I have heard it said that we as Christians need to try to stay away from interacting with the secular worlds. Being in seminary I have been warned about networking sites such as Facebook, or Myspace. The warning was, that if you have one, and you are trying to get a pastorate or ministry position with a church, a lot of them are checking those sites to see who you have as friends. The fact that you have friends on their posting things that one would expect from the lost, could and almost always would disqualify you for that position. People say things like; “Be above reproach”, and “In the world, but not of the world” as if those verses in the Bible are talking about having as little contact with the outside world as possible. I know people who won’t leave the seminary campus for that exact reason. Those same people, will day after day talk about the importance of preaching the gospel, or evangelizing. This seems to me to be contradictory.
Not to long ago I was sitting in a room with Pastors and church planters talking about keeping a missional mindset. We were talking about giving ourselves away to each other, and walking together. There was talk about not caring for sustainability and focusing out towards the Kingdom, and that being the only growth that we are concerned with. This is real powerful and I believe Biblically sound stuff. One of the pastors of an existing church was there and had a real concern. He asked how they could take the focus off of the internal focus that they gradually began to have. The vision was to plant a church through that church and he didn’t want the focus to eventually go in. This was a great concern, and his heart was pure. In response to that question one guys asked another one; “How many lost friends do you have?”
What a great question. This question has resonated with me since that night. How can we effect change in the world around us, when we will not engage with the people who live in that world? How do we expect to have an impact on the people who we claim to love, and want to save if we do not have the ability to cultivate relationships with them? Where in the Bible do we see Jesus condemning a relationship with the lost. In fact if it wasn’t for people having relationships with non-Christians, would you be saved? It seems Christians have forgotten the importance of building relationships with the people outside of our little “safe haven”. One of the things that this pastor said, is that he sees a whole community of lost people and he wants so desperately to reach them. He asked “how can we reach them; we don’t even know who they are?” I know his heart and I know this was a real plea for help, but why have we made this so difficult? The answer to that question lies within. Simply, go and get to know them.
Being lost is not contagious. We are not going to get “lost” all over us. Christianity is not supposed to be clean, we need to get dirty. We need to go out and find out who our neighbors are. Have you ever loved someone without knowing who they are? Have you ever heard the comment; “Well, we have to love everyone.” Like it is a chore or something. If we really believed that, we would go out and get to know them. I know being a Christian gives you the ability to love without knowing, but when you love you want to know who they are. I can’t figure out how we are going to change the world, when the only people we hang out with are all Christians. If you are worried about “catching lost” then it is your spiritual immaturity that is hindering you from being influence of the community around you. I heard a great sermon yesterday about the importance of being “the salt of the world” and what that means. We use salt to change the taste of our food; to enhance the flavor. No one puts salt on food that has already been seasoned, they put it on the food that needs flavor. The salt is separate from the food, but influences how it tastes. We too need to be that element of influence in the world around us. That means that we need to have an effect on the world, but be separate. Salt lies on top, or mixes in the food, yet it is not the food. In the same way we need to mix in with the world and cause change, not be changed.
Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees about sitting with tax collectors and “sinners”. I wonder, if we aren’t being asked the same things, are we living a life worthy of Jesus. How can we claim to be “little Christ’s” or “Christ like” and don’t do the things that He does, we lie! He loved the lost and we condemn them. He said that He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it, yet we condemn not only the world, but our brothers and sisters who go into the world on mission. I am going to get a little cliché here; think outside the box. By box, I mean the Christian box we live in. We try to “keep God to ourselves” while we say we want people to know Him. We tend to preach one thing, and by our lives and relationships, we emphasise another.
Think about it; How many lost friends do you have?
27After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
31Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Luke 5:27-31