Because you, too, are in Christ, you can know with absolute certainty that God has put you where he would be if he were you. He has put you there to impact the lives of the people he wants to touch in that place. . . . . . . . . . .Our time here is about being Jesus in our world. Jesus didn’t come to our planet on vacation; he came on assignment. Likewise, you and I have not been born into these last days accidentally. There’s divine strategy at work. We don’t just happen to be where we are, bumping into people whose worlds are falling apart. God placed us here on purpose.
I believe that we have reduced the gospel from a dynamic and beautiful symphony of God’s love for and in the world to a bare and strident monotone. We have taken this amazing good news from God, originally presented in high definition and Dolby stereo, and reduced it to a grainy, black-and-white, silent movie. In doing so, we have also stripped it of much of its power to change not only the human heart but the world. This is especially reflected in our limited view of evangelism. Jesus commanded His followers to take the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness to the ends of the earth. The dictate is the same today.
Christianity is a faith that was meant to spread – but not through coercion. God’s love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated. Our job is not to manipulate or induce others to agree with us or to leave their religion and embrace Christianity. Our change is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God’s love in tangible ways. When we are living out our faith with integrity and compassion in the world, God can use us to give others a glimpse of His love and character. It is God – not us – who works in the hearts of men and women to forgive and redeem. Coercion is not necessary or even particularly helpful. God is responsible for the harvest – but we must plant, water, and cultivate the seeds.
What if we decided that to the best of our ability, we would no longer live a hypocritical, halfhearted Christianity that results in unbelief and disappointment? What if we decided to not be lukewarm? What if we took all the energy we spend in doubt and frustration and used it to trust and believe? What if we went on a pursuit to actually answer our nagging questions instead of using them as excuses to avoid commitment? What if we chose to run toward God even when our disappointment with hypocrisy threatens to chase us away from him? What if we decided to actually live what we believe to the extent that people’s destinies are changed and Christ is more famous because of Christians and not in spite of them?
(from Honestly: Really Living What We Say We Believe)
The adventure of faith begins with faithfulness. Being faithful is taking responsibility for the good we know to do. It’s about treating even the small tasks before us as important and worth our best effort. Faithfulness is God’s kingdom pathway to greater opportunity, responsibility, and adventure. Jesus tells us that whoever is faithful in small things will be entrusted with more, which leads us to a significant truth – faithfulness is a response to calling. And all of us have been called by God to be faithful. Everyone who has chosen to follow Christ has also been called by God. All citizens of God’s kingdom have a calling. You may be waiting for a call from God, and you missed the fact that He has already called you. You were created to reflect His image and to fulfill His purpose. You are the living product of divine intentionality. You are not an accident. You were made on purpose, and because of that, you can know that you have a purpose.
In organic Christianity or this new reformation, the move of God will not simply be at the hand of a person, but all of God’s people. There will be key leaders, but their job is to equip the people to do the work of ministry (see Eph. 4: 11-12). It was God’s intent from the beginning for every believer to do the work of the Kingdom (see Mark 16: 17-18). In this new reformation, God’s people will have their identity in who they are in Christ. They will understand that when they became a new creation, God put within them, by grace, what was necessary to succeed for His Kingdom…..
If you want to put a damper on any spiritually enthusiastic conversation among Christians just bring up the topic of evangelism. Immediately, believers who just a few moments before were erudite and straight-to-the-point will start stammering and mumbling, hold their hands over their mouths, shift their weight back and forth from right foot to left, and suddenly become beset by fits of coughing and throat –clearing that leave them in a perspiring state of near paralysis.
Perhaps my description is a bit of a stretch, but not much. Whether talking about new, gung-ho believers or seasoned Christians, evangelism is not a popular topic. I mention all of this because I believe this ambivalence regarding evangelism has been a significant contributing factor in the decline of the church in the West. This is highly unfortunate as Christ commissioned us to go into all the world making disciples.
The issue of evangelism is on my mind these days, mostly as a result of a conversation I had last week with my friend Bradley. A committed follower of Christ, Bradley had been deeply involved in the New Age Movement before returning to the church a decade ago. For the past two years Bradley has been sensing a calling to begin evangelistic efforts aimed at the local New Age community, starting with a number of his old friends.
Well-intentioned, Bradley launched the ministry with great enthusiasm. He soon learned, however, that not only were many of his friends not interested in hearing about Christ, there was a good number who were openly hostile to any mention of the church and organized Christianity. It didn’t help matters that Bradley was less than tactful in his outreach efforts. Rather than engaging his friends in constructive dialogue, he opened by firing a shot across their bow, stating that they were all traveling down “the highway to hell.”
Rev. Maurice Fuller makes the following cogent point about the New Age Movement and how it fills a void left by mainstream Christianity:
One thing the New Age calls Christians to do is to enter fully into all the dimensions of our relationship with Christ. The New Age has arisen to take the territory abandoned by the mainstream Christianity. Because Christianity (even Charismatics) has neglected the intuitive and relational and has majored on the propositional and the analytical, a void has been left in the hearts of those who were seeking spiritual encounters. In the churches they met only doctrinal studies, so they sought for spiritual relationships within the occult and New Age teachings.
I have known scores of people like the ones described in the previous paragraph, genuine spiritual seekers who yearned for a direct, experiential spirituality. These were and are not bad people. On the contrary, they are the very sort of people who make the best and deepest disciples of the Master and they are the very sort of people He seeks with heavenly diligence. Unfortunately, these seekers did not find what they sought within the confines of the Christian church. Instead of a loving, growing, heart-felt relationship with Christ, they encountered dry, belief-centered doctrine and more often than not were taught that they could not trust their feelings, which for them, was the very agency God used to speak to them. Is it any wonder they left the church in droves?
In fact, our feelings, hunches, and intuition are all valid ways that the Father of Lights uses to guide and direct us. By becoming so immersed in “belief-centered” Christianity, with its emphasis on doctrine, reason, and order, the church in the West has inadvertently jettisoned its life-sustaining heart. When you get right down to it, the church we are familiar with in the West has more in common with the ideas of the Enlightenment and the worldview of ancient Greece than with the Hebraic tradition of Jesus and the first Christians. We need to keep this in mind as we develop methods of approaching the hordes of hungry spiritual seekers mentioned earlier, especially those of the New Age Movement.
Bradley made his first mistake by attacking the beliefs and practices of his old friends. By challenging them, he immediately put them on the defensive and any hope of getting his point across was lost.
…….the Christian religion continues to sing and preach and teach about Jesus, but in too many places (not all!) it has largely forgotten, misunderstood, or become distracted from Jesus’ secret message. When we drifted from understanding and living out his essential secret message of the kingdom, we became like flavorless salt or a blown-out light bulb – so boring that people just walked away. We may have talked about going to heaven after we die, but not about God’s will being done on earth before we die. We may have pressured people to be moral and good or correct and orthodox to avoid hell after death, but we didn’t inspire them with the possibility of becoming beautiful and fruitful to heal the earth in this life.