I grew up on some of the classic 80’s movies. I remember The Great Outdoors with Dan Aykroid and John Candy. One particular scene had Roman (Dan Aykroid) talking to his brother Chet (John Candy). Roman is looking out over the forest. He was a business guy. He said, “I tell you what I see when I look out there. I see the undeveloped resources of Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and Michigan. I see a syndicated development consortium exploiting over a billion and a half dollars in forest products. I see a paper mill and if the strategic metals are there, a mining operation. A greenbelt between the condos on the lake and a waste management facility focusing on the newest rage in toxic waste, medical refuse. Infected bandages, body parts, IV tubing, contaminated glassware, entrails, syringes, fluids, blood, low grade radioactive waste all safely contained sunken in the lake and sealed for centuries. Now I ask you what do you see?
Chet said, “I just see trees.”
I want to propose the opportunities to do apologetics and share the gospel are the same way. We’re all looking at the same trees, but some of us can see the potential opportunities and others aren’t quite there yet. So church, let’s help each other see it! If you want to think of scripture, think of what Jesus told His disciples. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The sort of eye-opening I pray God does for His world-wide church is the type that He did for the servant of Elisha in 2 Kings 6. Elisha prayed for God to open his servants eyes to see God’s protection by way of numerous horses and chariots of fire all around them.
So what kind of opportunities are actually out there? I usually have a routine where I go to different Christian and non-Christian news and topical sites. I just like to know what is happening around the country and world. Lately, as I peruse the articles and sites, there really is no shortage of topics for Christians and churches to engage in.
This is my sweet spot. This is where God has specifically developed in me a passion and huge sense of urgency to be a part of. The most recent Gallup Poll just came out saying that for the first time in eighty years (as long as they have been observing), church membership is under fifty percent. All right church, Christian, if you need a new reason to light a fire in your evangelistic pants to get up and do something, now is the time! People are turning away from church and God at staggering and consistent rates. One of the relatively new classifications is that of the nones. This is those who hold to no religious affiliation. It’s not necessarily atheist and skeptics, but many do consider themselves to be in this camp. Many are just not affiliating with any religion. They are the nones. It’s not important to them. They see no relevance.
So, with that said, the opportunity for the church is to engage this crowd. Are you talking about “those people” outside our churches, or are you being intentional in reaching out to them by befriending them, creating discussion groups, or just making it known that they are welcome to step in your church to talk or listen?
I’m telling you church, this is an area where we need to step it up and engage. The deconversion stories are growing ever so steadily. We need to know what we believe and why. We need to be teaching our kids and church how to rightly read and interpret their Bible. We need to show them that it is not just a way, but the way. We need to show them that Christianity is not just relevant, but objectively true.
I’ll bet that just reading those letters shot some people’s blood pressure up. Right? Ha! Let me be clear here: I am not advocating for us to cave on these issues and go against the Bible. The Bible is as clear now as it was in the past. I’m simply pointing out that this is a red hot issue going on right now. And it is not going away anytime soon, or most likely, ever. So are you prepared to engage in this area? We have to be ready. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I don’t think we’re always ready to talk to everyone about why we believe in Jesus. Maybe certain people and for easy questions. But not always.
I had someone once tell me that this was an untapped market for the church. I know that seems like business lingo, but I really agree. It’s a harvest that is taking off all around us. It’s not going to go away. Are you prepared to step into that arena and talk? Do you know what you would say? Do you know how you would say it? Is your motivation for talking to someone of that persuasion pure and holy? I believe these are things we need to check. But don’t just talk about it forever as if that’s good enough. Put your faith into action. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (Jas. 2:18). We know what the next verse is in James scathing critique of a dead faith.
We’re not called to a comfortable, non-confrontational life. We’re called to love God and love others. We’re called to obey God. We’re called to tell the world about Him and how to live for Him by making disciples. That requires us to go to everyone and be willing to have tough conversations and to do so in love.
Just be real, transparent, and honest
I’m convinced that if we just modeled these three things with everyone, it would open up so many more opportunities for us to share our faith. Times may be changing. It may not be our grandparents’ world anymore. But people still respond more readily to someone who seems to genuinely care. People are drawn to others who seem to be real and show them love.
Church, the mission hasn’t changed. The landscape may look different, but we still have the same job: to live out and preach the gospel. So look back out at the trees in the forest and have a little more of the optimism of Roman.