I just read an article by Dan Kimball that I thought was really good. It really affirmed and encouraged me about the upcoming church plant in Sarnia.
You can read it for yourself by clicking on his name above (there is two posts about it, both have pictures of t-shirts), but I want to expand on it a little bit and put it in my own words, because that really helps me grasp it better. The article tells a story about a Christian extremist and wearing his t-shirt about how homosexuality, Islam and abortion are all wrong and that Jesus is the only way and he is intolerant (yes it was all on one t-shirt). He talked a bit about other extremists and how they represent us in such a bad way. Don’t you agree? How irritating is it to hear Pat Robertson through out his crap all over television? How annoying is it to see someone handing out tracks in the middle of a busy street or someone screaming from an intersection telling people to repent and follow Jesus? It drives me nuts.
Then Kimball hits me with the idea that we are at risk of wearing t-shirts ourselves.
I think we somehow put on our own version of a “shirt” for evangelism or for sharing Jesus by thinking it is the missionaries job we support going to China. Or someone who goes to YWAM we know, they do that for us somewhere else. Or a special Christian concert or event that somehow non-Christians are supposed to go to. I think we wear our own shirts without realizing it, and somehow think the world around us will be exposed to the truth of Jesus.
In other words, this Christian guy with the crazy t-shirt thought that somehow his t-shirt was sharing the truth of the gospel (he said so when Kimball talked to him, read it in the article). He thought that he was sharing Christ, when in fact he wasn’t. So are we wearing a t-shirt and we don’t even know it? Do we think that we are sharing Christ when in fact we are not?
But we aren’t doing it. We preach in our churches, but what about how Jesus was also spending time outside of the Temple and synagogue hanging out with sinners and the non-religious?
I am realizing more and more that most (not all but most) church leaders, don’t spend time with non-Christians. I know some do of course, but as I said when I actually ask people “what did you do this weekend?” it is always going out with Christians, or hanging out with Christians.
When I do ask Christians, do you even have a non-Christian you know enough to even go out to movie with right now? And sadly most might say “my brother” or a relative, but not an actual friend. We seem to cut all ties with those outside the faith socially. Thus, those outside the faith don’t get to know real Christians and what we believe – they only experience the extremists like te t-shirt guy, or a street preacher or someone handing out tracts.
I would say from my experience that generally most Christians aren’t sharing the truth at all. We hide in our churches, bible colleges, Christian circles and send money to the poor via World Vision and hold evangelistic outreaches. I love how Kimball challenges us.
but where will people know we are not all like the guy wearing the shirt if we only spend all our time socializing exclusively with all Christians?
So when they see the shirt on that guy, they know it isn’t the norm as they have a friend (us) who isn’t like that. Who are we are friend to right now, so when the see that guy in the shirt they think of us and know we aren’t all like that? We may not wear offensive shirts (and I hope we never do), but what are we individually doing – so that people don’t just think that all Christians are like the one wearing the shirt?
Back in Sarnia with the church plant I want to see us be a community who is focused on building relationships with others who are not in the church. Of course I want to see the church fellowship and be with each other, but this can only be half of our focus.
The New Testament is filled with a lot of travel, action, and Christians who were not passive in building community and hope others get the message of Jesus somewhere. They weren’t wearing those t-shirts though. They were out among people, talking, working with and making their faith known so that of course Jesus would come up in conversation undoubtedly. I read a book about the spread of Christianity in the first few hundred years of the early church, and they were stating it most likely was because of the networks with non-believers Christians had that they didn’t cut off when they became Christians.
But then I ask myself, what am I doing? And how will others know that the guy in the shirt is not a typical Christian, if we are all only hanging out with Christians? If we in church leadership are only focusing on making Christians more comfortable than training them for the mission Jesus sent us on? I am not talking about evangelism in the classic way here – I am talking about being ourselves and allowing people we are in relationships with and spending time with and discussing what we believe with as they gain trust in us?
Can we be a church like that? Who is more concerned about loving people up close rather than pointing from afar their sin? I hope so. If you still haven’t read the article you need to.