Here’s an odd little story: Three teenagers break into South Hills Evangelical Church in Missoula, Mont., steal money and smash windows and computers causing several thousand dollars in damage. In response, the following Sunday’s sermon used the incident as an example to talk about mercy and forgiveness and the church gave the teens several hundred dollars worth of gifts, including an Xbox and a DVD player.
Church pastor Jason Reimer said the congregation wanted “to reach out and extend love and mercy to them”.
“A lot of us, whether we’re churchgoers or not, have been in their shoes before and have made some bad choices,” Mr Reimer said. “But God forgives us.”
Ah, love and mercy in the form of an Xbox. I love the idea and I love the gesture, but the practical side of me wonders what this accomplishes. Maybe this is one of those things where Christians are just supposed to act and let God sort it out, but I can’t help but wonder if teens across the country will see this as a good way to score an Xbox. I can see it now: “Stupid Christians, let’s trash their church and see if they turn the other cheek.”
If the teenagers escape a jail sentence, the church hopes the gifts will help keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
If the gadgets are not enough, the SHEC also offers a skateboard park, a centre for teenagers, a weight room and an addiction recovery service.
Let’s hope this section is just bad reporting–otherwise it sounds like actually ministering to the teens was the church’s last course of action.
A church responding to vandalism in such a mind-blowing way is cool. That’s faith in action (and consequently good marketing). But I think the specifics could use some help.