THERE’S A WIDENING GAP / WHO DO YOU REFLECT?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Our culture is changing.
As, of course, it always has been…
But the gap between Christian culture and American culture at large is widening.
I heard a story told this week about Management Guru Peter Drucker.
Drucker died ten years ago at the age of 95, but he was a leading business thinker of the 20th century.
And he told a story once about trying to acquire a loan in NYC in the 1930’s.
He was an immigrant to the United States, so he was surprised that when he applied for a loan, the bank told him that he would be getting no such loan without a personal reference from a pastor, priest, or rabbi first.
Can you imagine Wells Fargo not giving you an auto loan without a character reference from me?
Things look different now.
There are a lot of Christians blowing their trumpets and making a lot of negative noise about all of these differences…but here’s what I think:
If the world looks that much more different now…than that ought to be an opportunity for us!
If, in theory, the divide between Christianity and culture is growing, then you ought to stick out even more as a Christian.
And the Bible says…that can be a good thing!
See, you and I, are called to reflect (not the culture)…but Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
See, as you and I begin to look more and more (every day) at Jesus…we begin to reflect him…we look like Jesus to the world.
And when you look like Jesus…and not the culture at large…people around you are going to notice…and the Apostle Paul is going to tell us…that THAT is one of the best evangelism strategies.
TWO TYPES OF EVANGELISM
We are continuing in our Illuminate Series this morning, where we are talking about evangelism (that’s helping others know about God)
And we want to share with you a few different ways to LIGHT UP THE PATH towards Jesus.
And this morning…I want to show you a really interesting passage in one of Paul’s letters to the early church…Colossians
(Colossians 4:2-6) – NIV
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Now most of us…when we think about evangelism…sharing our faith with “outsiders” (as Paul says in this passage)…we get quite nervous.
We think, “I’m not qualified to do any such thing”
But one of the things I want you to notice in this passage is that Paul is really talking about two different sets of people.
There are #1) “Evangelists” – That’s people with the specific spiritual gift of evangelism (Ephesians 4 lists an evangelist as a specific spiritual gift that not all people have)
These are often pastors…or people with incredible social skills…or international evangelists like our friend Sammy Wanyonyi who we travel to Africa with.
Paul asks in verses 2-4 that we pray for people like him…who have that gift…that God would use evangelists to proclaim the Gospel.
But then in verses 5-6, he turns to everyone else…and how they should do evangelISM.
See, while not everyone may be an evangelIST, we’re all called to do evangelISM…to share Jesus with people God has put in our circles of influence.
And look closely at the text…
What is our primary mode of evangelism going to be?
How will it get started?
Look at the end of verse 6 again
(Colossians 4:6) – NIV
6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Okay, so what is Paul assuming here when he says, “so that you may know how to answer everyone???”
That people are absolutely going to ask you questions!
And why are they going to ask you questions?
Because when you’re reflecting Jesus…your life is not going to look like every one else’s life in the culture!
You’re living what author Michael Frost calls…A QUESTIONABLE LIFE!
I’d go as far as saying that Paul assumes…for the everyday Christian…the primary way that most of us will do evangelism will be in response to people’s questions about Jesus.
But let’s make something clear:
They won’t ask us questions…if we just look like everybody else.
They won’t ask you questions… if all your life consists of is waving to your neighbors (whose names you can’t remember), driving your kids to every activity, enduring a long commute on the weekdays so you can sit back and do nothing on the weekends…except work on your yard and house.
Think about Jesus in the Bible.
People are constantly…it almost seems like every chapter…coming up to him and asking him questions.
Because his life looked SO different than BOTH the Roman/Gentile/Worldly people that were around AND the typical religious person.
And people wanted to figure out what he had!
And if nobody’s asking you questions about Jesus and your life…especially this day and age as the cultural divide grows…then you have some really hard questions to ask yourself.
LIVE A QUESTIONABLE LIFE
For starters, “Who am I really reflecting?”
The culture? Or Jesus?
When your life reflects Jesus…people will want to ask about it.
This is similar to our theme verse for this series:
(Matthew 5:16) - NIV
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Our questionable lives should light up a path towards Jesus.
(John 13:35) – NIV
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Notice that the main difference they’ll see is in our LOVE.
A lot of Christians apply this message incorrectly.
As the culture begins to change faster and faster, the answer is not for us to hold fast to our Christian values and throw stones from afar…
But the answer isn’t to change with the culture either.
No, the ANSWER, is the model of Jesus.
it’s to BE different…and love anyway.
THAT…will cause people to ask questions!
A friend recently shared this story with me about one of her Christian friends.
She said her Christian friend had been putting in effort lately to make friends with a non-Christian she met at her work.
And recently this same person was talking at work with two co-workers (one a Christian…and one, her new non-Christian friend) about how difficult it is keep things in check physically when you're engaged.
“To someone who has committed to waiting for marriage, it's a huge temptation when you're so close,” she said.
The next day, she was going on a walk at work with her non-Christian friend.
