“Conversion of a Gang Member” was a part of the Conversion Series for the 11th annual Affirming the Faith Seminar held at the North MacArthur church of Christ (Oklahoma City, OK). The 2018 theme was Unfinished Business.
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The conversion to Christ by a gang member comes with its own challenges culturally, spiritually, socially, and developmentally. The stark contrast between the evils and perils of the world from the lives of long-time church-goers is often hard to quantify and hard to appreciate. We need a cooperative learning model that gives the church insight to enter and help their communities and provides a “training in righteousness” mentorship for the new covert.
The Lecture Presentation Slides
- Related reading: Jovan Payes, “Leaving a Street Gang for Christ,” Gospel Advocate (April 2015).
- “Lessons and Suggestions…”
- I was able, for the most part, to blend and weave “lessons and suggestions” throughout the lecture.
- Let me add a few Lessons
- Even when we do not understand “where” our new converts are coming from socially and culturally, we can love them and plug them into the culture of the church. What we do not understand about them should not hinder us from incorporating them.
- Shaming converts because they are urban, ethnic, or from a broken home will never do. The world no longer has the old “normal” standards or expectations. We need to be flexible with our expectations of what people know, how they think and relate, and where their pains exist – for not all scars are skin deep, some go to the soul. We do not need to add to their trauma. There are no “normal” people, there are only people.
- In our excitement to celebrate people’s conversions to Christ, we need to be careful not to tell their story without permission. Some people are not ready emotionally to talk about where they come from, or what they’ve done in their life. Learn to embrace their new life in Christ, without forcing them to dig out their skeletons and trauma. They will do that when it is right for them to glorify God in Jesus.
- Let me add a few Suggestions
- We -the church- need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. We are all in need of grace and forgiveness… that includes our elderly members as well. So, we need to take Paul’s words to heart: “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7 ESV).
- Develop a “adopt a new Convert” program, or adopt a new convert on your own. Sometimes we wait for churches to create programs that need to happen now. Don’t wait for approval to serve… just serve. If you need permission… I permit you to serve. :) : “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
- Remember the goal is to make disciples, but everyone starts at a different start line. Jesus’ words are clear, we are to not leave them to figure things out, but to develop them – give them moral and spiritual goals: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).