Writing on spiritual topics is challenging. It’s all too easy to become preachy. No one wants your will forced on them. It’s ok to take a position and stand for something and it’s ok to disagree. It’s not ok to put yourself above others. So with as much grace as I can muster, I try to avoid emotional charges and stick to the message. My strategy here has been to win people by exploring Biblical truth. I figure if I can help connect dots it may lead people to Christ. For the most part, I think I do a pretty good job on this blog, but my world outside of this blog is a much tougher environment.
I’ve started reading a book called Becoming A Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. I’m going to lead a class based on this book later this summer.
Here is what’s in the book:
Section 1: Why Become A Contagious Christian?
- Chapter 1: People Matter To God
- Chapter 2: The Rewards of Contagious Christianity
- Chapter 3: A Formula For Impacting Your World
Section 2: The Prerequisite of High Potency
- Chapter 4: The Attractiveness of Authenticity
- Chapter 5: The Pull of Compassion
- Chapter 6: The Strength of Sacrifice
Section 3: The Potential of Close Proximity
- Chapter 7: Strategic Opportunities in Relationships
- Chapter 8: Rubbing Shoulders With Irreligious People
- Chapter 9: Finding the Approach that Fits You
Section 4: The Power of Clear Communication
- Chapter 10: Starting Spiritual Conversations
- Chapter 11: Making the Message Clear
- Chapter 12: Breaking the Barriers to Belief
Section 5: The Payoff: Maximum Impact
- Chapter 13: Crossing the Line of Faith
- Chapter 14: Contagious Christians and Contagious Churches
- Chapter 15: Investing Your Life in People
I like where this book starts: People matter to God. Love is the basis of Christ. God loves us. His problem with sin is that it is harmful and leads to bad things, not that he wants to legislate and control us to death. Love frees. Sin enslaves. Evangelism is love in practice that seeks freedom from sin and death for those separated from Christ. It has nothing to do with conquest or stamps in your Bible. It is deeply offensive when practiced otherwise.
So… planning a class. I’m feeling more than a little convicted. In my relationships outside of this blog I’ve become pretty much become a neutered Christian. How did I get this way? I can think of two reasons.
- I dislike confrontation.
- I gave up.
I wonder how much these two reasons apply to the church in general.
I Dislike Confrontation
It’s really hard to discuss spiritual matters, even with people you mostly agree with. Just like politics, there’s a certain amount of your personal identity tied to your spiritual beliefs. It’s how you see the world and it’s very hard to change. We protect our identities.
In a spiritual discussion, I recognize that I cannot depend on my own omniscience. I know what I know about the Bible. Some things I know are solid. Some things are iffy. There’s plenty that I don’t even know even after studying it all these years. The best I can do is describe what I’ve verified and can remember. What I cannot do is argue every spiritual question like it’s my doctoral thesis. It’s hard to be put on the spot.
I’m also somewhat overwhelmed by the vast abyss of misinformation and unbelief in the world today. People believe in virtually nothing (even Christians) because every direction you look life is broken. Examples of beauty and faith are hard to find. It’s only when people can see the power of truth that it creates faith. Words are not enough. I feel feeble at demonstrating God’s power, as I struggle against my own sin and unbelief. I wish I could “perform some convincing tricks” that would help.
In the end, all I have is me. Once in awhile I’m impressive, but not often. I do know Christ is impressive. I just have no idea how to make other people see him in me given my limitations. I avoid stepping up for him because I don’t want the attention. I’m afraid of my own inadequacies. Brutal, but true.
I Gave Up
Jesus commanded his followers to go and preach the good news of salvation. I have tried that a dozen ways. In the end, I feel like Noah, who preached for a hundred years before the flood, yet no one was saved.
No one can come to God unless God calls them, but I have no idea whom he’s going to call. I don’t really understand the dichotomy between that necessity and my efforts to reach people. I just know from experience that even if I can argue the case for faith like a lawyer it makes no difference. I’ve seen people pray to receive Christ as savior because I made it seem like the only logical thing to do, but their hearts were not in it. It made no difference whatsoever. All I did was proselytize someone. There is no value to that kind of religion. The heart is everything.
How do you win hearts? Love and good works? That has some effect. People of all kinds do those things because they realize it is the right track. But what differentiates Christ from the imitators? How can people separate better from good? You can’t toss a rock without hitting a religious practice or belief. Everyone has them, even atheists. You could compare every single one until you grok the answer, but people don’t do that. They find a niche where they are comfortable and stay there.
The only thing I can say about Christ is that, unlike everything else, in him you find an genuine engaged relationship with God. It’s that thing which you’ve been looking for and always wanted, but maybe gave up on ever finding. For me, that is the gospel message in two sentences. But I can’t make anyone believe it.
A Heart Full of Neutrality
“All I know is that my gut says maybe.” – Neutral President, Futurama episode: Brannigan Begin Again
In the Futurama episode Brannigan Begin Again a running joke revolves around aliens from the Neutral Planet. Zapp Brannigan, Earth’s buffoon military leader, becomes obsessed with the idea that you can’t trust the neutral aliens because you don’t know where they stand. When he attacks them, the Neutral President, facing possible destruction, directs his underlings: “If I don’t survive, tell my wife, ‘Hello.'”
I know God does not want his people to be neutered. There is one does and he is not neutral either. I’m going to have to work hard to develop a sense of hope for the salvation of others and willingness to put myself on the line for them if I am to become a contagious Christian. It’s not about becoming louder or more obnoxious. It’s about leaning in to love people and believing the message myself that was given by Christ. There is hope or he wouldn’t have given us the command.