I’ve been pondering whether or not I should write about this next subject, mainly because I am still very much in process on it myself. But I am a verbal processor, and sometimes writing about it helps me figure things out as well, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I will tell you though, before you get too far in reading, that this might be a trigger for some of you. It certainly was for me, when we started talking about it in seminary.
Even reading those word triggers things deep down in me that make me want to run, screaming “NOOOOOOO!!!!”
So when I found I had to take a class on it for seminary, I naturally went in kicking and screaming, guard up and ready to take everything with a grain of salt.
Why? Because early in my walk, like many of you who grew up in the Evangelical church world, were taught about the Great Commission, and that Jesus wanted us to tell everyone about Him and make disciples. The problem with how it was taught, implemented, or maybe just how I heard it, is that it quickly became a program. A set of beliefs to get people to subscribe to. A plan. The subtle message with it was that if I wasn’t evangelizing and converting someone, I wasn’t a “good Christian” because I wasn’t doing what Jesus said to do.
**[Insert years of feeling like a failure because that model never felt right to me] **
Oh, don’t get me wrong….“friendship evangelism” became a thing, but it basically was then try to convert your friends. If they aren’t interested, stop spending time with them and go focus on someone who will listen.
I’m not saying that is what was taught, just … that’s what I interpreted (and frankly what was modeled for me). Which is why I went into class with a bad, very bad taste in my mouth. I’m not surprised to hear that others in class felt the same way. But little by little, God is undoing this picture in my head, and I am grateful.
We spend a lot of time talking about how much sharing the message of Jesus (aka evangelism) and helping people learn what it means to follow him (aka discipleship) have been separated, when they never should have been. How “doing church” has really taken us away from the core message of Jesus, which is to proclaim that God has come to fix the world. Heck, Jesus proclaimed the good news before he ever went to the cross. Have you ever though about that? The good news is that God pays attention to those that need hope and are rejected. He cares for those who need a doctor, not those who are doing well and already get the spiritual stuff. He elevates the ones society doesn’t pay attention to.
Please hear me – I am not saying church is bad, or that we should all jump ship. I know many churches do things well, and they are doing exactly what Jesus called them to do.
It just makes me wonder what it would be like if rather than just making sure people are “introduced” to or told about Jesus, we spent time just loving the kids or teens in your neighborhood, your roommates/housemates, your local barista or laundromat buddy or waiter/waitress that you see every week at your favorite place to eat. The bartender who listens to everyone’s problems and no one listens to theirs. Getting to know them. Actually caring about them because they are interesting people, made in the Image of God. No agenda. Living our lives following Jesus and his ways. Trusting that if they are thirsty, if they are seeking, if they have questions and your relationship with them has made it safe for them to investigate and ask questions about this Jesus you follow, this God you believe in…. they will.
That asking questions and investigating should be the first part, and that often happens only in the context of relationship. That it’s not just the pastor/chaplain’s job, or the elder/deacon’s job, or your Sunday School/CCE or home group leader’s job. In fact it’s not a job at all.
How have you found God’s truth in the world around you? Where have you seen His leadership in your work life? What has God set you free from? Where have you had someone lay their life down for you, to model the way God loves us? How have you experienced forgiveness? Mercy? Go and show that to others. Go and be and model that to and for others.
“What does the Lord require of you? To live justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with your God” — Micah 6:8
Friends, this plays out so many different ways in each of our stories. My way of walking this out is NEVER going to be exactly how you walk this out. But I’d challenge you to take a hard look at where you put your time and energy. Do you know anyone that isn’t in church? Do you actually hang out with them, get to know them, invest in them – even if they don’t care about Jesus? If not, why not?
We are here to love. We are here to show that God cares about folks, even if they don’t want to hear what He has to say.
The One we claim as Savior certainly did. Let’s follow him in that. I can’t think of a better way to share the good news. If at some point they decide Jesus is someone they want to follow, then show them how. Don’t give them religion. Talk to them about what it looks and feels like to trust, and pray. What it means to forgive and be forgiven.
What it means to live justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with God.