True Sense
Off the Wall, December 17,

It behooves me to write this column after recently having a discussion with Mildred Wanachurch from Norvelt. She was telling me how she wanted to join a church not far from her residence, and felt the Holy Spirit draw her to one of the congregations nearby.

There was only one problem. The people rebelled against her presence.

I know that feeling and that is why it is important to share with you my experiences and then compare them to hers so that all reading this story understands the true sense of what evangelization is all about.

Living in Ohio, I was well into my profession as a photojournalist for the Galion Inquirer newspaper in a community much the size of Latrobe. Not far from my place of employment was a small apartment complex. I rented one small tenement where I lived by myself.

Taking on such a position, I always found myself on the go. I would report in promptly at 8 a.m. only to find on my desk a list of assignments for the day. In addition, I had to be ready to jump when an emergency was broadcasted over the monitor in a way of a fire, accident or unusual occurrence that called for my creativity to show an incident in a way that only pictures could explain, better than words.

One of the fellows, a pressman for the newspaper, also played in a rock band. I found myself hanging out with him and his group not only at rehearsals but also at clubs. There, I was introduced to a group of individuals who had a lifestyle all their own. Above all, they were all super talented guys who, in my opinion, were far ahead in their creativeness and abilities than any of the other bands of that time period.

Since I had worked for a time period for the Inquirer and hung with the youth, I became known somewhat in that city. It was during that time period that I was approached by one of the pastors of a church who invited me to a worship service at his church. For some reason, I felt somewhat excited. After all, I sensed possibly I could become a part of group where I could find additional friends.

When Sunday arrived, I rose a bit earlier in the morning, had a good breakfast, and departed in somewhat of a good mood, may I add. For some reason, I was really looking forward to this change of venue.

I decided to walk to the building, as it was a short distance from the complex. Upon climbing the stairs and entering the doors, I found a pew and sat down. Sitting there for a few moments, I looked around to see if I could find anyone I possibly knew. It didn’t take long to realize members sneering at me, giving me evil stares and uncomfortable feelings. I definitely didn’t feel welcome there. As a result, I never returned.

Mildred stated that upon entering a church in her town, there was no outreach of Christian love, no welcome by members or feeling if anyone cared if she joined this community or not. She even said she talked to the pastor and he barred her from going ahead with preparatory training that was required if she was an outsider joining the church. And third, members treated her rudely, not at all typical of what it means to be truly Christians.

Yes, she and I definitely had similar experiences, hers being worse.

What’s it mean to be a true Christian, representative of the body of Christ? The answer, someone who walks, talks and acts as closely as he can, reflecting the same behavior as our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our Lord was put on this earth to exemplify God’s unconditional love. If we call ourselves Christians, then, we must act in such a way as to mirror that emotion.

And even though I, as well, am guilty of having short-sidedness at times, may it be known, I will always respect others despite their denominational and religious affiliations.

Evangelization is all about bringing people into the kingdom, not rebelling against them in various ways that will drive them away. Every Christian in all 150,000 denominations must be loving. Once they take upon themselves to be otherwise, they can only call themselves Christian by label only, and not followers.

With the celebration of Christmas approaching, let’s be ever mindful why God gifted us with His Son.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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