Was talking with an older man recently who was bemoaning the fact there is nothing for Christians to do. "It’s a problem now, it was a problem when I was a kid, it’s always been a problem. If you can’t watch movies, can’t dance, can’t do anything bad, what can you do?" There was a hint of tongue-in-cheek in his tone, but candor as well. He added that at least we have board games to save us from boredom. No pun intended.
I see this as a common theme among Christian circles. I call it, “The No Syndrome.” No, we can’t listen to this or watch that; and shouldn’t lie, cheat, or steal; nor cuss, smoke, or drink; nor chew, yell, or go to the show; nor get mad, visit the bad part of town, associate with non-believers or even eat too many sweets. Sometimes Christians scratch their heads wondering, “What was it again we CAN do?”
Seems like the local church often comes up short on vision here… Because there is so much we can do!! And no, it’s not sitting in a white room eating vegetables trying not to think bad thoughts. The work we get to do is among the most exciting a human ever has the opportunity to participate in: being apart of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.
We never need to stoop to worldliness (which we all know) but we also never need to stoop to copycatting worldliness (the tactic mainstream American Christianity has unfortunately swallowed, hook, line, and sinker).
Regarding this whole issue, I recently heard a Christian man use an analogy from sports. He said, "We need both a good defense and a strong offense." His point was we can at times be all defense (fighting the world, flesh, and the devil in our lives) with no offense (fighting the world, flesh, and the devil in our culture). Not that bending to an extreme in offense is the answer either: balance is key.
This sports analogy begs the question, “What does an offense look like?” As I observe those who appear to be playing offense, I see among the more radical people a tendency to get carried away fighting injustices to the exclusion of making disciples (Shane Claiborne comes to mind, I’m planning to review his book Friday). Seems to me when we help people physically without sharing the gospel we’re merely making them comfortable on their way to hell, where they’ll get plenty uncomfortable again.
Others lean towards gospel work (tract distribution) as the answer. Surely this is the perfect activity for our youth? And not to say street evangelism isn’t valuable and has its place, but it’s also the type of seed the devil frequently snatches away because they don’t understand (Matthew 13:19). This is especially true with Internationals. I hate being pessimistic, but am speaking from my own experience.
Others think offense means starting programs, recruiting people into programs, and propping up programs. Programs are wonderful so long as everyone realizes they’re the structure for relationships. Programs are the bones; relationships are the meat. They both need heart (love).
So if it’s not all about fighting injustice, handing out tracts, or plugging bodies into programs (as important as all these are), “Where then should we start?”
After much thought, here’s my suggestion… well, maybe I’ll save it for my next post!