Recently Todd Hunter came and shared with our church. Todd and I go back a long way. It was so refreshing to see how he treated our little church like it was 3,000 people. As to the content, it really was powerful and thought-provoking. There is no doubt that things have changed dramatically over the past couple of decades; the environment in which we seek to communicate the Gospel is more challenging than ever. All the things that we took for granted years ago, people believing in God, believing the Bible is the Word of God, believing Jesus was the Son of God are no longer viewed in the same way. As the song says, “Well that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.”
I became a Christian long ago and witnessing was a big part of our agenda. I would walk up to complete strangers at the beach or parks and witness to them, many times praying with them. It was easy compared to today; back then it was like fishing at a trout farm. To gain a fuller understanding of some of the changes that have taken place, I will direct you to a couple friends of mine, Jason Clarke (http://www.jasonclark.ws) or Todd Hunter (www.3isenough.org). They will help you increase your understanding of where things are today.
Today when you talk to someone about God, they want to know which ‘god’ you are speaking of. They may point to a telephone pole and tell you that's their god or higher power. It’s one of the effects of pluralism, the melding together of diverse cultures and their systems of belief. If we are to gain respect of others, there is no lecturing them, or dismissing their belief systems. Evangelicals have been guilty of this sort of attitude and have been resoundingly rejected by our culture. We need to be ready to listen to them and answer their questions. Todd referred to a book, The Fall of an Evangelical Nation, by Christine Wicker, part of which lays out the attitude toward Evangelicals in
So we, evangelical Christians, got the visibility we wanted and we blew it. For the most part we, and yes, I say we, because people in general see Christians through the images they have seen on television. Of course they also have formed their opinions from knowing and interacting with Christians in day to day life. They appear to have a difficult time with the fact that in many cases we don’t walk what we talk.
One of the other things that Todd pointed out was regarding the way we see people. Do we really care about that person? Do we really want to understand what they believe? Are we even willing to take the time to listen and understand them? Do we care about them because they are created in the image of God, or do they represent another scalp on our belt? I am really not trying to be cynical here. I am just reacting to what I have seen and known to be true.
What Todd did was put it into a context so it is more clearly seen. Is the goal to communicate or simply preach? One of the examples Todd gave was of a person having a favorite spot they fish in, but because conditions change, the fish relocate, yet the fisherman is unyielding and stays in the same place waiting for the fish to come back to where he is. I wonder sometimes if we lose sight of the goal. John Wimber used to talk about 'doing what the Father was doing' in reference to Jesus ministry model. Jesus said he was on his Father’s business and that he restricted himself to do only what the Father is doing. I'm always asking myself what the Father is doing in any situation and if I need to be on standby. Other than that, I try to love people because God does. How can we not love what we believe God created?
So the weekend with Todd was stimulating and thought-provoking. I think it helped us see the current picture more clearly, and we were certainly struck by the challenges we face today in making Christ known to the world in which we live.