It’s sad but it’s true. The trend is clear. The studies all say the same thing. Despite the clear Biblical mandate to share our faith with others… despite a sincere desire to advance the kingdom of God… despite the deep concern we might have for our friends and family who are far from Christ… despite all those things, the fact is this:
The longer someone attends church, the less likely that person is to have a meaningful spiritual discussion with someone who is far from Christ.
Why is that? How can that be?
Shouldn’t it be that getting closer to Christ and attending church more frequently would lead to MORE evangelistic discussions? More times of sharing our faith? More times where we take a risk and invite a co-worker or neighbor to church? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
My experience tells me that the graph above is right on the money. Here’s how it works:
You used to be far from God. You didn’t really go to church. You weren’t a bad person, but you just weren’t into church. But because your conscience told you that it’s important to be a “good person”, you were generally friendly with others. You stopped to talk to your neighbors. You helped old ladies with their groceries. You tried to do good things for people when you could.
And then one day you began to see things in a new light and you began to form a relationship with Christ. All of a sudden, life looked different. Everything had a new taste. You were like the Samaritan woman after she met Jesus – you just wanted to tell the whole world how great He is. You would invite your friends to church. You would share what you learned from a Bible study with your family. You would respond to situations at work differently and you'd be doing so to show people how great a relationship with Christ can be.
But that was at the start. Over time, things changed. We settle into our “church world” and become inundated with Bible studies, fellowship meetings, and service opportunities. We run from one activity to the next – spending most of our time with “church people” and doing “church things.”
In and of themselves, none of these activities are bad. In fact, they are all good. But the problem is that if we don’t do anything outside of them, we end up isolating ourselves from the world – thereby also putting a little more distance between Jesus and the world outside.
We go to Christian concerts, wearing our Christian T-shirts, that we bought from the Christian bookstore and paid for using our Christian financial plan that we found from an ad at the Christian gym down the street. And we did all this while chewing nothing but our authentic, church board approved Christian gum.
(don’t believe me, that there’s Christian gum? Two words for you…TESTA-MINTS!)
Look, I am not against any of the things above (I’ve actually tried Testamints and they are quite refreshing), but my point is this: Jesus didn’t live a life isolated from the world. In fact, He did quite the opposite. He went out of His way to find the lost and to spend time with those who didn’t know Him.
“…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
That ought to be the mission statement of every church and church person out there!
Jesus didn’t isolate Himself from the world. He could have convinced Himself that He needed to spend more time with His disciples – teaching them and helping them understand more. But He didn’t. He knew that He was here for much more than that. He went out of His way to spend time with those who weren’t “church people” – the lost, the broken, the rejected, the marginalized, the sinful. He never hesitated to leave behind the 99 sheep in order to search for the 1 lost one and bring that lost sheep back to His fold.
How about us? How about His church? Isn’t our mission the same as His? Isn’t that supposed to be how it works?
Look, I am all for church fellowship and Bible studies and small groups and all that good stuff. That stuff is the best. But there’s gotta be more. We can’t stop there. If we are THE CHURCH – the one established 2000 years ago by Jesus Himself – then we can’t stop at the 4 walls of the church building. We have to go beyond.
We can’t limit ourselves to interacting with “church people” only. We can’t limit our ministry to church services only. We can’t define “discipleship” as a meeting in church or a book that we read – discipleship is real life. It’s on-the-job training. It’s being a disciple of the Master – the One who spent so much time reaching out to those outside that He was actually called a “friend of sinners.”
I’ll bet He loved that title.
“Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Would anyone accuse you of being a friend of sinners? If not, what are you going to do about it today?