July 23, 2008

"Holiness in the Hood" Offers Fun With Strings Attached

It was the title of the article in the Herald & Review (Illinois) that caught my attention: "'Holiness in the Hood' Draws Youth to Neighborhood Church Celebration." Holiness in the hood? It described a community outreach event conducted by the Love Fellowship Christian Church in Decatur. It sounds like a neat event that almost certainly provided some fun for area families. Up to a point, I think that churches are to be commended for providing this sort of event to the communities which support them.

The article describes the event as follows:
"Holiness in the Hood" spread out across the church parking lot, where a three-on-three basketball tournament was in progress; down the front steps, where a disc jockey blasted out rap music; and into the side yard, where hamburgers and hot dogs sizzled on a grill outside a huge tent erected to fend off sporadic rain.
Sounds fun to me, except of course for the worship services on either end of the event.
"This is a community event," said Jamey Wills, daughter of Overseer James Wills, Love Fellowship's pastor. "We want to provide a safe environment for young people that gives them something to do. It gets young people to come together in love and unity. We're just trying to touch a young person."
I'm all for providing safe environments to youth, although I think I can do without "trying to touch a young person." Seems like the Catholics have seen so much trouble for being unable to resist this urge that others would have learned to avoid it by now.

Seriously though, I applaud the church for organizing what sounds like a good time for families who might be in need of one. I think it is too bad that there have to be strings attached though. The whole "touch a young person" makes it clear that evangelism is the goal. It is too bad that providing young people with a safe and enjoyable experience isn't a sufficient goal in its own right.

But the question this raises for me is a little different. What I want to know is "What about the nonbelievers?" Do non-Christian families not desire fun? Are their children less deserving of safety? Could they attend such an event without being subjected to proselytizing?
Anyone needing a smile, encouragement or a kind word only had to drop in Saturday afternoon at Love Fellowship Christian Church.
Does "anyone" really refer to anyone, or is it limited to Christians? Perhaps I deserve criticism for being too damn cynical here. Can't the church simply be trying to do something positive for their community without conversion being a part of it?
"What we hope to do is bridge between the church and the community," Jamerson said. "We want to re-establish the church as the community. The majority of people around this neighborhood don't attend any church. Events like this show people we can have a good relationship with Christ regardless of race. We can make our cities better places to live in."
I guess not. Not when events such as this are designed to "get you ready for Jesus." Oh well.