My first encounter with the word repent was during college. A street preacher was pointing his finger at me and shouting it. He was very animated and angry. The world was also written on his sign surrounded by bright red flames.
Despite using the word a lot, the street preachers I saw never bothered to explain what repent actually meant. I was left to conclude that it was a terrible thing. I associated it with hell, sin, punishment, and extreme forms of fundamentalist Christianity—making it easy for me, and many other young people, to dismiss.
Now, many years later, I lead a church full of college students and young adults in their twenties, and they often respond very favorably when called to repent—which happens in one form or another almost every week.
Not long ago a 20-year-old student approached me after a worship gathering. He sat down on the floor of the storage room we use for prayer and said, "I just prayed for forgiveness and I wanted to tell you." It was his first time ...1