Bri Johns – Student Ministries Pastor
This will probably be one of the most embarrassing blog posts I ever write but I’m ready to share this story. I became a Christ-follower in high school. Notice I didn’t say believer. I think I always believed and understood that there was a God who was in control of everything, but I didn’t “get it” until high school. Following Christ was pretty easy. I could make time for God, read my Bible, pray, serve, and love others. That was all great to me. You know what made following Christ really hard? Not knowing the tribal knowledge of a church.
Tribal knowledge (def.) –
Any information that is known within a tribe but often unknown outside of it.
It was the week of Halloween, October 1995 in Southern California. Our youth group was hosting an Alternative Halloween Party at the church. Have you ever been to one of these? It’s where Christians gather because they want to do something “alternative” to celebrating Halloween like the rest of America. Everyone has their opinions about this. I respect how each family feels. I actually loved dressing up and trick or treating as a kid and never associated it with the devil or darkness.
I was incredibly excited to see my friends from school at this party. This would be my first time going to a youth group event on Halloween. So I did what every teenage girl would do… I shopped for the best, most amazing costume I could possibly find – Sexy Satan. A red body suit with red tights, high heels, a tail, a glittery red mask, and a cute horns headband. I was set!
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What was she thinking?!? Well I wasn’t! I was a teenager and wanted to make a statement! And. I. Did.
My mom dropped me off in the parking lot. Fashionably late of course; I didn’t want to seem overeager. I could tell a lot of people were inside by the amount of cars I could see. I could hear the crowd roaring and the music playing. I was so excited! I walked up to the door with all of my confidence and sass, excited for how many compliments I would get because I looked hot! I opened the door…
And everybody turned around.
I swear the record player (if there was one) came to a screeching halt. Time stood still. (Insert Legally Blonde bunny costume clip here)
There was a look of shock in all of my peers’ eyes. People tried to hide that they were laughing. I turned white.
NO ONE WAS WEARING A COSTUME! I… was dressed up as SEXY SATAN!
I slammed the door and ran home. It was awful. I felt like an idiot. Don’t people dress up for Halloween??? Isn’t that what everyone does? I ran into my home and straight to my room in tears. My mom asked me a million times what was wrong and what happened.
“I’m never going back there again!” I told her. I was mortified and felt so incredibly alone.
The youth pastor called and told my mom that they all wanted me to come back. I felt so stupid. Ten minutes later, two girls from the youth group showed up at my doorstep. They came inside and told me it was not a big deal, that I should just throw on some jeans and come back.
This story has a good ending. And I do laugh as I tell it (I’m laughing again as I write this), now that I’m far enough away from the trauma.
I went back that night and learned a huge, painful lesson. Christians have a tribal knowledge that needs to be learned in order to survive church-going. Christ-following is easy. Church-going not-so-easy.
Entering into a church for the first time is scary and uncomfortable. I’m writing this blog because I have a huge heart for people who desperately want to be a part of us, but just don’t know how to fit in. I know we often come to church and have an amazing experience because our church is a wonderful place to be, but for the outsiders and the visitors…
- Do they get that our parking lot fills up 45 minutes before a holiday service begins?
- Do they know that we pretty much dress casual for services?
- Do they understand where and how to check their kids into our nursery and children’s programs? And do they know that this will definitely make them late to service even if they arrived to the parking lot on time?
- Do they know what to do when we participate in communion at the front of the stage or when we stand to sing? Where else in the world besides a sporting event with the Star-Spangled Banner or a Journey concert do you stand up with a bunch of strangers and sing out loud? I mean, really? And some people dance and raise their hands up.
- Do you know how much courage it takes to walk all the way down to the front of the stage to receive prayer for a private matter? And sometimes those prayer people want to “lay their hands on you.” Kinda weird!
My brother, who hasn’t attended church in probably 15 years came to one of our Easter services at Central. At the very end of the service one of the pastors got up and told the entire congregation to stand. Then he mentioned to the audience, “As we close, let’s all sing together an Easter song we all know and love.” Ryan turned to me with a lost look and said, “Here comes Peter Cottontail? What’s an Easter song we all know and love?” Kinda funny.
What we do is bizarre to outsiders. It’s something we’re used to because we’ve all been around long enough to iron out all of the kinks in our first awkward experiences. If you’ve never heard this before, Central’s motto is… “We exist for those who are not yet a part of us.” As we walk onto the church property each week, what does this mean for us as a church? How might we go out of our way to talk to someone or help someone with the “lost look?” I make it my personal mission to go after those deer-in-the-headlights people. I feel a connection to them. I still remember what it was like. I’ve been scarred for life! 🙂
Most people aren’t afraid of trying church, they’re afraid of how we will make them feel. You made it to where you finally get it. Congratulations! Now it’s time to go help someone else. DON’T LET SOMEONE SHOW UP AS SEXY SATAN! I’m telling you, she’ll thank you!
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (emphasis mine)