Outward Signs

One of my favorite places to shop is at the Goodwill store. Not only can I find things super cheap, but frequently I don't end up buying anything, but go home completely amused at the things I found there. Who knew how many different kinds of picture frames and ice cube trays and hair dryers there really are?

On the racks of clothing, I will usually find t-shirts with company logos-- everything from the casino down the road to the radio station to the country club and the grocery store. Many of them are part of uniforms for staff members.

One of the purposes of uniforms, although it's not always mentioned, is to mark the wearers as part of a community. The members of a staff are working together toward a goal that will bring a better life for its members, to idealize just a little bit. Uniforms, properly done, should carry with them a sense of pride for being part of the team.

In the same way, I think it's important for youth ministers to lead the way in using outward signs. We should be proudly wearing cross jewelry and W.W.J.D bracelets and shirts with Scripture on them. In training, I worked with a guy who had a Christian t-shirt for nearly every day of the year, and in his job (assistant to a bishop) he wore one every day. His reason for it was that he was not going to show by his appearance that he valued expensive clothing or a certain way to look, but instead would show his focus on faith.

The signs we take on need not to show our pride in individual faith, though. I think we've swung too far that direction. Instead, we need to show through those marks-- the jewelry, shirts, hats and bumper stickers-- that we are part of Christ's community. This carries with it a whole new responsibility. Right now, so many of our Christian symbols are sometimes just worn for fun. Before we put them on, we need to make sure we're advertising a connection to Jesus and his whole church, not just our own salvation.

The world has a great need for the message we carry in our lives, just as it always has. The signs we wear will give the world clues of who to ask for directions, and remind us when the believers see them on each other that we are not alone in this work.

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