In one sense, he was right…and I knew he was right. But why was it so hard to admit?
What he said resonated with me and yet it frustrated me. He was talking straight to me and everyone else in the room. He knew our world. He knew our struggle, and he was living it with us.
But he had decided to live it better than us.
“My wife and I avoid Christians at least one weekend a month,” said a professor friend of ours from Dallas Theological Seminary.
What? What kind of Christian is he? I thought as I sat there baffled by his lecture.
“We’ve found ourselves living in a Christian bubble. We have Christian seminary colleagues. We have Christian colleagues on staff at our church. We have loads of Christian friends in our church.” He said as he started to make it clear why he and his wife intentionally spent time with non-Christians.
He wasn’t bashing Christians. He was admitting failure.
“We came to the conclusion that we never spend any time with non-Christians and yet we wonder why we never share our faith.” He held the group of pastors and future pastors captive by his words. His humility and tenacity to clearly state the problem and address it chipped away at our ability to offer any rebuttal.
I no longer felt frustration or anger towards him. He clearly had no beef with anyone, but himself.
Now I grappled with conviction over my own lack of intentionality to befriend my non-Christian neighbors.
I questioned why I always treated waiters, cashiers, and many others as components of a transaction rather than people made in God’s image.
I asked God to give me clarity about how I could reorder my life, in order to better align it with His. The truth is…I was failing to living on mission with an intentional effort to love my neighbors.
I was serving in ministry and failing to share my faith or intentionally love those I came into contact with each day.
I was living for me.
What about you? Who are you living for?
How have you intentionally gone about designing or redesigning your life to ensure non-Christians are a priority?
If you haven’t, you aren’t terrible. You aren’t a failure. All hope isn’t lost. You can change. Your family can change. Your small group can change. Your church can change. Your city can change. Take a look at these ways to bridge the disconnect between Christians and society.
9 Ways to Bridge The Disconnect Between Christians and Society
1) Win Less Battles
Why is it that many Christians insist on being right? Sometimes I wonder if we are more tied to the culture of the past than the potential opportunities to share the Gospel with others in the future.
It isn’t a trite cliché to say Jesus has won the battle. It is true. We step forward as victorious–not as people who need to win against non-Christians.
If you are against the people you are trying to reach, they will probably always stay out of your reach.
How can we possibly call it loving to bash the people we’ve been sent to serve?
2) Talk to Non-Christians
And no, this don’t mean tell them what you know and why they should think like you. Start by getting to know a few people. Learn their names. Do something nice. Give a bigger tip and say good job. Don’t be afraid to speak up and engage a non-Christian in simple conversation and get the relationship started.
3) Stop Talking About Politics
Whenever Christianity and politics get mixed together, the expansion of the Gospel seems to suffer. Try being okay with persecution. Expect it. Jesus will still be God, even if your preferred candidate loses.
4) Spend Less Time with Christians
You don’t have to avoid Christians one weekend a month. I don’t know what works best for you. But if you are a Christian in America, chances are you spend more time with your close Christian friends than your non-Christian friends. Consider how you can ignite missional living in your community.
You shouldn’t avoid Christians all the time. You need to be in community and cultivate close Christian friendships. Do be careful you don’t have so many Christian friends that you can’t point to the last time you shared your faith. At a minimum, make sure you know at least a few non-Christians that you feel comfortable inviting them to dinner, asking them for help with a project, or inviting them to a sporting event.
5) Study What Matters to Non-Christians
Non-Christians don’t care about your theology or Gospel presentation at first. They are like anyone else. They care about bills, work, family, fun, weather, sports, health, and so on. Engage them in conversation relevant to them, so they know you care about them as a person.
6) Go to the Movies Regularly
Movie theaters today do a good job showing us what society is most interested in. If you aren’t a big movie person, lookup what movies have done well and ask yourself why. See if you see common subject matter, actors, etc. Everyone tells you what matters to them with their time and their money. Be a student of the culture. Being able to engage in knowledgeable discussion about pop culture can be a great way to bridge the disconnect between Christians and society.
7) Help a Stranger with Something
You don’t have to spend much time to do this. Look out for needs people have and find a way to meet them. You can spend 1-2 minutes or a few hours. Simply find ways to serve the community. You’ll find that some of your best friends develop out of the people you serve without seeking anything in return.
8) Emphasize the Gospel and Not Your Denomination
I’m not against denominations at all. I do, however, get tired of denominational names creating stumbling blocks to the Gospel. When people ask what you believe (assuming you took time to get to know them), share the Gospel message rather than, “We as (insert denomination) believe … ” Share the Gospel and truths of the faith and invite them to learn more along with you.
9) Discuss the Dissonance Between American Values and Christian Values
You may love or hate me on this one, but no culture is immune to assessment and critique in light of Scripture. My guess is that most cultures view their values to be in line with Scripture (I’m not exclusively pointing the finger at Americans here).
But I am an American, and I see where American concepts of greatness may not always align with a Biblical presentation of what makes a person or group great. As a nation with a tremendous value on independence, we should engage with the Biblical texts that point to a more group-centered, interdependent perspective on life.
We could go on and on looking at traditional American values and their alignment or lack of alignment with Scripture. My point is not to bash America, Americans, or in any way critique patriotism. I am deeply grateful for what so many have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the benefits and freedom of being Americans and living in this country. But I also believe those who sacrificed their lives for us would want us to sacrifice our wants and desires for something greater, for others we are called to serve, for a God who sent His Son to die for us.
How will you and your church bridge the disconnect between Christians and society? Don’t assume that you are succeeding. Ask yourself and those in the community some of the questions above. How are you being received by non-Christians? How is your church? All people matter to God. You can always further refine what your church’s distinctive impact will be now and in the future…but make sure you aren’t disconnecting yourself with the non-Christians and society around you.