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FIRST-PERSON: Opening the doors to God’s family

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–The nearly full house watched in awe and celebration as the high school and college ministers of First Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., baptized 18 young people. Pastor Stephen Davis beamed with obvious pride as he observed the proceedings from his front row seat. Later that night, he joyously reflected that the winds of revival were sweeping across his community and that his whole church family, young and old, had made needed adjustments to open the door to God’s miracles.

For several years we have emphasized to teen listeners in churches that they bear a huge responsibility for the future of those among their peers who are seeking a group to which they can belong. The lifestyles of teenagers in our church groups should symbolize the satisfying fulfillment available to those who walk in the way of Christ. And this should entice others to walk in the better way.

However, if the door is not open and these searchers do not feel a welcome invitation to join with Christian young people, then they most likely will turn for their desired sense of belonging to those who espouse lifestyles that are rampant with immoral tastes, including the ever-dangerous world of drug abuse.

Pastor Davis explained that the youth ministries of his church were cutting across all cultural, economic and ethnic barriers in the community, opening the doors of the church family to all who would come.

For some of the young on the rolls of our churches, these Christ-like attitudes are fostered through Christian parents who understand the teachings of Jesus. In fact, many of these active in church youth organizations were first introduced to Jesus in their homes.

But other young people were not so fortunate. They grew up in single-parent homes, or in families where Satan prevailed rather than Jesus. They are the sons and daughters of criminals, drug addicts and those who make a mockery of marriage vows. Their parents have never been to church.

Even more than their Christian counterparts who grew up in Christian families, these young people need to find a true sense of belonging. What better place should be available to them than the family of God? And the representative of this family is the local Christian church! Are our doors open, like those in Russellville, or are they closed to those who are not like us, or who grew up in different circumstances? Christ has called us to show them a better way! Yes, all of them!

We visited a Florida church with a dynamic youth ministry recently, one that was a vital part of the church family. There were those young people who grew up in the families of the faithful, and who had largely abstained from the bitter fruits of drug abuse and other notable sins, and those from homes where Christ and the church were total strangers, unwelcome even on the best day. Some of these had begun life with pitiful lifestyles aggravated by a string of poor choices. But they had found hope and change in Christ, and that introduction had taken place in the vibrant youth group of this church — a group that had reached out to peers who ached for a good family.

Now these newly redeemed teens from unchristian family backgrounds have discovered that they not only share with their new family the opportunity to reach out to other unchurched young people, but they have another unique calling. These young people in this church are leading their lost parents and siblings to the same Lord who has saved them. All this was possible because this local church was in tune with the will of God.

We proclaim again that the answer to this world’s drug problem, and every other problem, is to be found in Jesus, and Jesus alone. We, the redeemed, represent Jesus. The lost world aches for us to reach out, to open the doors of our churches to those who are broken.
Ted G. Stone and Philip D. Barber share their ministry in church pulpits and through books and articles, such as this monthly column in Baptist Press. For further information or advice, contact them through Ted Stone Ministries, P.O. Box 1397, Durham, NC 27702, or call (919) 477-1581.

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  • Ted Stone & Philip Barber