Recently I read the testimony of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield who was once vehemently opposed to Christianity. As a self-described happy and content leftist, liberal, post-modernist, she pronounced those who followed Jesus as worthy only of “pity” and “wrath.” She sought neither a personal understanding of faith in God nor any interaction with His followers. That was until she published a forthright article denouncing Christianity and in response, received a “kind and inquiring letter” from a pastor who politely caused her to re-evaluate her long-held presuppositions and ask herself some honest questions. The ensuing discourse that lasted over two years proved that this pastor neither feared her lifestyle nor hid his commitment to the truth. Her friendship with him and his family eventually smoothed the way for her to experience and know Jesus for herself. Instead of simply inviting her to church, she described his actions as “bringing the church to me, a heathen.” (Read her whole story here)
In today’s world where the church is repeatedly told by an increasingly hostile culture that we are no longer relevant, are out of step with forward-thinking realists, and that God’s opinion should be silenced, I wonder if believers might all learn a lesson from Rosaria’s story. Instead of inviting people to church, and expecting the leaders to explain the Gospel, what would happen if we diligently learned from the pastors and teachers, immersed ourselves in God’s Word, and then left the church building with the deliberate intent to build relationships in order to bring the truth to those who don’t know Christ?
Of course, it is much easier to sit next to someone on a pew or wave across a congregation than it is to intentionally build a bridge to people outside the church and to pray diligently for them as we wait for the truth to do its softening and transforming work. It’s also much easier to hold a sign at the side of the road, post a potentially caustic comment on social media, or to go to the other extreme and act as if sin doesn’t matter that much any more than it is to pour out abundant patience, lengthy commitment and steadfast belief in the power of Christ that can still transform anyone, anywhere, at any time.
As Christians wrestle with what it means to practically “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) to those who may wish to cover their ears and block out our message, we must resist the urge to retreat in fear (or worse, indifference), to lash out in anger, or pour out condemnation, realizing that these options will do little to bring restoration to hearts that need it the most. Instead, we, who are the church, must dedicate ourselves to “stand firm” (Eph 6:13-14) as Paul commanded and take Christ’s instruction seriously.
Let us engage the world and commit ourselves to forging friendships with the intention to “let (our) light shine before men that they will see (our) good deeds and glorify (our) Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”