“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
I live in Murfreesboro, TN.
My family and I have been here for 15 years. We are in the buckle of the Bible belt surrounding Nashville, TN. There is pretty much a church on every corner and if not that, then a non-profit in our town tied directly to the Christian faith. Businesses around town are largely Christian, including the national chain “Chick-Fil-A”. We have three of these in our town.
I read an article recently about a manager of a Chick-Fil-A here in our city of Murfreesboro who gave a homeless man a meal in exchange for a chance to pray over the guy. You can read the facebook post here and the article here. It is a viral post and put Murfreesboro on the map again. (You might remember our town from the “Mosque” firestorm that happened a few years ago) Yep, that was an embarrassment for the Christians…but that’s another blog post.
Another article popped up today from a pastor of an organization called Love Wins Ministries. Perusing their website, I can tell that they really care about people and that this pastor is well intention-ed in his efforts to reach people for Christ as well in their local context. But the tone of the article, entitled “Spiritual Molestation In Chick-Fil-A“, was definitely striking an opposing chord to the original story of a Chick-Fil-A manager giving a man food in exchange for a prayer.
From what I could gather, the basic theme of the article referred to this young manager’s kindness as “a story of power and control.” The spiritual tone of the young manager’s offer of food on the condition that he be allowed to pray over the homeless man, was interpreted by this article as some kind of spiritual “power over” ploy, a “spiritual molestation”. You can read the article for yourself. In my opinion, and that is all this is, my opinion…this was a little over the top reactive.
Food for Thought
We live in a very interesting time in regards to the way Christians want to be perceived in America.
We want to reach the lost person but not label them as lost.
We want to be seen as spiritual but not religious.
We want to communicate the gospel, but we don’t want to use any forms that we have had bad experiences with as tools for the spread of the message.
We know the pain of being hurt by the church, so we try and form new ways of doing church so people don’t get hurt.
We struggle with our own hypocrisy so we play it safe and never speak truth for fear that it will be taken the wrong way.
We see the difficulty in the American Church and we know the landscape we live in has changed, but for fear that we won’t communicate correctly, we don’t really communicate at all.
We spent too much time in the 80s and 90s trying to build political influential empires (whether liberal or conservative) and we’ve come to realize that politics isn’t the answer…but we still hold out hope that our nations leader’s will do something to make our lives better, to recognize our Christian ways, to legislate our morality for us. (again..that’s another story)
We want to be seen as outreaching, so we serve and we give and help people, but we don’t know how to live as missionaries in our context. (Social Justice is simply a part of our gospel, not the whole of it.)
We spend so much time critiquing the way our Christian brothers and sisters practice their faith in other parts of the country, that we fail to realize our critique of them is just as divisive as the thing we have criticized them for being.
The sad reality is this:
We don’t trust that God can work through frail humanity to bring about His Kingdom in the lives of people.
As a result we fall prey to the deception of our spiritual adversary. If the devil can make us over-sensitive or under-sensitive to people’s spiritual emptiness…then he can eliminate our message of grace in the transmission of our gospel. If he can deceive us into thinking that it is our ingenuity, our “missional” stance, our technique in communicating, our eloquence, our example before the lost, even our good works (all of which are very important), then he can get our focus more on our strategy and not our dependence on God to build His Church and advance His Kingdom. Do you see the subtle temptation we have to depend on our missionary methodology over and above God’s power to redeem our frail attempts to bring His Kingdom to earth?
- If our good news is over-sensitive to people’s feelings, then we’ll never share it because we don’t want to offend them.
- If our good news is in-sensitive to people’s feelings, then what we share will never come across with clarity and love to them.
We are in a quandry.
How then does God expect us to communicate this message to the world?
When you live in a culture that is overly sensitive to anything Christian-y, church-y, or religious-y… how do you think God expects us to communicate to that culture about Jesus?
When you live in a Christian culture that has largely been insensitive to the world around it, not taking into account that the culture around it has changed and that they are not any longer the majority population… how do you think God expects us to communicate from this culture we’ve created about Jesus to the world?
I’m not going to wax eloquent here… I’m trying to keep this brief. But I would like to ask the Church in America to begin seriously working on the solution to this problem.
Here is where I believe it must start.
I won’t pretend that the answer to this question is easy.
But I think that somehow the answer lies in the message of grace.
If our gospel is truly the gospel, then it has to depend more on the Holy Spirit for its effective transmission to people’s hearts than it does on our doctrinal, theological, or practical/social emphases. We are co-workers with God on this…it’s not all up to us!!
Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City writes, “The gospel is the dynamic for all heart-change, life-change, and social-change. Change won’t happen through ‘trying harder’ but only through encountering with the radical grace of God.”
- I submit that the church first begin preaching the gospel to itself. How can we ever teach people how to encounter the truth of God’s grace extended towards the world if we aren’t willing to allow God to work through “grace-needy” Christians in their efforts to somehow communicate love and the gospel in their daily interactions with people? How can we communicate grace to potential family member if we aren’t willing or able to give it to our own family?
- We are not always going to get this right. We need to be sensitive to how people feel and, yes, I believe that some people may have been offended by what this Christian man did for this homeless guy at a Chicken restaurant. We all have a lot to learn about the mission field we are living on. We also need to learn how to extend grace and a spirit of collaboration as we strive to be the people of God reaching out to a world that does not know Him. (On a side note, I met this young man while getting food for my kids yesterday afternoon… He had no idea that anyone had thought negatively regarding what he did for that needy man. He was actually a nice young Christian man trying to make a living at a local business, and trying to integrate his faith with his life at work. What are we communicating to our brothers and sisters in the faith about grace when we label them as spiritual molestor’s?!?!?!?)
- We need to trust God to take our feeble efforts at reaching out to people and truly communicate His heart. Again, I want to emphasize that the salvation of the world rests solely on the shoulders of God. We are his ambassadors, his co-laborers, and his family. We are the hands and feet of Jesus to this world…but we are not Jesus. We are not perfect, nor are all of our efforts at telling the world about Him. The truth is that it is always and has always been a miracle for anyone to come to Christ. Our efforts matter, and we need to be careful what we are communicating, but all our words, our actions, and our missional efforts need to be saturated in grace and faith. We shoot from the hip, we fumble our words, we even offend unintentionally at times. But this is how we know that the gospel has power, because on our own, we will fail. We need to trust God to take our feeble efforts and truly communicate His heart to the world!
We are all in this together.
Let’s start acting like it.