It has been a long time since I wrote a blog, and to be honest, I don’t feel all that bad about it. Although I am passionate about being a good steward of the time in which we live in, utilizing all the means of technology to communicate Truth to people, I have just been too busy trying to serve Jesus outside the virtual world of the internet to write blogs like I may like to. But I kind of felt like it was time to try and get back to writing a blog post from time to time and I have a little time this afternoon so I thought I’d dive back in.
As I mentioned above I am passionate about sharing Truth with people through every means available to us. Now when I say Truth, let me be very specific so no one gets another idea. I am referring to the Truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just some relativistic truth that is simply true for me or one of many roads to God. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him…He didn’t say He was “One way” or “A way”. He spoke in absolutes and preached Himself as the absolute Truth and the only exclusive way to eternal life through faith in His completed work on the Cross that is openly inclusive to all who would come to Him.
So now that, that has been established let me share something that has kind of been something that I have been pondering in my spirit lately. We live in a time that an entire generation of people largely desires to have real and genuine relationships with people. And this has certainly bled over into the young millennials that profess faith in Jesus that often claim to be about a more relational Christianity. In fact many people of this generation simply will even openly say that they will no longer tolerate a programmatic manufactured style of faith that preceded them and was so prevalent during the church growth movement of the previous generation. The complaint was that people would share Truth but be unwilling to have relationship with people or not even care about them at all…They were just a check in box of the daily routine of “things done for Jesus” on a given day. And to be honest, it was probably a viable complaint. Many people during those times turned sharing Jesus into something that was completely devoid of relationship. For many, the best way they would share Jesus with people was to invite them to an event that was being planned with the hopes that the gifted evangelist would share the Gospel with the coworker or colleague that they saw and were with all the time. And in many ways they kind of used that as a means to not just get out of obeying the command to go and make disciples themselves through sharing the Gospel, but also get out of the accountability that real and genuine community through deep relationship brings. So the approach now for many in the current generation is to be completely relational and build relationships with their neighbors, co-workers, family members and anyone else in between and to live and be on mission in those relationships bringing people to Christ through them. Now on the surface this is something that is not only more Biblical, but was a much needed reform to western Christianity.
But how does it play out? What does it look like in real life? How does living out the Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 look like in real time by those in the current more relational driven generation who are supposedly living lives on mission all the time?
I obviously cannot and will not make a blanket statement on an entire generation of people but I can certainly share my experience on the subject at hand. What I have encountered in real time with this is unfortunately not what it looks like on paper as described above. This generation without question values relationship more and very much esteems it in terms of the greater benefits of becoming a Christian. But as far as getting to the preaching the Gospel and making disciples part goes…well…let’s just say it is slow at best, and that is truly being generous. Of course relationships take time to build, and such an approach to mission will be slower by nature, but if one truly values those they are building relationship with, and they truly know Jesus, they will share the Truth of Him with them…Especially if one truly believes the implications of dying without having truly placed their faith in Him.
What I have seen more than people truly on mission is a people who not only seem to be elevating relationship to a place that is actually idolatrous (I know hard to imagine) but also compromising holiness and their witness in the process. Having a drink turns into catching a buzz or even getting drunk…often even regularly practicing drunkenness. Connecting with people often results in coarse and foolish talking, crude joking and even unwholesome speech rather than what is good for building up someone in need, displaying God’s grace to those who hear. And to even call such attention to such things you are almost immediately thought of as a legalist not in touch with Christian freedom and not willing to build relationships with sinners like Jesus did. Now it is certainly not wrong to enjoy a drink or joke around with neighbors but it can be taken to places that is just as any other example one might use could.
Well…Jesus wasn’t engaging in such talk with those He built relationship with. Even in His joking and being relational with people He remained Holy. And even when He turned the water to the choice wine for the young Jewish couple (which was done for cultural respect and love for the couple more than anything else) He didn’t then sit around getting hammered with the guests. Jesus didn’t lose His saltiness as He built relationships with those He ministered to. He loved people and did indeed build relationships with the most qualified sinners of his day, but He never compromised His witness or had a desire to conform to the practices of sin to appease the relationships being built.
And in those relationships Jesus always pointed those He was building relationship with to the Truth; to Himself. He always pointed people towards repentance and faith in Him as Messiah. And there is no indication in the Scriptures that He took years and years of building relationships with people before He did so.
Now I am not saying that so people feel guilty because they are building relationships with people slowly but only to challenge them to make sure they actually get around to preaching the Gospel to those they are building those relationships with and remaining set apart while being in those relationships rather than perverting Christian freedom to a place that compromises holiness.
I will end this blog post by sharing a quick story. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to sit down with a young man addicted to heroin who had some questions about Teen Challenge (A program both my mom and my brother went through). I didn’t know him at all. When we got together and started talking it became very apparent to me that he not only didn’t know Christ, but he was screaming inside for the freedom that could only be found in Him. To make a long story short I ended up preaching the Gospel to Him and God moved through it in a visibly profound way as he professed faith in Christ. There was not a time of drawn out relationship building that took place before that happen…We just didn’t have it. But he could see that I cared about Him and that I was speaking the Truth to Him with a love that was not my own. The Spirit of the Lord did that not my relationship with Him. And the Spirit of God can and still does do those kinds of things outside of first having relationship with people.
I wonder what Pentecost would have looked like if Peter’s approach to preaching the Gospel; calling people to repentance and faith in Christ would’ve been as focused on relationship building first like many of this generation are rather than an event of proclamation evangelism under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit? Probably not like what we see or read in Acts 2. But we can also see that Peter and the people of the first church were also not devoid of relationship and not simply trying to do their daily deed for Jesus.
The need for the reform the current generation that we are a part of, was and still is very necessary. A call to get back to relationship building and living out our faith together in authentic Christian community on mission together. But this reform should not stop us from being lead by God to walk down the street, emphatically sharing the Gospel with someone we don’t know or haven’t spent time building relationship with either. There is great power in relationships, but there is greater power still in the Gospel and when one steps into the anointing of the Holy Spirit and loves someone enough to share it boldly.