And the non-Christian independently brought up her own physical relationship with a new guy she was seeing.
She wanted to talk it over with and hear her new Christian friend’s perspective on it because as she said, "I feel like now that I'm out of college, there are no rules. I'm out in this dating world all by myself, and I don't know how to live. You have something deeper that helps you make decisions. Tell me about it."
That’s the “Questionable life!”
Do you see this? The answer is NOT to be the same as the culture…it’s to be different…but still love anyway.
But if your life looks exactly like theirs…what would they possibly ask you about?
And I believe this is one of our main issues in evangelism.
It isn’t just that we’re afraid to start a conversation…it’s that our lives aren’t starting the conversation for us!
David Kinnaman, who works for Barna research, and is the leading American expert on researching what unbelievers think of Christians, says this in his very good book, “UnChristian:”
“84 percent of non-Christians say they personally know at least 1 committed Christian. YET…just 15% think the lifestyles of those Christians are significantly different from the norm.”
That’s a problem.
So how do you live a questionable life? What does it look like?
It looks like this:
To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.
—Emmanuel Suhard (1874-1949), French Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church
Let me give you a few more examples:
I’ve come a cross a couple of Christian families recently who have decided to work with an organization called Safe Families…some in Renovation Church even
They volunteer to take at risk kids into their home for a short or moderate time period, so those kids can have a safe place to be when their parent or parents are facing really difficult circumstances (addiction, abuse, homelessness, etc.)
And listen, in today’s world…where we mostly just care about ourselves…and keeping our OWN families and kids safe…that’s a questionable life.
Those Christian families are going to get asked questions:
“Why are you doing this? Why would you do this?”
And guess what they get to say?
“Because I believe in God who looks out for the orphan and the helpless
“Because I believe in God who took me in when I was lost.
Lee Strobel, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Case For Christ, once told a story about a man he sat next to on a return flight to his hometown of Chicago.
The man was a recent immigrant from India, and he was flying home to his pregnant wife with two young kids (which I totally empathize with) J
His wife was going to try and pack up the kids…and drive an hour or so to the airport and pick him up
It seemed like a stressful situation to the man, so Strobel offered to give him a ride himself…even though it was out of the way.
While they were driving out to the distant suburb, the man said, “Can I ask you a question? Why did you do this?”
And Strobel said, “Has anyone ever done something so kind for you that it makes you want to pass it on to someone else? Jesus has done that for me”
And he began to talk with the man about his faith.
He’s living a QUESTIONABLE LIFE!
The man asked HIM about it!
He didn’t even have to bring it up!
Evangelism isn’t JUST words.
If you show sacrificial love to people…they will notice…and they will question.
SEASONED WITH SALT
But sometimes our actions alone…aren’t simply enough for people to connect the dots.
If you want people to ask questions of you…you can speed up the process by how you speak as well
Paul says in our Colossians passage today that our conversations should be seasoned with salt.
Well, what does salt do?
It makes your food more appetizing.
Just the other day, I was eating corn on the cob, and I said to my wife, “This is NOT a good one!”
And then I realized, “OH, I forgot to put salt on it…that’s the problem!” J
Salt can bring out the true flavor of the food.
So, how do you have salty conversations?
How do you speak in such a way that your talk about God makes people’s mouths water for God?
One of the best ways to do this is to remind yourself why God tastes so good to you.
But, I think a lot of us feel like, “I should talk to my co-workers more about God…Hmm…I guess I could start with: “Did you guys know that you’re sinners??!?”
NO! That’s going to come…it HAS to come…but you don’t have to awkwardly start in some weird presentation mode.
There’s a guy I know who’s an incredible evangelist…and I’ve been watching lately how he speaks to people.
He just naturally brings up God all the time and looks for openings.
Instead of saying “Isn’t the weather beautiful outside today?!”
He says, “What a great day God gave us today!”
When his co-workers experience a death in the family or major life issues…he’ll tell them he’s praying for them…often, he’ll even ask to pray for them right there.
His conversation about God is always salty…it’s not condemning.
And He’s connecting the dots for people.
He’s a guy who definitely lives a different life.
But it’s not because he’s just some peppy guy faking happiness to hide the fact that he’s miserable.
No, his life is filled with joy because of Christ!
And when people hit road blocks in their life…guess who they go to to ask questions??
Bring God up in conversation…be salty…and start, at minimum connecting the dots for people about WHY your life is different.
I know a couple of people at Renovation, who always seize upon those casual work questions like, “What did you do this weekend?” Or “What did you do last night?”
And they always make sure to say, “We went to church…it was great this week.” “Or, we went to our House Group last night from church. We love our friends there!”
You’re connecting the dots for people about WHY your life is different.
So that when they start having spiritual questions, they know WHO to ask.
At the very least, just put a car sticker on your car, so they know you love Jesus…AND Renovation Church J
And invite them to our free cheese curds event in 2 Sundays.
See, evangelism, in its broadest sense, ought to be happening every day…because evangelism is a process.
