If I were to stand before your congregation and ask, “Do you believe in the Great Commission? Do you believe that all Christians are called to ‘make disciples?’” I am certain that majority of the congregation would say, “yes!” It’s a command that most of us in the church can agree on. Evangelism is important, right?
So, then, why do so many Christians act as bystanders?
We all know it’s important, we pray for it to happen, we want it, and many of us ache for it. We long for the Acts 2 stories; we long to see hundreds if not thousands of people turning their hearts to King Jesus.
The reality is, many of us are afraid (I am too at times) and some of us just aren’t sure exactly how share the most important story of all time (The story of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus, the gift of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, and the people of God). Since we don’t know how, we lean into a few (sometimes ineffective) “tactics.”
Two prominent methods/tactics:
- The Attractional Method: Let’s create a really great event with awesome music, fun things to do, great bands, good ambiance, good food, and hope people come. We invite them via postcards, social media, radio, and word of mouth. When the come, we hope they hear about Jesus and stay. If they don’t come, many times they lose contact with the Christian that invited them in the first place.
- In Your Face Evangelism: Go to an easy target location (a mall, a concert, park, somewhere with a lot of people) and approach people with questions like, “Has anyone ever told you about Jesus?” or “If you were to die tonight, do you think you’d go to heaven or hell?”
- Change your Lifestyle First: In this method, we point to the world’s lifestyle (prominent examples are: sexual sins, substance abuse, language). In this method we often post to social media what we think is “wrong with the world.” Here, we give the unchurched the impression that they have first have to deal with their “sins” and struggles before they are welcome to come into our world.
The overarching problem with all of these “tactics” is they rarely, if ever enter into the world of the non-Christian. Anything else requires hard work, it requires actually having a raw, genuine, messy, and authentic relationship with a non-Christian. Anything else requires us to step into the world of the non-Christian, to listen, to understand, to empathize, and to care. Sometimes us Christians give the world this devastating impression that in order to know Jesus they have to change their ways first and walk into our world before we take time to get to know their world.
Let me ask you this: How many non-Christian friends do you actually have? Or are you stuck in the “Christian Bubble?” <Side Note – We could dissect this term and call it terrible ecclesiology, but just hear me out for a moment.>
What exactly is the “Christian bubble?” It’s when Christians become so isolated, so siloed in their own worlds that they forget that there is a world of unbelievers around them. Those stuck in the “Christian bubble” have little to no interaction with unbelievers. Those in the “Christian bubble” talk only to Christian friends, get in a car purchased from a Christian car dealer, listen to Christian music only, eat lunch with Christian friends only, watch only Christian news, go to the yellow pages for Christian business only, speak Christian/churchy lingo that the rest of the world has no idea what it means, and I could go on.
So… You might be a “bubble Christian” if…
- You have little to no friends outside of the church. Maybe the only Christians you brush shoulders with are co-workers and people in the marketplace.
- Every weekend outing is with church friends.
- When you see “worldly activities,” you turn your head in disgust instead of seeking understanding.
- You only view the unchurched as a “project.”
- Your entire life has become so unrelatable to those outside the church:
- “I’ll pray for you” becomes our knee jerk response when talking to anyone (even when you don’t mean it).
- You don’t have a hobby.
- You see social media as a tool of the devil instead of seeing it as a tool to shine God’s light.
- The only people that sit at your dinner table are church folk.
- Every sentence you speak is full of church jargon… “PTL!” “Praying for you!” “Bless your Heart!”
- You don’t know any of your neighbors names or what they are interested in.
So why do so many of us Christians find comfort in the bubble? Is it that we assume we already know everything we need to know about the culture around us? Do we assume we know what our neighbors life situation is? The reality is, we do very little exegsis of the culture around us.
Sadly, Christians are known for what we “stand against” instead of loving God and loving our neighbors. Instead of being propelled by the Spirit to have a loving curiosity, we have a stubborn assuming. We assume that we know what people need, and as a result fail to be present in the lives around us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what are you afraid of?
I am reminded of Luke 5:27-31
27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?[a]”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.
The calling of Levi happens in Capernaum (a border town between Galilee and the Jordan) which meant there were a lot of tax collectors and a lot tax booths.
What do we know about tax collectors? We know that Jews disliked tax collectors; they were known to get rich by charging arbitrary amounts above the official duties; they represented the oppressive nature of the empire; they were pagan; and the were unclean in the eyes of the religious purists. And one of those tax collectors abandoned it all to follow Jesus. Then, Levi held a great banquet for Jesus and invited all of his friends.
This was a deliberate attempt by Levi to introduce Jesus and his circle to a particular sector of society with Jesus as the guest of honor.
The reaction? “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (5:30)
To those on the outside this was a formal breach of purity. No respectable religious teacher would mix socially with such people; sharing a meal was an important mark of social identification. Jesus’s meal with the “outcast” shows his interest in building a relationship with the lost over and against respectability.
Jesus wasn’t concerned about respectability. Over and over we see Jesus committed to building relationships with the outcasts and sinners; we see Jesus pursuing the lost, sitting at the table with the outcast, stepping into the world of the sinner, listening to the broken, and subversively loving the impure.
Is it time we leave our “tactics”, step out of our bubbles, and step into the world around us? Is it time to step out of our “bubbles” (by this I do not mean step out of the church) and enter into the world of our neighbors? Maybe then, and only then, would we see the Acts 2 movement that so many of us ache for.