Can we talk? I've been wrestling with something lately (actually for the last 4 years or so), and I'd like to talk to you about it. The "thing" that I have been wrestling with is really a question. How do we, as Christ followers in Trussville, AL, engage the community around us with the gospel?
Maybe the first part of this conversation ought to look inward. As Christ followers in Trussville should we look different? The answer to this question must be yes. But why? Because if we truly believe the gospel of Jesus...if our hearts have been transformed by His grace alone...well then, everything, our desires, our relationships, our loves must be different. They should not only be different, they should be better. But let's be honest with ourselves. In many respects those who would call themselves Christians might be different in ways that bear no resemblance to Christ. If we were to ask our non-Christian brothers and sisters to describe the ways we are different, they might use adjectives like: judgmental, hypocritical, and uptight.
On the other hand, the gospel tells us that more appropriate descriptions of a Christ follower should be: gracious, loving, humble, and engaging. Why are these descriptions more appropriate? If we truly are Christ followers, then we should know that the only qualification is that we know we are not qualified. Romans 3:10 tells us that "None is righteous, no not one." Then Romans 3:23 tells us that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." With these truths before us, we have no place to be judgmental. To the contrary, Christ followers should know that there is nothing good within us....except for Jesus.
One pastor (Jack Miller) has often described this gospel truth in this way: "Cheer up; you're a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you're far more loved than you could have ever imagined." To be a Christian is to know that we have been loved with a matchless love...the love of Jesus Christ. As Romans 5:8 tells us, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." To be clear then, this also means that a Christ follower ought to look different from many church goers who are trusting in their own goodness, and are living for the approval of man. We ought to “look like” people who have been, and are being, transformed by grace. I don’t mean to imply that there is something wrong with the church. To the contrary, she is Jesus’ bride, and we are called to love her more, not less. I am trying to show, however, that there are many in the church who do not yet know the gospel (this was my story for many years). So with all of this in mind, the question is this: When non-Christ followers look at us, church going or not, do they think of words like grace, compassion, love, or humility?
As we begin a conversation about how we engage the community of Trussville (or Clay, Grayson Valley, Argo, Springville, Centerpoint, Moody, Robuck, Birmingham, etc..), we must ask ourselves what we are engaging them with. I submit that we must engage with Jesus, and His gospel. That means we engage, but we engage lovingly, knowing who we are...sinners redeemed by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If that is true of us, then our motivation will be two fold: the glory of Jesus Christ and the love of our neighbor.
Friends, this conversation (this post will be the first of several) is open to all, whether in the church or not, Christ Church or not. For just a second though, let me speak directly to Christ Church. My prayer for us is that we would be a church, consisting of humble people, so in love with Jesus that we love enough to engage our community, where we live, where we work, and where we play. If we are not this church, then we don't yet get the gospel. As we continue this conversation, I want us to talk about who we are to love (our neighbor) and why we are to love them (God's glory and His grace poured out on us in Jesus), but I pray we will do more than talk. I pray we will love, with GRACE AND TRUTH. And lastly, we will know the gospel is truly taking root in our own lives when we begin to share the love of Christ in the lives of others.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)