The fundamental mission of the Christian Church is to be a mission. It is to witness the love of God to the world and in so doing, invite people into an encounter with him and a thrilling romance of reconciliation and redemption.There are many ways to embrace a missional disposition, but for many of us living our lives in society, the best way to accomplish this is by what I’ve heard described as question based evangelism. It is an approach by which we learn to grow in deep intimacy with God so that, by his grace, we will be filled with the kind of joy and peace that aren’t easily overlooked by people living in the orbit of your life. They could be family members, co-workers/colleagues, friends, or just people you see on the bus every morning.
This is especially relevant when you experience a hardship together. Perhaps a difficulty at work that you have to suffer through with your coworkers. When you are able to find hope in something which transcends the difficulties of that circumstance, people around you will notice that you aren’t responding with hand-wringing and corridor pacing and that will make them want to know what anchors you and fills you with hope. That is your opportunity to respond to their questions.
People want to discover truth for themselves, so give them a reason to start looking. Ultimately, people just want to be happy and when they notice that you seem to be happy a lot, they’ll want to know how they can access the same trigger points and that will become your opportunity to respond by telling them about the hope that does not fail.
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Unfortunately, in North America, the Church, too often, takes the approach of trying to dictate the conventions of society. We like to assume that the culture around us is fundamentally Christian and when it begins to embrace some sort of attitude or idea that opposes Christianity, we like to protest and become combative.
A good example of this is the recent unveiling of a satanic monument in Detroit by a fringe group. So far, our response has been to protest and lobby leaders to prevent the statue from being installed, even on private property. Without the relentless protesting and lamenting on behalf of Christians, the incident probably would have been ignored by the culture at large but because we’re so upset about it, it’s become a juicy headline. The media loves to use follow a narrative that portrays conflicting sides. Because we live in a democratic society and everyone’s expected to register an opinion on everything, we feel pressured to take sides whenever we hear stories like this.
So the inevitable outcome of our protesting only inspires the ‘undecided’ members of society, who are the very people that the Church’s missional work should be aimed at, to feel the need to take a side. In essence, we’re forcing them to confront their relationship with God and Christianity through a politicized issue rather than through the joyful invitation of the witness of our lives. Unfortunately, this usually has the opposite effect. Christians come off looking intolerant, combative, insecure, and pushy. These are anything but the qualities that people will want to respond to favourably. I’ve never heard of an instance in which someone embraced Christianity through the witness of angry roadside protestors.
So, in the end, all we accomplish is the promotion of an issue that we oppose, which would have otherwise been ignored. Instead, I think our response to these kinds of incidents is to pray. Pray for those who have been convinced that they can find satisfaction by provoking groups who are different from them. Pray for Christians who haven’t found peace in their relationship with Christ and instead feel the need to impose ideology on those around them. Pray for our society – that God would lead us into conversion because this is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. Lastly, pray for ourselves that we can be faithful witnesses of his love when the opportunity arises. The kind of witness that inspires the curiosity of the undecided.