Last week I was driving home from the office and passed by a number of church signs that left me feeling unsettled. At best, these signs grossly miscommunicated the message of the gospel of Jesus. At worst, they held statements and phrases that entirely contradicted the life and message of Jesus Christ. In addition to church signs, I drove by plenty of other advertisement boards that were all focused on trying to sell something that we "deserve". In fact, one sign at a car dealership literally stated "Everyone deserves to drive a newer and better car." Not that I don't think that new cars are great - I'd love a fully loaded 2015 Nissan Xterra - but the thing that left me unsettled was how "me" focused all these messages were. Some signs said that following Jesus would lead us to prosper and help us get what we want in life. Others communicated that our salvation and relationship with Jesus was based fully on our ability to be righteous and perfect. Then there were business advertisements that simply want to convince us that we, as human beings, have a right and claim to have absolutely every thing we want in life. Regardless of what message was being communicated, it's easy to realize that our town and culture are saturated with various versions of what it means to follow Jesus.
People have heard the name of Jesus, they've heard the term "gospel", and they've probably attended many church events. The problem is, after hearing and experiencing all of that, they still don't know what the gospel is. They're tired of hearing different versions and they're tired of attending of events where they don't actually meet Jesus- events where they're just told to "do better". So how do we share about Jesus and live on mission when people have become conditioned to shut down when they hear His name? I've got a few thoughts.
1. Don't be cynical.
Cynicism keeps us from seeing people the way Jesus has called us to, and it's really pretty wicked. It's easy to be negative about all of the things around us that we disagree with. It's easy to assume the worst about everything and everyone, especially the things we have no control over. And it's easy during a simple 12 mile drive to feel depressed about how self-focused our culture is. But the reality is, Jesus never placed his hope in culture or humanity. Jesus had hope in what he could do for humanity. That same hope is how we should view every life we're able to come into contact with. No one is beyond redemption because no one is beyond Jesus.
2. Preach the gospel to yourself first.
It's vital that Jesus become realized and tangible in our own lives. And it's out of that kind of place that the true and life-altering message of Jesus can be effectively shared. No personal opinion, religious belief, or denominationally held doctrine has the ability of being true on it's own. It must possess the unaltered message of scripture in order to carry any weight. In order not to go on confusing people with various versions of what it means to be a Christian, we have to know Scripture for ourselves.
Get in the word. Get on your face in prayer. Pursue the presence of God. Ask that He would, in His kindness and grace, allow Jesus to be truly revealed to you and realized by you. It's all about Jesus. Christ is all that matters. Christ in every eye that sees you, Christ in every ear that hears you, Christ be all around you. When Christ is all around you, the cultural noise of so many false gospels fade away and the true Jesus penetrates the hearts and minds of those you come into contact with. For Christ to be all around you, Christ must be in you. Pursue Him first. Pursue Him hard.
3. Change up your strategy.
Our culture, the southeast United States, is peppered with churches in every single town and overly saturated with marketing strategies to get people into the doors of the church. For a long time, we've been focused on getting as many people as possible to gather in one place at one time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that strategy. After all, thousands and thousands of people gathered at one time to hear Jesus preach. And after Jesus, thousands gathered to hear the teachings of Peter as he compelled the believers in Acts to make their lives all about Christ.
Our current problem is the fact that people aren't drawn to our churches the way they were drawn to Jesus, because Jesus has become less and less what our churches are offering. Don't misunderstand me. I have a deep desire to see God glorified, His word revered, and people share life with one another in corporate worship. And I truly believe God will do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, through whoever He wants. And if that means revival breaks out in a single service on a Sunday morning, I'll be beyond thrilled.
However, the place that God has challenged me is that I shouldn't be inside of the Church just waiting for people to start coming in. I should be outside of the church bringing them back with me. Evangelism, discipleship, life on mission. That's what works. What doesn't work is convincing people that church is cool enough for them to spend a couple hours at on Sunday mornings. Followers of Christ in post-Christian areas of our country are realizing that way people encounter Jesus through the movement of His church is by pursuing them, not by expecting them to come to you.
Let's go get them. Let's fill the house.