Proclaiming the Gospel

Growing up, I was always a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I rarely did anything wrong. I followed the rules. I never rebelled. I defended my faith and brought my Bible to school to show just how serious about my faith I was. I was your classic good Christian girl.

While this is wonderful, it took me a long time to see just how lost this world is, but how genuinely human my neighbor is, regardless of their faith or knowledge of Christ. The topic of how to approach nonbelievers has been one that is on my heart a lot lately. I have seen far too many Christians build up walls around our churches, judging newcomers and young Christians by their sins instead of getting to know them personally. But I feel that Jesus has been shifting my views a little, allowing me to see a generation, however selfie-obsessed, that is broken and in need of the knowledge of the love and grace that only Jesus can give.

I am not alone in this. Many growing churches today have the same mindset — we live in a world that needs Jesus, so let us show Him to them. Sometimes, the mindset can be viewed as a watered-down Gospel. Many Christians feel that love is taught too freely and sin is not taught enough. I believe that sin should be pointed out among Christians, but that love cannot be given to freely.

I recently watched an interview with Carl Lentz on The View that had many Christians angry. He did not point out that abortion is a sin on national television.

From the very beginning, they introduced Carl Lentz as a pastor “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and then went straight for hot button topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. It’s The View, so controversial topics are not unexpected, but it really looked like they were asking not out of genuine interest but to stir up something. Immediately, I got uncomfortable — not from the question, but from the motives. He got uncomfortable too, and refused to give a straight answer when asked if abortion was a sin. I quote, “I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story; before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

I thought about those words — similar words to what I had told my husband only days before. If you don’t know Jesus, I want to get to know you and point you to Him. I do not want to look at you and point out your sins. This is not my job.

In fact, my job as a Christian is laid out in Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” – and in Matthew 28:19-20 – “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Firstly, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is NOT that you have sinned but that the God of all creation has loved you so much that He sent his only Son into the world as a baby for the sole purpose of dying one day all for you. Because you matter.
Secondly, I don’t think that the order in which Jesus speaks in Matthew 28 is an accident; in order to make disciples of all nations, first we must baptize and then we must teach. First we must lead them to Jesus and then we must teach them His ways.

I talked about this a few posts back in No Place in Heaven; that there had to be a better way to approach nonbelievers than telling them that God hates sin and that they have sinned. This could not be the gospel that Jesus was talking about in Mark 16:15. That could not have been what He meant.

Recently, I read in 1 Corinthians 5 about sin in the church. Specifically, Paul had received reports that there was a case of sexual immorality in the church, something that is so obviously sin, even pagans did not practice it. He rebuked this sin specifically and said there was no place for it in the church. But he also touched on sin outside of the church and said,

 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

The more I read my Bible and how Christians are to ask, the less I am compelled to point out that my neighbors who do not know Christ are actually sinners by a standard they do not understand. The more I think about Jesus, the more I want to let people know that he was a radical in this time and would likely be considered a radical in the church today. He ate with sinners. He refused to cast stones at an adulteress. He gave the good news about the living water he offered to another adulteress who wasn’t even Jewish. He was touched by a woman who was ceremoniously unclean and did not rebuke her. He loved the unlovable and the pharisees scoffed at him.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my first son. I was not prepared for him. I wanted kids, but not yet. I was only four months married when I found out about my son. It was not the first year of marriage I had always imagined. I knew, though, that God had given my my son at that time for a reason. As life goes on, I am realizing more reasons for all of it. One thing God did in me at that time was give me compassion for the girl who chooses abortion.

I was always pro-life and will always be pro-life. I wrote about it a little here. There were facts I had always known from research that supported the ideology that a fetus is actually a life. And yet, five years ago, I felt scared and ashamed to be pregnant. I never considered ending my pregnancy, but I realized how people could. The life growing inside of me was something permanent that I would have to care for when I was only learning how to be an adult myself. I could not see past my current situation, and my current situation certainly did not allow for a child.

My heart melted the day that I saw my “little gummy bear” dancing on the screen during my 9-week ultrasound. I knew the scientific facts about how babies grew in the womb. But to see my baby, only an inch long, dancing and jumping, made everything that much more real.

