I have noticed a narrative. This narrative tells a story that says it’s characters can only succeed if the storytelling is in their control. I’ve watched well intentioned friends and strangers wonder about the state of the church in a climate that lingers more and more to the European side of story telling.
What has always fascinated me is how churches grow and thrive in places they shouldn’t grow. It’s this notion that the Holy Spirit can have His influence in the Bible, but we have stats and proof of concept to lean towards we don’t need him here. It somehow surprises churches when they hear of other churches growing in “difficult” areas of the country or the world. This is often viewed through the lens of , how can a church grow when it’s not in state/ country that doesn’t honor the “Golden Rule” ways of living.
It has always been my heart and belief that the church should engage with culture. Is this not what Jesus did that first Christmas? It’s almost as churches take this “What can we do to get people here approach”. That model has churches bending on their beliefs or leaning toward culture wanting to be accepted, like an awkward student at a middle school dance.
Let’s talk about simple steps churches can take to BE INVITED to speak into a city:
Acknowledge every city carries with it some level of interest in spirituality.
Can we all agree that social media attacks on culture are the least effective, if not most immature way of interacting with each other?
When the Apostle Paul (Church Planter, Leader, and the Bible version of Church Norris) went into cities to plant churches or preach, he never went into a city ready to crush them in an argument. When he visited Athens (Acts 17), the text reads that he was greatly distressed by the the idols he saw.
He didn’t immediately write back to his supporters, “There’s no way we can start a church here, other religions got here before us. It will never work.” Instead, Paul was taking field notes.
Affirm that a city wants to connect with a god.
Later in the text, Paul began to reason with the city officials and citizens. There was even a statue or god to the “Unknown god.” They wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any gods or make a god angry with them.
Paul begins to talk about how this unknown god is different from the gods they worshiped. This god was Jesus. Jesus was the God of everything we experience in this life.
I love this piece to the conversation:
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us._ Acts 17:27
I don’t know a more powerful verse that communicates God’s heart for a city and its people. Sometimes a city might not invite us to speak if we don’t take time to hear their perspective.
Now, more than ever, I’m finding more and more people are open to spiritual conversations not necessarily debates. If the church is willing to listen and then respond, we might be invited to speak.
A city invites a church back to hear more about Jesus.
The jury will always be out on Jesus. I’m not sure if that will ever go away. If the Scriptures are true and we are in spiritual battle, I’m sure the opposition would love us to hold hands with many different religions and ideas.
Throughout the first century church, people were always interested in hearing more and more about Jesus. The interest in church practices, doctrinal positions, and denomination preferences were secondary to who in the world is this Jesus, and why is he better than any other god to worship.