Monday, March 10, 2014

How Do We Share Faith in Post-Christian America?

Last week I was in Memphis working with a church leadership team on Natural Church Development and teaching an intensive course--21st Century Missional Strategies--at Harding School of Theology. It was a powerful week as both groups were discovering a change in paradigms for what they are about.

21st Century Missional Strategies is answering the question that titles this blog: How do we share faith in 21st century America? Here's the big revelation that came from my students:

We know we ought to share faith but we keep suppressing that impulse so it won't bother us.

Do you feel like that too? You know sharing faith should be part of your life but you just keep suppressing it and putting the thought out of your mind so you don't have to feel guilty?

Here are a couple of thoughts about this. First, this way of thinking is still guilt based. OK, Matthew 28:18-20 sits like a pretty big stone mountain out there that we can't ignore. Jesus does say get out in the world and make disciples of all nations, which, as I read the text, pretty well means EVERYBODY. But why the guilt? Why do we work from the assumption that sharing faith is so gruesome, so intimidating, that to do it is an onerous task and not a grace-filled joy? We've got some reorienting to do as God's people so that we actually experience and believe that Jesus is the good news he claims to be.

Second, why isn't sharing faith the grace-filled experience of joy it seems like it should be if Jesus is in fact good news? Two parts to this answer. First, if Jesus is the resurrected Lord he presented himself to be (Mark 16; 1 Cor. 15:3-11) that's a game changer! It changes everything we do. Paul puts it very succinctly, if Jesus was raised from the dead then we win and death loses. There's a new book, a small one of just a hundred pages, that's a great read on the implication of the resurrection: Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson. We need to wrestle with our doubts until we too become convicted believers.

And what makes sharing faith so difficult as well is that we do live in a post-Christian context where it's not acceptable nor politically correct to be a "proselytizer." That means it takes more than a bit of courage to open our mouths and make sort of confession of faith. In fact, experience demonstrates that when we meet someone new and don't let our faith out of the closet the next time it will be twice as hard and after our third meeting the only way that person will discover we're Jesus followers is by accident.

If you really want to explore sharing faith you need to order the workbook Sharing Faith. It's not a read, it's planned activity that course that could just possibly release in you the joy of sharing faith that you long to experience. God bless you in that direction.

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