Reading Our Culture

With my older two sons at camp last week, the twins and I were filling in on the newspaper route.  I haven’t assisted delivering the papers in years but while on the paper route  I saw this sign for the first time.

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As a believer in Jesus Christ I think it is important, if you want to represent the cause of Christ well, to read your culture well and a sign like this is a little clue – an insight into what people really think.

I vaguely know this woman but I can tell you she is not some lunatic.  She is a perfectly normal mom in my neighbourhood. We both have kids in the same grade (though not in the same class).  She is not a Bible burning lunatic and her opinion is important to understand.

To her, a person knocking on her door to talk about faith in Jesus is considered the same as a person selling a product that she does not need, or the same as a politician, or the same as a person who is speaking nonsense. What does sharing faith with a woman like this look like?  It can’t possibly look like a propositional exchange of ideas (“if you were to die today do you know for certain where you would go?”).  It can’t look like a sales pitch. It will look like service.

The kind of service is key.  Not all services are created equal.  Lots of Christians get the idea that they need to serve to be in the will of God but most, without meaning to, still think of an attractional form of ‘service’ .  “I’ll serve so that lost people will eventually come to my worship service where we can save them.”

We know we should be about feeding the hungry (Matt 25:37), but unconsciously we can’t help wondering if they know who did this for them.  Is our name fronted in any way?  Should we include a track with the food?

We know we should be about clothing the naked (Matt 25:38), but we had better have them come to our building to get the clothes, so that they will know where to come once they get themselves cleaned up.  Without meaning to, we are in great danger of turning service into a bait and switch (come for the food and stay for salvation).  That isn’t what Jesus did.

Jesus served those who couldn’t respond favourably (Mark 10:45).  He came to serve us, and we have nothing to give God that He needs.  We can never put God in our debt.  How absurd!  That God would find Himself in need of our services (Job 35:7).

The service that this Mom needs is selfless service: service that benefits someone else.  Can I offer to tow the car out of her driveway that has been there for over a year?  Can I be a friend to her?  Without mentioning my church, can I serve without expecting something in return?  Can I trust the Holy Spirit to work in her life and bring her to a place where she can ask about Jesus?

We need to get to Jesus.  “There is no other name under heaven and earth by which we can be saved,” (Acts 4:12) but most of the people I meet are so cynical, and so skeptical of Christians that we simply cannot begin with a verbal gospel presentation.

“We must be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) we must serve without expecting a reward in order to present a wordless gospel that heals the cynical, suspicious heart of our neighbours.

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6 thoughts on “Reading Our Culture

  1. I have a whole bunch of ideas related to this but I’m having a really hard time articulating them. I think you’ve hit on some very good points here but I can’t string words together readably beyond that.

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  2. Reminds me of that line from the Big Kahuna: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down. That doesn’t make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are – just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep.”

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  3. I certainly agree with your sentiment here. And yet I wonder: is there a time to speak in spite of the cynicism and skepticism of the day? We know that many people are cynical about religion, and in Christianity in particular. This is a fact that we cannot dismiss. In part, Christians are very much to blame for the cynicism of our neighbors—however, in part, this cynicism is also just a mode of self-protection against ideas that threaten their way of life, a protection against the demands of the gospel.

    I certainly agree in using tact and in embodying the love and truth that we profess; but how much of this tippy-toeing around people’s hyper-modern sensibilities is just an endless exercise in mutual tolerance? While I agree with the dictum ‘preach the gospel everywhere, using words if necessary’—I wonder if our contemporary anxiety over being too pushy might have the backlash of an atrophied evangelism…

    Seems like we need to get more creative—melding authenticity with intentional words and deeds.

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    • @Ryan “as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation” Exactly! Well said!

      I agree in being bold but speaking the truth in love. Greg Whitfield taught at Camp Manitou last week that: “The only pure motive is to Love God. The only motive purifier is knowledge of the Love of God” That’s why Paul is so big on knowing God’s love. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Rom 11:33 I should write another blog on that.

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