. But I hope we are not challenged to transform how people look while missing the core of what Jesus called us to when He called us to be reborn from above.
Shannon’s life shows me she has the heart of Christ. YoungLife girl? All I know about her is that she’s got a pretty haircut.*
* By the way … this is not an indictment on YL or its programs. In reality, the YL guy knew what it takes to get the suits to pull out their checkbooks. He did what works. This says more about the church of America than it does about YL.