Church: Searching for Answers

by: Larry Davies | Nov 8, 2014

Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians met Rev. Billy Graham at his home in Montreat, NC. Gabe shared some of the work they were doing in third world countries. Rev. Graham reflected on everything, he shared with him, smiled and said: “Back when we did those big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving – and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God,” the evangelist said. “But today, I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those around them, not just with words, but in deed.”

Jesus calls it bearing fruit and he speaks to you and me not just preachers and evangelists: “You didn’t choose me. Remember; I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.” (John 15:16) We were chosen by God to bear fruit, fruit that will never spoil. We serve a God who backs us up in the midst of struggles and provides what is needed for our mission. In other words, much of the real work of the church takes place after the worship service is over and everyone has left the building.

So how do we take this message of God’s amazing grace outside our church walls? How do we focus more on bearing fruit for Jesus Christ?

Philip Yancey writes in Vanishing Grace: While discussing the growing antipathy toward Christians, a friend remarked, “There are three kinds of Christians that outsiders to the faith still respect: pilgrims, activists and artists. The uncommitted will listen to them far sooner than to an evangelist or apologist.”

As a pastor, I cringe when I read this because the very things I was trained to be – Evangelist or/and Apologist actually work against me when talking to those outside the faith.

Although nonbelievers do not oppose a spiritual search, they will listen only to those Christians who present themselves as fellow-pilgrims on the way rather than as part of a superior class who has already arrived. How can I present myself more as a fellow-pilgrim rather than an expert?

Eugene Peterson writes: “When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as the hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church. So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with. – Eugene Peterson, “James”

Activists express their faith in the most persuasive way of all, by their deeds. How can I be an activist, whose actions speak louder than words?

A pastor in modern-day South Korea runs his own small-scale version of a foundling hospital. Lee John-rak cares for a son born with crippling cerebral palsy and it disturbed him greatly to learn that hundreds of babies born with disabilities – deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome – are abandoned to the streets of Seoul every year. He constructed an ingenious “drop box” in the wall of his home. From the outside it resembles an after-hours deposit box at a bank. A parent who wishes to remain anonymous can open the baby box and deposit the unwanted infant in a warm, blanketed compartment fitted with a motion sensor and an alarm. Thus alerted, Pastor Lee or a volunteer comes to collect the baby and bring it into their bustling orphanage. As many as eighteen babies a month have been left in the baby box. – Philip Yancey

And art succeeds when it speaks most authentically to the human condition; when believers do so with skill, again the world takes note. How can I witness better through my artistic and creative abilities?

Toni Rossi, a blogger was surprised to get favorable comments from self-professed atheists in response to his review of the movie version of Les Miserables. “This is the only Christian story I have ever connected with and I love it,“ wrote one. He admitted to having a chip on his shoulder about Christianity, but he loved the musical because Jean Valjean manifested all the Christian virtues without being obnoxious or condescending. Another commented wistfully,” While I find that faith, once lost is nearly impossible to find again, I found this very touching story and had more Christians acted like Jean Valjean and the bishop and less like Javert, I might never had have lost my faith to begin with.” – Philip Yancey

So how do we take this message of God’s amazing grace outside our church walls? How do we focus more on bearing fruit for Jesus Christ?

How can I present myself more as a fellow-pilgrim rather than an expert?

How can I be an activist, whose actions speak louder than words?

How can I witness better through my artistic and creative abilities?

Next: Church: Prayer, Care, Share

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