I wonder sometimes if focusing on missionaries and pastors makes us as Christians feel better about ourselves. We go to church, we hear an incredible sermon and we say “Wow, that Pastor is really gifted. It’s so great to have him at our church”. Or we pick up a Christian article (much like this one) and are amazed at the missionaries overseas, working themselves to the bone for the sake of the Gospel. We say “God, it’s so good you’ve given these people such an amazing call from you”. It makes us feel good, doesn’t it? But what if something like that were a bit ‘closer to home’ for you? Let me create a hypothetical situation.
Imagine walking into the smoko room at work and making yourself a coffee. A couple of your workmates are there as well, laughing and talking about the sport over the weekend and moaning about the boss. You join in happily and begin to make your lunch. When you turn from the kitchen bench to comment on the rugby game you suddenly see him through the door window. Jerry. The new guy. The Christian. Well, of course, you’re a Christian too but there’s a difference between you and him. He keeps on talking about it!
“Good afternoon everyone!” he roars as he enters the room with a grin the size of Cheshire the cat. Everyone else greets him but you quickly zero in on your sandwich and don’t reply.
“Please don’t do anything weird”, you think to yourself. But you hope in vain.
“I had a great yesterday,” Jerry says as he puts last night’s leftover tea into the microwave to heat up. “Amazing sermon and incredible prayer time with God. It was powerful stuff. How was everyone else’s weekend?”
You shrivel within yourself, wishing you were anywhere but here, dreading the response from your colleagues and feeling completely uncomfortable for them. You quickly finish your meal, drain your coffee and leave the room. “Why does he always have to make it so awkward?” you think to yourself grumpily.
This type of situation may or may not have happened to you before. But it illustrates my point. Perhaps the reason why we’re so comfortable talking about the talents and exploits of pastors and missionaries is because we think they have a calling that we don’t have. Or, more specifically, we think their passion or gift to proclaim the Gospel is something we don’t have any access to. And it makes us feel better about our lack of ‘Gospel sharing’ to rave about them. It's a subtle way of saying "See, that's not my calling so it's fine that I'm not speaking about the Gospel.".
But when someone begins spouting on about God right in front of you who has no such title, he or she suddenly destroys that convenient little reason you’d given yourself for staying quiet. Because then the next question you have to ask is this: “If they’re talking about God, why aren’t I?” And that brings up a whole lot of uncomfortable questions.
A culture and a call
I’m still very young in the grand scheme of things, but I’m old enough to know that an attitude or response to something is often the fruit of a long-held belief or assumption. Another word for this can be the more ambiguous word ‘culture’. And I believe that it’s time for us New Zealanders to realise that there is something not quite right with a certain aspect of our culture, especially in how that translates into an authentic, Kiwi way of spreading the Gospel. Underneath our talk that we’re just trying to be humble and inoffensive, there seems to be another voice deeply embedded in our minds and emotions that whispers, “Don’t be too loud. Humility equals quiet. Passion can be low-key. Beliefs are private. Be a Christian through your actions.”
Now, are there truths to these statements? Yes! But they’re not the full story! And our enemy is a master at using half-truths to create the entirety of how we think we should act. When I read the Bible it tells me that the Holy Spirit comes with noise (Acts 2). It says we'll be empowered to preach, heal and disciple (Acts 2, Acts 3). It says we'll be filled with boldness and courage (Acts 4, Acts 5). And it declares that the call for all of us is to be witnesses to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus (Luke 24, Acts 1). I think it's time we stop treating these examples in scripture as simply 'suggestions' and actually start following their example. Perhaps it's time to allow Scripture, the full truth, to shape our culture and not the other way around.
I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to challenge facets of our culture in light of Scripture, not the other way around. In a country that is experiencing so much tangible pain, both physically and mentally, perhaps moving in the tangible power of the Holy Spirit might not be such a bad thing. Don’t let your personality, culture or feelings shut you up from expressing your faith. You never know what might happen if you just open your mouth and speak.
Now, it's all well and good me writing this, isn't it? But the truth is I find responding these challenges just as hard as you do. I actually find speaking about Jesus to friends, co-workers and -God forbid- strangers, incredibly hard. But, if I believe that Scripture is divinely inspired-which I do-then that's not a good enough reason for me not to obey is it? Perhaps the biggest facet of myself that actually needs to grow is my faith that the Holy Spirit will "give me the words to say at the moment I need them." (Luke 12:12). Let's continue to learn, with his help, how we can be an answer to his call.
Questions for discussion
Do you find it easy to talk about Godly things with non-Christians? Why or why not?
What spiritual gifts do you see in others that you wish you had? What could you do to learn more about how these gifts can be activated in your life?