3. Slam the Culture
This has become a very popular approach over the last few decades, perhaps peaking when the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S. last year.
I continue to be baffled as to why Christians insist non-Christians adopt our moral views. Why on earth would Christians expect non-Christians to act like Christians when…they’re not Christians?
If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.
For those intent on slamming the culture and the governments for their views, I’ll reiterate what I said in my post on same-sex marriage.
Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company—the company of the earliest followers of Jesus.
Jesus spent zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.
The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.
He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them.
Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, he didn’t look to them for change.
Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, Paul wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.
Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.
None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the U.S., our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.
We honestly don’t have it that hard.
Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.
Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.
Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus.
That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.
Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.
I hope so.
4. Embrace People and Offer an Alternative
Of all the approaches I’ve noticed, this is the most encouraging, in my view. And it’s the one I also try to embrace.
There’s much about today’s culture we may not like, but that’s no excuse to stop loving people within the culture.
In an age when so many churches push away people they don’t agree with, the field is ripe for Christians willing to embrace their neighbors.
To actually love them. Kind of like Jesus told us to.
Does that mean we have to agree with everything they do? Of course not.
But (…think about this…) the church is uniquely positioned to offer a radically beautiful alternative to the culture in so many key issues, like our sexuality, how we handle our money, what we do with our bodies, and in basic disciplines like confession and self-control.
When culture truly becomes post-Christian (as it has in Canada, where I live), it’s often not that people are rejecting Christian teachings, it’s that they don’t even know what those teachings are. And they’re surprisingly open to Christianity if the Christians they meet are loving and generous people.
Many are open to a new way to live. Here are just a few alternatives core to Christianity providing an intriguing counter-cultural viewpoint:
In an age where sex is anything you want it to be, Christianity teaches that sex is sacred and that we value the who far more than the what, which changes the what and the how.
In a culture where greed and debt have become the norm, Christ-followers can model and teach generosity and life that isn’t measured by what we accumulate. Teaching young families to save and give is truly counter-cultural these days, and deeply biblical.
In an era when the family is morphing and even fragmenting before our eyes, Christians can offer support and mentor kids and teens and extend friendship and tangible support to parents and adults who are alone. (Orange is fantastic at helping churches do this.)
Do you see the pattern? There are so many other areas where we can embrace people who are different than we are and humbly come alongside to help.
In the meantime, if you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.