On Saturdays, I’m writing my thoughts that have rambled in my brain since hearing the sermon at my church. Today’s entry was inspired by Andy McQuitty’s sermon given at Irving Bible Church as we’re in the final week of a 4-week series in Jonah. This sermon is titled “Jonah’s Elevator Speech.”
When I heard him say it, I have to admit that I was pretty surprised. Pastor Andy, who is not given to sensational embellishment, said that 82% of people will come to visit a church if a Christian friend asked them to. I mean, the stuff I’ve been reading tends to highlight the folks that won’t come to church as all for any reason (allegedly some 60% of any given population). So hearing this piqued my interest. I thought about that statement for a day or two.
During my reflection a statistic I heard somewhere in my evangelical past popped into my brain: People who come to know Christ usually have no non-Christian friends within two years of their conversion. I Googled that and I can’t find any actual research on it, but a lot of people quote that stat as a rule-of-thumb. They all cite “overwhelming statistical evidence” that I can’t seem to find.
Granted, it was easier to have non-Christian friends when I was younger. I mean, in high school, when I kind of became aware of such distinctions, I was in forced social settings with a hodge-podge of people. It was a public school. Simply by being involved in classes, the baseball team, or yearbook put you in proximity to new folks that changed every semester.
University was the same way. As an added feature, I was in a fraternity. Granted, there was a lot of “Yay God! Boo, Devil!” kind of mindset, but the overwhelming practical religion seemed to be existential hedonism. The peculiar thing was that I found them inherently more interesting than my Christian community. My fraternity brothers were an eclectic recipe of great parties, authentic relationships and real love. But walking with Christ was an idle curiosity to them…one they’d usually get boozed up and ask about.
And then I graduated and got my first job. It was a campus ministry designed to reach folks who didn’t know Christ and I worked on two high-school campuses. One was pretty much the popular Christian kids and the other was the decidedly non-Christian ones…but I still spent my time meeting and knowing non-Christians even if they were all under the age of 20.
Then working for a church.
Let’s just say that the unsupported statistic held true in my case. Two years later…non-Christian friends were virtually non-existent.
So, when Andy said he identified with Jonah by using these words…
If we’re honest, and we ask ourselves, today, as Christ-followers, as those who are called to share good news to a lost & hurting world, whether it’s convenient or not, whether our heart bleeds for it or not, do we not see ourselves in Jonah? When I look at Biblical characters, when I look at Biblical prophets, I personally would be honored to follow in the footsteps of Isaiah, or Ezekiel. Those were really cool prophets. But the problem is that, though I find those other prophets attractive, I find Jonah familiar.
…it stung a little bit.
Not because I found Jonah familiar, really, even though I certainly have moments where I do relate to him. But rather because of what Andy said earlier on. That part about sharing Good News to the…
…whether it’s convenient or not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I spend my days working with people to spread the Good News to folks who are lost & hurting. I am charged with empowering and encouraging and motivating people to take the Good news (in the verbiage of my congregation) “across the street and around the world.” I have done plenty of mission work and now do that kind of thing as a profession. I love my job and the folks I work with.
What I’m talking about is my own personal, everyday ministry.
See, where I got convicted was because of the reality that I don’t have a whole lot of interaction in my day-to-day life with non-believers. I don’t know many lost people here. Sure, I can get on a plane to India and immerse myself in a group of folks that don’t and come back in two weeks. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I need to re-engage with those that don’t know Christ.
I need more relationships with those that are hurting or don’t know what they don’t know.
I say I want to do those things, and that’s where the “convenience” thing comes in to play. The truth about me is that in order to re-engage with those that don’t know Christ or build relationships with those folks, it’ll require a level of inconvenience.
Truth be told, I like to come home and decompress with my family.
Truth be told, I really enjoy hanging out with my co-workers outside of work. They’re great friends and fun to be around and it’s always easy and fun.
Truth be told, it’s pretty cool to pray at work and the family of believers that comprise my church family are highly enjoyable folks and inspire me with our conversations about ministry.
Truth be told, I really only have so much time in a day, right? Gotta exercise and read and walk the dogs and watch some good shows or movies and listen to great music.
I heard a well-known pastor at a conference say that if we surround ourselves with only Christians, we’ll eventually get to a point where we “yawn at movements of God that we ought to be awed by.” That’s partially true…at least with regard to Christian involvements. Another drawback is that we will miss out on what God wants to use us for and created us to do.
Because I don’t believe mission is all about the big trips. If that were the case I’d only be on mission about 3 months a year.
But in order to be on mission and bloom where I’m planted and all that, I think I’m going to have to inconvenience myself.