If I had chosen to end my pregnancy, I never would have seen that ultrasound. I never would have actually seen the life inside of me. You could have told me about it, but I would not have known. I could not have pictured it. If I had chosen to have an abortion, that guilt would have stayed with me, as I have heard from many women who have had abortions out of fear from their current circumstances. Every birth date that would have passed would have been a reminder that the baby I never had was not with me.

You see, many women who choose abortion do not do it out of spite or callousness. They have so many different reasons. And many genuinely do not see the fetus as a life and therefore have no reason to call it murder. Do you not see why a Christian who claims the love of Jesus above all does not want to call it sin on national TV? Do you not realize how many broken women there were watching that morning needing to not hear that there choice from years ago, months ago, or the day before was simply a “sin”? And could you not imagine the backlash that a Christian man would have gotten for calling all these women sinners?

The world does not need to hear right now that it is in sin. In the midst of all that is going on in these weeks alone, we need to hear that there is a God who loves us, a God who wants to be with us, a God who thought that we we worth His death on the Cross.

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A Generation Rising Up — God’s Promises

“I see a generation rising up to take their place.”

Those were the words that came to me this Sunday morning in church. I stood, worshipping and singing, as I watched the group who was leading worship. I saw that it was made up of youth and young adults, no one older than I am. 

That was my generation up there and I had never been so encouraged. 

There are many statistics and articles out there on the subject on young adults leaving the church. They are grim and disheartening. And I saw it happen in my own church. But on Sunday, I saw hope for this generation. 

I didn’t always feel this way in my church. There was a time about 5-6 years ago when I was very discouraged in my church. I remember sitting in the parking lot of McDonald’s with my now-husband, crying. I told him I was spiritually dying in our church. I wanted to go some place else, some place with a vision. I wasn’t even 21 years old and I was already so tired. 

My husband and I grew up in the same church. We had gotten close in our youth group. We had felt connected in a group of young people led by a youth pastor who was part-encourager, part-teacher, part-friend. Although we were college age, we still considered us to be a part of that group. But by this point in the parking lot, our youth pastor had, for many reasons that we understood, left our church. We did not have a senior pastor at this point. I could count on one hand the people our age who consistently came on Sundays. To me, it was time to leave. My now-husband wanted to stay. Although we weren’t engaged yet, I knew that we would get married and I thought it was important to stay in the same church even before we did, so we stayed. 

We stayed in a church that was dwindling in numbers. There were many reasons for this, but I believe that most of it had to do with not being culturally relevant to the time and place the church was in and a lack in local outreach. 

Soon after that, we assumed the position of Sunday School leaders. I remember that I did not have a passion for it but accepted it because there was nobody else. I had no training for this position. 

I became resentful when I would hear of friends and family having the opportunity to visit other churches like Hillsong (which I wanted to go to for years when I saw there was one in London). As a Sunday School leader, I had to be in church every Sunday. I felt more discouraged to not only not be able to go to a church with loved ones, but to not be spiritually fed in a Sunday morning (because Sunday school was held during he main service) and to not have a friend in church to commune with. 

So this Sunday, looking at the worship team that was playing, I couldn’t help but smile. I saw two girls from Sunday School class all those years ago on stage, using their beautiful voices. I like to think that my husband chose to stay all those years ago because he has sensed something like this was in store and he knew I would not have wanted to miss it. 

With all this madness in the world today, it was refreshing to see my generation praising the name of the God I love. It was encouraging to know that I am not alone. 

Three years ago, during another period without a senior pastor, I sat in the church nursery with my newborn son and I heard the voice of God telling me that my generation was going to rise up and take over this church. Two days ago, I noticed the fulfillment of His promises. 

Two years ago, there were no youth or young adult ministries in our church. Today, they are the fastest growing ones in our church. 

I want to be clear that I in no way am against an older generation. Just as church should not be exclusive to an older generation, it should not be exclusive to a younger one. There should be a rich cultural and age diversity inside of the body of Christ. No group should aim to kick out another. All groups should work together with the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of Christ. 

“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:25-26‬ ‭MSG‬‬

http://bible.com/97/1co.12.25-26.msg

God keeps His promises. Even in our lowest points, He whispers something to us, gives us a small reason to keep hanging on. And then, without even realizing it, we see He has been working in the background the whole time and His promises are being fulfilled. 

I pray this encourages you in the same way it has encouraged me.