“Pierced to the Heart”
Empowering today’s youth
by Captain Carla LaFayette –
I sat there, observing the crowd to see if my well-planned youth councils was working wonders in the lives of the kids who came. It was your basic denominational teen camp, with all of the evangelistic operatives for the unsaved, along with food for the saved. Little did I know, I was the one who was going to be changed.
Steven caught my eye. You could tell just by looking at him that he was one of the “alternative” kids. You know the type: body-pierced skateboarders and grunge dressers who listen to Gothic, Punk, Ska, SkaCore and RapCore. They wear their hair short, flat and dyed. They compare tattoos and their latest piercing additions.
Steven had a brow ring, some tattoos, and the bleached look. To be honest, not a bad-looking guy at all. Kinda cute, actually.
I first noticed that Steven was listening intently to the speaker, who was not quite relating to Steven and his world. Yet, Steven gave his full attention, piercings and all.
My second thought was: How can I fix you? What can I do to make you look like me and dress like me so I can help you integrate into the church world and possibly the ministry?
Just then, I was consumed with a bittersweet conviction. The bitter part was that I was slapped in the face–hard–with my own thoughts of disdain for this young man. I sat there as a revelation from somewhere flooded my brain with the novel idea that there is a place for this kid in the church! There’s a place for him in the ministry! That was the sweet part. Who was I to think I needed to make him like the rest of my own comfortable zone of “youth group” types, the kind of kids I was used to and who didn’t invoke stares from the establishment? When did I become my parents?
My mind went back to the day when, if you had long hair and an earring, don’t even think about applying for a staff position in the Army. Now, to have a middle-aged man with a pony tail and an earring on your ministry staff is tolerably cool. These kids have become the “hippies” of our day: despised, scorned and implicated as being too worldly for acceptance in the establishment. For me to judge them and not accept them because of their looks is not much different from being a racist. If their shell is what I see and condemn, I am prejudiced.
I have, for the most part, prided myself on being a progressive Salvation Army youth worker, in touch with this sub-culture; a critical thinker who always allies with young people. But this hit hard. Even after 15 years of officership and full-time youth ministry, I was ashamed and, at the same time, eager that I had something yet to learn about ministry in the ’90s.
Is piercing and tattooing wrong? I DON’T KNOW, to be brutally honest. I probably should research Scripture and come up with a rock-solid answer with all of the correct Christian euphemisms so I’m ready when “management” asks me. I do know that there was a day when “Christian rock” was considered “wrong,” even dubbed an oxymoron by the critics. Now, it’s probably the milder style of contemporary music and can be heard in many church services around the country.
I had to ask myself, “Am I being too tolerant?” Then I thought of the perfect model of grace and acceptance, Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law and tolerating actions that were quickly condemned and judged by the establishment, the lawkeepers. Now, I could be wrong, but I sense a “whatever it takes” method used by Jesus. He hung out with sinners, broke the law of the Sabbath, talked to Samaritans. Wow. What a rebel.
Granted, some of these alternative kids need to be fixed and rescued from the clutches of the evil one. But what I’m talking about here are those who have found salvation and are striving for holiness.
Steven, by the way, is one of the youth band worship leaders in his corps and is interested in becoming a student leader to learn better how to reach the fallen in his own generation.
Punkers, skate boarders, grunge rockers, ska kids–whatever you choose to call them–they’re here and they’re ours. Do we try to change them and make them more like us? Or do we reach them, equip them and empower them to reach their world?
I choose the alternative, and let them pierce my heart.