When I was in 8th grade, I started attending this “youth discipleship class” with some of my friends at the church on Tuesday nights.
We met in a classroom that was used during the day by the church’s private Christian school.
Three of my friends in the discipleship class were African-American. Their parents didn’t attend the church.
One night, we all arrived at the church a few minutes early. They were still finishing their dinner.
They were eating pork chops.
Before our class started (and before our Youth Pastor showed up), I noticed the pile of pork chop bones sitting there…
And mischievous inspiration struck (this is generally the type of inspiration I get).
I grabbed all the pork chop bones and put them in the Christian school teacher’s desk, all over, in random places and in various drawers – inside her planner, underneath a book, wedged inside her stapler…
The prank gave me a good laugh and I felt like a proper hooligan.
The next day, the Christian school teacher found the first pork chop bone. And then she found a few more. She was furious.
She had a meeting with the Associate Pastor.
The Associate Pastor called in the Youth Pastor.
The Associate Pastor told the Youth Pastor: “Those boys are no longer welcome here.”
He was talking about my three African-American friends.
Nobody knew that I was the culprit. He assumed it was my three African-American friends because they were the ones eating pork chops.
They were about to get kicked out of the church for something they didn’t do.
The thing is, I was responsible for many other (worse) pranks than that…
Like the time I put a big container of Goldfish crackers in the baptism tank an hour before the baptisms took place. Or the time some friends and I slid cars around in the gravel parking (on Easter ) that people couldn’t get into their cars to leave.
I’d actually been caught doing numerous hooligan antics at the church before.
But I was still welcome. Maybe because I was white. Or maybe because my parents attended and gave money to the church.
Well, the Youth Pastor couldn’t believe what he was hearing in that meeting.
He wasn’t willing to accept “Those boys are no longer welcome here.”
So he took a stand.
He told the Associate Pastor, “If they’re no longer welcome here, then I’m leaving too.”
Wow! Talk about guts. He risked his job for three boys who, as far as he knew, were guilty. He risked his job for three boys who had no one in the world to defend them.
I don’t know all that was said in that meeting but I do know that the Youth Pastor got lectured and threatened.
I also know that he got his way—my three friends didn’t get kicked out of the church.
They were still welcome, because of the Youth Pastor.
I’ll never forget the pork chop incident.
I will never forget what my Youth Pastor, Troy Jones, did for those boys. He sacrificed himself so that they would be welcome there.
It wasn’t until years (and years and years) later that Troy found out I was responsible for the pork chop incident.
I apologized. I still feel terrible that I got him in trouble and almost made him lose his job.
But I’m also thankful for the incident…
I’m thankful for Troy’s example in fighting to keep the church a place where people are welcome.
Jesus said in Matthew 18.5, “Whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me.”
The church was never meant to be an exclusive club—keeping insiders in and outsiders out.
The church is to be a hospital for sinners, a place where prodigals and proper hooligans are welcomed home with open arms.