A Hotel for Saints or a Hospital for Sinners: Reaching the Radically Unchurched in America -- By: Alvin L. Reid

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: A Hotel for Saints or a Hospital for Sinners: Reaching the Radically Unchurched in America
Author: Alvin L. Reid

A Hotel for Saints or a Hospital for Sinners:
Reaching the Radically Unchurched in America

Alvin L. Reid

Assoociate Professor of Evangelism
Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

Radically changed aptly depicts the impact of the gospel on young Bill. His combination of wild hair, torn jeans, shoeless feet, and tie-dyed T-shirt manifests how recently He met Jesus Christ in a life-changing way. His appearance belies his unusual intelligence. One Sunday soon after his conversion, Bill determined to attend a local congregation for fellowship and nurture beyond his college Bible study. Across the street from the campus sat the college church, filled weekly with well-dressed and conservative members. The church earnestly desired to develop a ministry to the students, but so far failed to initiate such a ministry because of uncertainty about just how to go about it. One day Bill decided to go there.

Picture the scene as Bill enters. He has no shoes, clad in his jeans, T-shirt, and that wild hair. The service has already started, so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church has outgrown her worship center, so he cannot find a seat. By now people are looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Bill continues down the aisle, looking for a seat, but finding only perplexed gazes. When he realizes there are no seats, he simply squats down on the carpet After all, such a practice fits the college fellowship. The problem is that no one had ever done that at this church!

By now the people are increasingly nervous, and tension fills the air. About this time, the pastor notices a deacon rise from his seat and slowly make his way toward Bill. This particular deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, a three-piece suit, and a pocket watch. Known as a godly man, elegant, dignified, and courtly, he moves down the aisle, his gait accompanied by the tapping of his cane. As he walks toward this boy, everyone thinks, “You cannot blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?”

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. Silence reigns, except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes focus on him. You can hear a pin drop.

The people are thinking, “The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.”

Suddenly, they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he does not sit alone. E...

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