Come to Bethlehem and see…
There is a whole lot of talk these days about being “Missional Christians”. Talk about living our lives on mission; sharing the Gospel in our everyday worlds through building relationships with our neighbors, co-workers, and people from the worlds we’re in and go to every day. This conversation, which is basically about Christian methodology and practice, is happening and has happened because, as usual, in our humanness we screwed something up and it needed to be addressed. If you’re unfamiliar with this conversation or what some like to think of it as “second reformation” , let me give you a quick synopsis of it.
Basically in the 80’s and especially in the 90’s people would use what is now referred to as an “attraction-based” model of ministry and outreach. They would basically try to make the worship gatherings as hip and professional as possible to attract people to the gatherings through excellent music, cutting edge production and slick speakers. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with excellence as God’s children, and one could even argue that we should go above and beyond for our corporate worship gatherings for Jesus, some very important things fell through the cracks. Namely, dicispleship, loving our neighbors, tangibly caring for the less-fortunate, and all believers understanding that everyone has a part to play and is on mission not JUST those who the Lord has tremendously gifted to minister from a platform while the rest are just consumers rather than producers. These very things are some of the things being addressed in the conversation about living missionally. It was a much needed, and in many ways, is still a needed conversation to have.
To sum it up for you quickly those talking about living missionally as Christians rightly and biblically emphasize that as Christ-Followers we are to live on mission with a “Go and tell…” mentality and lifestyle and move away from a “come and see…” approach that was emphasized so much over the past 25-30 years or so. There has been some great fruit from this and more and more Christians are living life on intentional mission in their neighborhoods, at their jobs and wherever God may send them. Discipleship with the firm foundational truth of being a multiplier is refreshingly being emphasized and provoking people to move beyond the coffee shops to living out the biblical mandate to make disciples and the conversation people have been engaged in. This is not only exciting but biblical! But here is the problem…
For many who are a part of this “movement” or conversation they have eliminated anything that has a “come and see” feel to it. In fact, many that I have talked to even detest it. But what that does is a number of alarming things. First, it basically eliminates any Christian who may be tremendously gifted from using those talents to their maximum potential at their local church and allowing Jesus to partner with them in drawing people through Himself those gifts. Secondly, it reduces the power of the Gospel. “What?!?! “ That’s right, and I will say it again. It reduces the power of the Gospel. The Gospel’s power is not reduced, but it basically says that proclamation has limitations and that relationship is a requirement for that Truth to have any lasting regenerative effects. While the Church and Christians needed to get back to being neighborly and building relationships motivated by the love of Christ in them, it doesn’t change the Gospel. The Gospel is a message, an actual historical event, and the only Truth that sets people free. When it is proclaimed there is power in it…Holy Spirit power to be specific. And when the Gospel is shared fully with nothing watered down during its proclamation it will either pierce a heart or it will harden a heart but it will never come back void. You either believe that to be true or you don’t. If you do, then you should already be able to understand why totally eliminating “come and see…” from Christian missional methodology would be just as wrong as making a consumerist church culture that built many mega churches filled with shallow people and a shallow faith. So how do we do both?
Well… I was inspired to write this blog for two reasons. The first reason is that tomorrow night I will be doing an outreach with a group of young people to a group of the drug addicted and less-fortunates in one of the local communities in which we try and minister. We will feed them tangible and real food, give them Christmas cards a small gift/gift bag and share the Gospel with them through words and song. And I was singing through the Christmas Carol Angels we have heard on high and I came to the line “Come to Bethlehem and see…” and I stopped and thought about all the churches who are doing Christmas production to share and show Christ with the world. This is not a bad thing at all! In fact, I would venture to say it is a great thing! People whom God has gifted and blessed with artistic talents using them to share that message of His Gospel and doing it with the absolute best excellence they are capable of. And then, and this is where having convictions about proclaiming the Gospel in its FULLNESS and not watering it down because it is a Christmas production that is supposed to be some “feel good” experience, comes in to play, a gifted evangelist can share the Gospel and give an invitation repent and put their faith in Christ and His finished work on the Cross. The second reason is that my brother who pastors a church in one of Chicago’s hardest neighborhoods did an event last night and saw a number of people get hit by the Loving Grace of God through the proclamation of the Gospel. His event was unique as it featured people from a variety of different gift sets that included art, dance, hip-hop, poetry, spoken word, worship singers and many others.
So while we do need to live our lives on mission at all times with a “go and tell” mentality and lifestyle we can also still use times like Christmas to allow God’s people to use all their talents and giftings to have people “come and see” just what talents the Lord has blessed His children with and allow that attractive platform style outreach. An outreach done with the highest level of excellence allowing that platform to be a platform to proclaim the Gospel in its fullness to all those who have been invited by those people a part of that local body who have already built relationships and friendships with them because they themselves are living their lives on intentional mission. So go out and invite the people you have been building relationships with to “come to Bethlehem and see” a great Christmas production at a local church where the Gospel is shared and proclaimed…their eternity could be counting on it… Blessings!