Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are you a spiritually obese Christian?

"If missions languish, it is because the whole life of godliness is feeble. The command to go everywhere and preach to everybody is not obeyed, until the will is lost by self-surrender in the will of God. There is little right giving because there is little right living, and because of the lack of sympathetic contact with God in holiness of heart, there is a lack of effectual contact with him at the Throne of Grace. Living, praying, giving and going will always be found together, and a low standard in one means a general debility in the whole spiritual being.” Arthur T. Pierson

I read this quote the other day and was struck by the truth contained within it. We are all called to missions- some to go overseas, some to within their own neighborhoods- but by and large it is a command that is largely ignored even by evangelical churches.

How many times do we live and behave as spiritual consumers? I have been just as guilty of consuming and consuming and not obeying or giving back. I may not have started out on a really good spiritual diet and at times the availability of good teachings were few and far between. But now, I am like the bloated, obese carcass of a beached whale. I haven't "arrived" nor will I ever spiritually, but I have enough knowledge and life experience to give back and help teach and encourage new Christians and to share the Gospel with the lost.

I have 4 children and the oldest will be a teen next month and our next child will be a teen next year and have learned what works and doesn't work with pre-teen children. Why am I not encouraging younger parents? I will be married 20 years next year and am relatively mature in my spiritual walk yet there is a tendency to just sit in church, week after week and consume. We as women need to become that Titus 2 woman to the younger women. You don't have to wait until your life is almost over to do this. So there is an opportunity to serve within the body of Christ. But what about sharing the Gospel with the unsaved within your community?

I find that there is a lot of lip service given within churches to "go and preach the Gospel" but in reality, very little is done within the community they serve. We pat ourselves on the backs for taking the Gospel to remote places in the world, but locally besides Easter egg hunts or 4th of July picnics labeled as "outreaches" very little of the Gospel is really shared within the local community. I am not against outreaches to the community, however we need to couple sharing the Gospel with action motivated by love.

My Academy roommate who lives in Arizona shared her frustration that the outreach in her church amounted to handing out bottles of water to strangers on the street but not sharing the Gospel; not even a tract was handed out. These are just worthless gimmicks that are a waste of time. If we hand out bottles of water, food, or offer to change oil in the cars of single mothers we need to give them the reason for the hope we have within. Our action demonstrates we love but if we fail to tell them why we love then we have gained nothing. If they die going home in their car with newly changed oil or they drink the bottle of water and die on the way home without repenting and believing in Christ, their fate is sealed forever. This should alarm us!

We visited a church last year and I was angered to the point I almost stood up and left. The minister came out, sat on the stage and played a video clip. The video clip had the sound removed and showed a man holding a large sign which had a message about sin and hell while he was speaking into a bullhorn. I don't know what the man was saying, but the preacher then used 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and preached a horrible reductionistic sermon about how we are just supposed to love people into the kingdom by working and keeping silent! Here are the 2 verses:

11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

He took these 2 verses totally out of context and used these verses to say that God's Word says that this is proof that we are not to be overt in our efforts. He asserted that they WILL come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ if we just work quietly side by side with the lost and just "smile and wave at them" like the penguins from the movie Madagascar. The icing on the cake is when he brought out a book by Brian McLaren, the emergent church guru, and started reading a bunch of heresy to complete his sermon.

I am not a fan of the "sign people" although I do consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. But at least that man in the video is not sitting in his church as a spiritually bloated consumer unable or unwilling to share the Gospel.

We need to have a balanced approach to sharing the Gospel. We all don't need to be on a box on a corner to be successful. Have you shared the Gospel with your neighbor? Bake them muffins or bread, mow their lawn or offer to watch their house when they're gone because you need a touch point, but at some point you HAVE to open your mouth. What about getting involved with a local jail ministry? Did you know that most public schools are looking for tutors for school children and that this relationship can last over the summer break? What an opportunity to make the difference in the life of a child or their families by introducing them to Jesus. Have you volunteered at a local food bank? Most communities have a Ronald McDoanld House for families with terminally ill children. Go volunteer there by cooking and serving a meal or driving the van to pick up families at the hospital. They always need help. Homeless shelters are also a wonderful place to make a difference and meet people who may not know Christ.

You can even share the Gospel within the church by teaching a children's class. I have a friend in California that teaches Kindergarten through 2nd grade in her church. She is sharing the Gospel with these kids each week. If you have children, your greatest mission field are your children. Have younger couples over to your home to encourage them in their marriage and in raising Godly families. But to willingly neglect sharing the Gospel message is in error when you know that these individuals are not saved.

We are looking for ways to be more deliberate with our neighbors and to not only be Christ to them by our actions but to share Christ with them by opening our mouths. I encourage you to make a list of 5 neighbors that you don't know and make it a point to meet all 5 of them within the month. That's about 1 per week. Take something over to them, say "Hello" and find out if they have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.