The wrong crowd…

4 Apr

filterbubble1If you find yourself living a day to day existence that doesn’t ever include sharing the Gospel, chances are that one of two relationship circumstances is present in your life. As many before me have established (and as I maintain): being a message bearer is a non-negotiable aspect of following Jesus. We cannot shun this responsibility by crying that our lives are different and we share the Gospel through our actions for this will not do. Unless our actions carry some accompanying signifier we just have a pile of good actions (soiled by some not-so-good ones because we’re not perfect) that mean nothing to the outside world. Assuming you’re convinced sharing the faith is necessary and good – why aren’t you? Plenty of reasons abound, but living at one pole of the relational spectrum is a prime suspect.

The Bubble

During my years in ministry this has been the most consistent trap for me, and the most likely trap for my students as well. We find Christian community, we live our lives, rinse and repeat. The problem arises when our network of meaningful relationships includes Christians exclusively – at this point we don’t have any significant relational capitol with folks who don’t believe and therefore we shy away from giving away our faith and become greedy with it.

The best way to test for this is simply asking yourself how many people you could call/text/email right now to hang out without it being weird. A lot of us think “Oh there are so many non-Christians at my work/school/etc.” without realizing that they’re almost all acquaintances and we know very little about who they actually are.

If this is you consider being more intentional with folks in your regular spheres of life. If your regular spheres are composed of Christians exclusively (i.e. you are a minister, missionary, attend a Christian school, etc.) then try joining a group or club without religious affiliation. Salt is not effective if it remains in the shaker surrounded by more salt and a candle provides no illumination in the sunlight.

The Desert

At the other end of the spectrum we find Christians who are totally alone (or think they are) in their relationships. These folks find themselves either devoid of Christian friendships or with very distinct Christian and non-Christian communities. I have not ever personally found myself in this situation but have seen many students fall into the trap. Their closest friends and communities are all secular and they begin to fear rocking the boat. As time passes and routines are established the idea of being vocal about matters of faith becomes less and less of a possible reality. The people advising them and investing in them all have no connection to Jesus and therefore don’t integrate him into their counsel. Over time the believer falls into the trap of thinking “they’re such nice people – surely God will be pleased with them.” (If this seems a stretch read the first chapter of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus). Eventually they must compromise some of their Christian identity to maintain their connection to the individual or group because they’ve never established a pattern of respectful disagreement or asserted that their faith is indeed valuable to them.

We often refer to Paul’s instruction not to be unequally yoked as advice about marriage but I think it extends to all relationships (romantic, business, friendship, etc.) This doesn’t mean that the Christin shouldn’t start a business with a non-Christian friend or that we should shun relationships with those who disagree (see “The Bubble” above) – but rather that we should prioritize at least a few close friendships with believers and find a meaningful Christian community where we can be known. This allows us to be ‘in but not of’ the world as we live and work and relate as aliens in a foreign land. Without a deep and life giving connection to the body of Christ the individual will ultimately succumb to the pressure of falling in line with the culture. In the west this means “you can believe in Jesus – just don’t suggest that I ought to as well.”

If this is you, I am glad that you are able to connect and value those who don’t share your most deeply held beliefs, but know that finding a significant connection to the body of Christ is vital for the survival of your faith.

Conclusion

Again, these are not the only two reasons people who otherwise think it is right and good fail to share their faith. Nor am I suggesting that you must fit into one of these two categories. I think we have a tendency towards one or the other and both are damaging both to us as individuals and to the work of the Kingdom. Assess your relationships – who you actually spend free and unscheduled time with – and ask if there is balance or if your relationships are weighted too heavily towards one end of the spectrum.

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3 Responses to “The wrong crowd…”

  1. amphomma April 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Great post! I was in a bubble in college but now I’m closer to being in a desert. My Christian friends are other busy moms who rarely get to just sit down and talk. I have my husband and some great friends who I connect with long-distance, but my heart misses face-to-face encouragement and prayer.

    In my neighborhood, and even just this morning, I feel like a single grain of salt sometimes. An acquaintance posted a joke in a sub-group we belong to as housewife moms, which I found very distasteful and offensive. My wise husband and even a non-Christian friend/neighbor wisely advised me not to engage with certain people. I spoke up at first and posted my distaste for a joke that attempted to laugh at lust and infidelity, but I removed my post simply because I would rather speak in person and also because of the warnings I’d received to just back away from these people. I hope and pray for there to be compassion in my heart and for a chance to share the Gospel. I admit I often feel like Jonah did towards Nineveh and I know that’s not why God has me here.

    As for sharing the Gospel, I have done so more as a blogger than almost any other way. Whether through my own posts or in reply to the posts and comments of others. I’m much bolder on paper.

    Keep writing and making us all think!!

  2. Lynn Wimmer April 17, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    A very cogent post – I used your analogy of the ineffectiveness of salt in the shaker and candle in daylight in Bible study yesterday – a great illustration of how ineffective we become when we’re snug and secure in our own little bubbles, and ways to break out of those bubbles. Thanks, Steve!

    • stevewimmer April 17, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks mom! I hope it’s helpful for you and your Bible study.

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