Attention fellow Christians:
Have you ever wondered whether you spend too much time socialising with your Christian family and not enough time talking with them about spiritual stuff?
That was my response when my brother-in-law shared his recent musings.
If your initial response to the question was something along the lines of ‘oh come ON’ or ‘you’ve GOT to be kidding’… just bear with me for the next few minutes. It’s not as crazy a question as it sounds.
Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to balance two sides of Christianity. I really do want to be growing more like Christ and producing fruit that pleases Him. Seriously! But you know, I also really enjoy spending time with friends and family just hanging out! Sometimes I want to watch a movie and not feel like there has to be a gospel conversation at the end of it. Sometimes I want to go out for coffee and talk about my upcoming trip to New Zealand without having to add a disclaimer at the end that it ‘really didn’t cost that much’ to avoid any looks of quiet shock or disbelief.
Sometimes though, I really do want to sit down and tell you about the bible study I’m writing for youth group. Sometimes I am really confused by what I’ve read in my Bible that morning anyd want to nut it through with whoever it may be I run in to first. I may even ask you how you’re going spiritually – because I’m genuinely interested!
There are people who only want to do ‘lifestyle’ Christianity. You know the people who are at every social event, they’re singing the loudest in church, they’re surrounded by friends..you can generally always rely on them for a a good time. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying these qualities are bad. But when it becomes nearly impossible to have a conversation that goes beyond relationships, clothes, their children, skateboards, their guitar or the new diet that they’re on, it does make me question where the resistance to talking about Jesus is coming from.
On the other hand, we’ve all met at least one of those super-spiritual Christians who seem to think that having a conversation on anything other than the Bible is sinful. In fact, these people are so intent on doing this that they don’t seem to care that I’m struggling with work, or that I’m excited about my new couch arriving. They’re the people are are too busy doing ‘ministry’ to ever spend time with either side of Sunday. They’re the Christian poster-people with the best of intentions but actually can come across quite hurtful. And frankly, sometimes it’s really annoying!
Two types of people. One faith.
I don’t think you can be a gospel-centred, relationship/community-centred Christian without being a little bit of both.
Talking about his book, Total Church, Tim Chester says that being gospel-centered means we’re word-centered (because the gospel is a message; it is good news), and it means being mission-centered (because the gospel is a message to be proclaimed; it is good news)..but we also need to be community-centred. The Christian community is the biblical context for evangelism, discipleship, pastor care, social involvement, and so on. That doesn’t mean meetings. It means the shared life of the community… It means doing the chores, having meals, watching sports, and so on with an intention to talk about Jesus, to pastor one another with the gospel.
Jesus said all men will know we are his disciples by our love for one another.
We should be living in a “context of gospel community where the content is the gospel word.” – Tim Chester
Have a read of Acts 2:44-47
…all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
They had everything in common! Surely, people with all things in common know what is going on in each other’s lives. Surely people with all things in common don’t mind catching up for a coffee and planning a holiday. Surely people with all things in common don’t mind sitting on the couch praying for the other.
The issue with both of these is when they become either an idol of religion or an avoidance of Christ.
Anything that comes before God is an idol, including ministry and saying godly words. In fact, if you’re doing these things because you think it will give you a better standing before God, or that it will give your reputation a boost..If you’re putting religion, being involved in ministry and doing good things to bring yourself glory instead of God, you need to repent. Maybe you just genuinely love talking about church all the time..or maybe you really do care that the church wasn’t cleaned as well as it could have been, so you cancelled on coffee with a friend to clean it again. Maybe when you talk to people, you use big Christian words that they don’t even understand. Your sincereity doesn’t separate you from sin or put you above it. God cares about His church (the people) and you should too – prayerfully, spiritually and practically.
If you’re avoiding talking about Christ..or avoiding talking to Him, for that matter, you also need to repent! If you’re putting other people and having fun before God, you’re taking His glory again for yourself. God wants a relationship with you. God doesn’t want people to see you and praise you. He wants them to see you and praise Him. Maybe that means some things in your life will need to change. Maybe it means you need to slow down a little and spend some quiet time with God. Maybe it means having an honest conversation with someone and sharing that you’ve been forgetting Christ. Your care and love for others doesn’t mean you’re in a right-standing position with God. God wants a relationship with you, before you have a relationship with anything or anyone else.
The Christian life isn’t about regurgitating the gospel anywhere and everywhere. It’s about faith in Christ being displayed in all situations and bringing glory to God. Whether it be talking about a song you’re interested in or sharing your struggles…it doesn’t matter! All that matters is that in all things, you do what is pleasing to God.
Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about pushing each other on to love and do good works. It says that we shouldn’t forget or avoid meeting together (beacuse some people do!), but as Christ’s return approaches, encourage each other more!
Life is hard! We are all either struggling right now or we will be at some point. Christians need to be doing whatever they can to refresh each other and spur them on in their day-to-day relationship with Christ – and what someone needs might be different tomorrow than it was yesterday.
If the gospel is just words, it means nothing to those you’re sharing it with. But if you are sharing gospel content in a community context..you’re not only speaking truth, but you’re giving evidence of the love, care, endurance and joy that Jesus spoke of.
Your words and your actions and your entire life are evidence of where your heart is. Where is your heart?
Where is mine? Well, I think I need to repent.