I am currently teaching a series at the church that I pastor called, “iChurch.” The basic premise is that many churches today have become inward-focused and only concerned with keeping “insiders” happy. Statistics show that this isn’t working, as more and more professing believers are dropping out of church every week.
I believe the challenge before us is to become outward-focused… literally living as a “sent people” (see John 20:21), ultimately becoming a church of Influence, hence the title “iChurch.”
In order to influence the outside world, we must first learn to listen to their concerns, hurts, struggles and fears. Once we understand our culture, we will be better prepared to influence them into relationship with Jesus Christ. Gone are the days when one could stand on a street corner with megaphone in hand, and yell at passersby how terrible they are and why they’re going to hell! This technique may have worked in days-gone-by, but it is no longer effective in reaching lost people today.
How should we approach sharing our faith with others then? The Apostle Paul gave the church at Colosse great advice when he wrote these words:
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. — Colossians 4:5-6, NLT.
Did you catch that? We are to live wisely; maximize the moment; speak pleasantly so as to be more attractive to unbelievers… all so that we can effectively respond to their legitimate questions and concerns. Quite the different approach from the above listed example, wouldn’t you say?
So, the church in the 21st century is at a crossroads of sorts, it would appear. We have a choice to make. One that will affect lives for eternity! Either we 1) continue to ignore culture and hope that it changes back to “the good old days” (Let’s just keep doing ministry like it’s 1960 all over again?); Or 2) fight the culture and try to pound them into believing in Jesus (some people actually believe this method works?); Or 3) we can make a daily, conscious decision to live by the Spirit’s influence and in turn influence the culture around us into relationship with Jesus.
Jesus taught a drastically different message than most churches are applying to their core values… He actually suggested that it was appropriate to abandon the ninety-nine that were safe in the fold to find the one that was lost! The key, as we approach this crossroads, appears to be in the discipline of listening… are we going to listen to insiders, trying to make them happy? Or are we going to listen to outsiders, honestly attempting to dialogue with them in hopes of presenting the gospel in a clear and understandable way, thereby leading them into relationship with Christ? Who are you going to listen to?
May we be an Influencing Church, engaging the culture in which we live with the relevant message of Jesus Christ.
* You can go to http://www.sermoncloud.com/radiant-life-church/the-church-at-a-crossroads/ to listen to this sermon online.