Today I had a conversation with Daniel I. Weaver. Among different things we talked about the impact of our writing. Think about it. How many people would be okay with reading horror, but may never have darkened the doors of a church. How many would be willing to sit down and read a fantasy or science fiction novel with the Guild's stamp of approval, but never pick up a Bible.
We have a media that can reach people in a whole new way. There are people out there that would never be affected by the outreaches of a local church. Cynthia said herself that she's had an easier time getting Light at the Edge of Darkness in secular bookstores then in Christian bookstores. Even Sue Dent Blogged "Never Ceese - officially in a Christian Bookstore?" Almost as if it was a surprise.
Even if we aren't accepted in every Christian circle, I'm glad to be writing what I write. I'm glad to be a part of a great group of people that are going outside of the box to reach souls for the cause of Christ. I love to see new ways of outreach, and when I read the follow post I thought of the guild. And I just had to share this with you guys.
UpStream Ministries - Tattoo Artists
I don't normally swoop in and talk to young people I don't know. Swooping makes them nervous. But while I was in West Virginia last week, I had one afternoon to learn what a local church could do to reach the young people of the community. So I swooped into several places, just to see if the young folks in the community were different than anywhere else in the US.
My first swoop came as I was driving toward the Super Walmart in Cross Lanes WV. I saw 4 young folks smoking outside the newly-opened tattoo parlor, Bloodlyne Studio. Business was slow. Tall pasty-whiteman shows up with a notebook in his hand. They got nervous.
Ben talked little and kept his distance. His hair that was not black was dyed red- Koolaid red- and his silence made him seem more menacing. Once he learned that I was talking about church stuff, he went inside. I wanted to press him. I like quiet people. They have the best stories. But he was clearly not happy with my swooping.
The others relaxed once they knew I was not selling anything and were happy to talk. Tim, raised Morman, complained that he had had religion "crammed down his throat" all his life. He claimed that every little old lady doing street evangelism targeted him as a the most-likely candidate. He said he hated being "preached at." I suppose that he tried to shock me by saying that the only church he would attend was one that looked like a strip club and bar combined.
I laughed and countered politely that perhaps what he hoped for was church that engaged his senses (appropriately, of course) and felt like a celebration with good friends. He agreed, but said "it would have to have a live band." Ashley with close-cropped hair and bright eyes said she'd been to a church that had a live band.
"They had drums and guitars and a bassright up there on the stage." She had liked that church, but it was out in the country past several small towns I did not recognize. I said lots of churches have live bands now. They were surprised. Andy piped up at this point and he told the story of being invited to a church cookout by a pastor. He arrived with a friend at the pool hosting the cookout and was told by members of the church to go away.He tried to explain that he had been invited by the pastor. They did not believe him and told him and his friend to leave. Andy did.
"I wanted to meet people. They didn't want to meet me."And he has never been to a church since, except to hear his friend preach once or twice, but he doesn't feel safe at church. He feels judged and looked down on. He said that his problem with church was that they "exploited the negative behaviors of other people outside the church to their advantage...to make themelves feel better than other people."
A customer arrived, cigarettes were finished and break was over. We shook hands and they headed inside. After just a few minutes at the Bloodlyne Studio, it was clear that traditional church strategies will never reach Ashley, Tim and Andy. It will take something different. They believe in God, but they don't believe in church as they've experienced it. I wanted to start a coffee house or some small group to talk about tattoo art or anything that they would show up at just to get them engaged and talking and building relationship. I wanted to apologize to them all on behalf of the churches and Christians that had hurt them. I wanted to explain that they were not alone in their frustration with church as they knew it, but that new expressions of worship and Christian community are developing that they would love.
Swooping will not work with these kids. They need someone to stick. Someone who will show up regularly. Who will leave the safety of the church and love them well. Someone who will have them over for dinner,who will admire their artwork and not be shocked that they are sinners and in need of a Savior. Someone who will not judge them based on hair or tattoos or language, but linger with them long enough to see the cracks in their lives where Jesus can leak in.
They need something different. Something outside the safety of a church. I believe the Lost Genre Guild is that something. I believe that Light at the Edge of Darkness is that something. In fact, I believe the group that we need to reach the most are those that are standing at the edge of darkness, but haven't yet embraced the Light.
So let us shine our Light into the dark places that those before us haven't dared to venture.