If we can’t offer words of hope at the right time and place, with power and passion, then let's not say them.
A few weeks back, I talked about the robust faith I discovered in my recent reading of the inspirational true story The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. Now that I have finished the book, I’d like to pull out one more concept: the art of being a Christian.
I must admit, it caught me a little off-guard to hear a Pentecostal preacher like Wilkerson talk about the art of faith. To me, art is a creative, disciplined, sustained effort and, at its best, mature and seasoned. Unfortunately, my own misguided bias tripped me up, as I sometimes think of Pentecostals as not really all that.
Wilkerson gave me pause. He made me stop and better consider what he meant by the art of being a Christian. Let me offer one brief example about what this means by again drawing on his inspiring book.
In the early days of his ministry to underprivileged youth in New York in the 1960s, Wilkerson recruited college students to help work with the kids. He challenged them not to be too quick to proselytize. He asked them to exercise sensitivity and not think that street kids could make a decision for a better life without first being shown love and compassion in the midst of their anger and struggle.
Wilkerson instead encouraged his recruits to only share their faith and the ideas of redemption and salvation in moments when they could truly mean what they say and be understood. Don’t take it lightly, he advised. If you can’t offer words of hope at the right time and place, with power and passion, then don’t say them.
The challenge, of course, is to step out and offer words of hope, and say it like we mean it—both to ourselves and others. This is every bit an art, a creative, disciplined, sustained effort that can mature and season.
Leave it to a Pentecostal preacher to teach me that.