This week I had two completely unrelated events converge to get me thinking about some things. The first of those events happened in Phoenix. On Tuesday evening, Allyson and I, Kyle, Sara, and the Kids, and a family from the Church went to a Diamondbacks Game at Chase Field (D-backs playing my Pittsburgh Pirates). While I was waiting for the couple from my church, just outside the ticket office, there was a “street preacher” shouting his message into a megaphone the message of sin, judgment, and how much God hates sin…as well as how hot hell will be, and that they had better get ready for the heat. He had other choice things to say about Covid, politics, and so forth. But the message was pretty clear…and aimed (literally) right at people as they entered the stadium.
On Wednesday, I came across a tweet from an author who I value greatly, who speaks to the mission of the Church and difficulties the western church has in reaching the current culture with the message of the gospel. Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, and 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, offered this observation in a tweet:
All factors point to signs that Christianity is in decline in the West. We must own the fact that the way we live out our faith is culpable, at least in some part. A domesticated, tamed version of Christianity that is mired in the same wants, desires, and traps of the watching world yields no appeal. Missional movements flourish because a group of people have been changed by Jesus, and the change is made abundantly clear through living in an alternative Jesus-like society of love, grace, and generosity. For most of us, this means we must simply begin to step out beyond our self-imposed barriers of safety and security and risk, joining the Holy Spirit in what God is doing in our neighborhoods and cities.
As I juxtaposed these two experiences, I can’t help but think how the “Church” relates to the culture and society in which we live. We are great at telling people what we are against, what is evil, how sinful they are and how much God hates what they are doing. We are great at separating ourselves from the lost, the derelict, the lonely, the underclass, the addict, the immigrant, those opposed to us… We create a greater and greater gap telling them how much God hates what they are doing.
We are HORRIBLE at practicing incarnational witness…the very practice of Jesus. Jesus came seeking out the lost. Jesus entered into the lives of the lost, the hurting, the untouchable, the marginalized. With love in his eyes, and no hint of condemnation, Jesus entered into their journey and spoke the healing words of the gospel that “God is Love” and has provided the means for wholeness in Jesus.
As I sat on the hot slab of concrete outside Chase Field, I watched the people’s reactions to the “Preacher.” Some shook their heads. Some laughed. Some blew him off. Others looked pained. I wondered what Jesus they might be meeting in that moment. I wondered who would share the Jesus of the Gospels with them. I wondered what barrier that experience might create for those people to encounter the loving, healing, restoring embrace of the Savior.
I wonder if we might not take a lesson from Jesus. I challenge those who call themselves followers to leave their padded pews and holy huddles…and go into the world. Enter into the lives of the people around you. Love them with Jesus love…share the Savior who embraces sinners, who loves, who has compassion. Introduce them to the Savior.
Maybe, just maybe…we can stop being the barrier to Jesus…
Anyway, just my ruminations this week.