A process of your neighbors, co-workers, and friends seeing your different life…and asking questions…and you guiding them along the way.
I mentioned earlier that if no one’s asking you questions about your life, you have to ask yourself some hard questions….
Another hard question to ask yourself is: “Have I been isolating myself from the types of people who CAN and NEED to ask me questions?”
Earlier this month, I went up north near Park Raids with Lindsey’s family for a few days
And one of the days we went to the headwaters of the Mississippi
I took a number of pictures while I was there, and I went back through the 30 or so pictures, and found what I was looking for in the background.
My daughter is in the bottom right with my father-in-law, and you can see walking through the river are a number of Amish folks.
And no, that’s not a paparazzi photo…they just happened to be there J
And the Amish certainly live a questionable life, don’t they?
I had a million questions I wanted to ask them:
Why do you still live the way you do?
Does it help you encounter God better?
Why the strange bowl haircuts?
Was that your bus I saw in the parking lot…otherwise…how did you get here?
And as much as I contemplated asking them questions…I didn’t…because I don’t have a relationship with them, and that would be weird.
And my guess is that there are many of you in this room who ARE living questionable lives for Jesus…but there’s just no unbelievers around you to ask you questions.
And that ought to be priority number one for you.
Join a new class at a gym, invite your neighbors over for dinner, get to know your kids’ friends’ parents, volunteer somewhere…find somewhere to rub shoulders with people who CAN…and NEED to…ask you questions.
And then illuminate a path to Jesus.
This might not be comfortable.
But remember, you’re not on earth to be comfortable (that’s the cultural narrative…not the Christian narrative)
You’re not called to lead comfortable life, but a questionable life!
How are you going to do this?
Where do you need to start looking different as you radically pursue Jesus?
God can you use your “questionable life!”
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY
And when people start to ask questions…be courageous….
It’s not enough to just do good deeds.
We all know that words with out deeds are dead…but deeds without words are dead too.
You can actually communicate the wrong thing about Christianity if it never leads to questions…or you don’t seize the moment when people do ask you questions.
Writer Andrew Wilson puts it this way:
Let's say I have a neighbor, and I want to "preach Christ" to him using my deeds. I greet him over the garden fence. I invite him and his wife round for dinner, where I show them the best hospitality of which I am capable; I explain that I am a Christian, but make no attempt to shove the gospel down his throat. Noticing that his garden could use a bit of work, I offer him my lawnmower, which he accepts, and eventually, through repeated usage, breaks. I do not complain, or ask him to replace it; I replace it myself, and continue to allow him to use it whenever he sees fit. I help whenever I can. In all things, I seek to display unconditional kindness towards him, and to love him as I love myself. Eventually, he dies.”
Then Wilson asks a very pointed question: “Now what have my actions preached to him? They have preached that Christians are people who do good things for their neighbor. They have preached that niceness, and kindness, and morally upright behavior are what make you a Christian. In short, they have preached justification by works. (You’re made right w/ God by doing good things…that Christianity is about doing good things). Your works have indeed "preached" something. But it isn't the gospel.”
See, we’re called to live a questionable life…but when the questions come…we have to (as Paul says in our passage in Colossians 4)…MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY!
(Colossians 4:5) – NIV
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Now, Wilson’s story about the neighbor is simply a parable meant to make a point…but if that was a real-life story, and he had that man over often…and did all of these things…surely the man would ask him about it eventually…
And I think that actually happens to most of us more than we think…we just miss the opportunity! The opening!
You tell someone you went to church this weekend…and they say, “You actually like your church? I always thought church was boring”
That ought to set off alarm bells, “They’re questioning! They’re questioning!”
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY!
But do you know what most of us do (cuz we’re afraid of offending or whatever)…we say, “Yeah…it’s all right. How about those Vikings?”
I just read a story the other day about a Christian guy in his thirties who helped an older man at the gym who couldn’t figure out how to use his iPod.
The conversation eventually turned into the younger guy going to over to the older man’s house and helping him put music on his ipod
After getting him set-up with his music, they struck up a friendship, and the younger man would stop by to visit from time to time.
The older man asked him questions about his life…why he lived the way he did…why he was NICE/different…and the younger man eventually invited him to his church…where the older man gave his life to Christ.
It’s an incredible story of MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY.
When you hear a question…you see a door open…be courageous…share about Jesus’ love.
This is how most of us are going to change the world.
And it will have a snowball effect of change.
God CAN do this in our culture…in America!
Christians completely changed the Roman Empire…
Almost 2,000 years ago, Christians went from being an unheard of and persecuted band of followers to becoming the dominant culture-shaper of the Roman Empire (a culture, by the way, that was significantly farther away from Christian culture than ours is today)
And how? How did they do it?
They cared for the sick, they rescued the helpless, they loved their neighbors, they beamed with joy in the midst of a very dark world.
They lived questionable lives that reflected the love of Jesus!
They led salty lives that gave people an appetite to want to know more
And when people asked questions…they MADE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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