Unhappy, Unloved and Out of Control
Unhappy, unloved and out of control read the front cover of the Time Magazine that year in the UK. It certainly seemed a good description for a lot of the young people we had come in contact with through our efforts to reach young people in the southern borough of London that we lived in.
There weren’t many young people in the church we attended, most of them would hang out in the local park getting drunk. We saw girls as young as 14 drinking vodka out of the bottle. A small team from the church joined us weekly to pray, asking God what we could do to share his love for them. We decided we should organize a party in a café next to the church and invite people. So we made some cool looking flyers and went to the high street to hand them out.
I came up to a group of “hoodies” - teens with hoods over their faces who like football, girls, drinking and beating each other up. I handed round the flyers and told them about the party. They took the flyers, ripped them up spat on them and started wailing abuse at me.
When we met with the team, I told them I didn’t think anyone would come. And I was right. That Saturday we sat in the café looking at each other wondering what to do. So we prayed. “God we don’t know how to reach these guys, so please bring them to our café so we can tell them about you.”
During the following week, I got a message from one of the church members saying kids in her school were all talking about a cool new café that had opened up and wondering if it was our café. To this day I don’t know how to explain what happened, but the following Saturday when we opened the café there were lines of people waiting to get in. Maybe a few trendsetters decided they were coming, and everyone else just followed, I don’t know.
The place was packed, the music was rocking, and I was worried. I thought to myself “when I gave them flyers they almost punched me, if I try speaking about Jesus here tonight they’ll kill me!” So I prayed “God I know I said we’d tell them about you, but I’m sure you understand the risks here and that it’s probably not appropriate to preach at them right?” Then I felt like God answered, “You asked me to fill the place, so now preach!” So I got up on a table and said in the nicest way possible “Hello everybody! Thank you for coming to our new café! We want you all to know that we love having you here! I also wanted to tell you that God cares about you. He loves you!” Of course, at this point, the abuse started. I decided to keep going “Right listen up, if anyone here would like to know more about that, I will be reading a Bible passage in a room upstairs. You can stay here and continue enjoying the party, or you can follow me upstairs.” At which point I bolted up the stairs and collapsed in a couch thinking to myself “Well I did what I could. I’ll wait here a while then head home with a clean conscience”.
To my shock and despair, people started coming up the stairs. They filled the chairs set out in the little room, and more kept coming, so they sat on the floor and soon the room was packed with others in the corridor peering their heads into the room. I thought to myself “what do these guys want from me? When I preach they yell at me, I give them a good opportunity to chill downstairs, but no, they want to mock me more!” But they seemed to be waiting expectantly, and then I remembered I’d said I would read something from the Bible. Now, to be honest, I have to say that I hadn’t prepared anything, as I was certain no one would want to come up the stairs! I mean, who wants to listen to someone reading the Bible?
So I improvised. I opened the passage where Jesus calms the storm and read. When I finished, I explained that the same Jesus who calmed a storm was alive and was in that room with us, and that he has the same power today. Amazingly they just listened. When I finished, the questions started coming. “But how can you really believe this?” “At school, we’re taught there is no God!” “My parents told me church is a bunch of lies!” So the others in our team and I started trying to answer their questions as best we could, and we gradually found that behind all that aggression they were honestly curious and seriously thirsty for truth. They had never had the chance of sitting and talking to someone about Jesus like this, and they were fascinated by it!
This became a weekly event. And every Saturday some of the guys who had been the most rowdy at the beginning were the ones coming up and asking “when is the bible study starting tonight?” They even brought notebooks with questions they had thought of at school during the week. I never forget this one guy, Sam. He had been one of the angry mob leaders on that first night, but soon he was a regular at the upstairs Bible study. One Saturday he came to me and said, “Mate something really weird happened to me this week.” “What’s up Sam?” “I had this urge to pray. So I did! And I feel like God listened! I feel like he accepted me as I am.”
Unhappy, or thirsty for truth? Unloved, or loved by God? Out of control, or just looking for a purpose? Brought up confused by relativism and secularism, bombarded by the materialistic entertainment industry, we’ve been sold an empty dream. But we have found that when people have the opportunity to meet the real Jesus, rather than slogans and superficial answers to questions they never asked, they are ready and willing to drop it all and follow him.