Cultural Shifts, Christmastime, and the Importance of Relationships

Cultural Shifts, Christmastime, and the Importance of Relationships

The original charter for the followers of Christ was to take the Gospel to the world. This mission is why the church was established and remains it’s primary objective to this day. Often, this meant traveling great distances to reach new countries, regions, and people groups. However, a shift has taken place. Though there are still unreached people groups, the church’s greatest challenge, at least in the West, isn’t one of geography, but of mindset. The postmodern mindset, broadly defined as a rejection of societal absolutes, including the notion of absolute truth, has moved many people beyond a perceived need for an organization called church. It’s not that many of them are opposed to spirituality—quite the opposite, in fact—but they don’t see the point of coming to a building once per week to participate in strange-feeling rituals alongside people they don’t know.

Ironically, at a time when our technical abilities make us more adept than ever at taking the Gospel to the world, we’re reaching fewer and fewer people. Time-tested methods aren’t moving the needle as they once were. Our reliance on an accurate transfer of information from a speaker on a stage during a 28-night public meeting doesn’t have the effect it once did. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not down on public evangelism, I believe that it still has a place as part of the evangelistic process. However, it shouldn’t be a once-per-year event that is solely relied upon to bring hundreds of people to Christ. It’s but one step in the process, just as it’s always been. God is still on His throne, and the Spirit is still working. I hope you believe, as I do, that it’s still possible to see hundreds of people (or more!) come to Christ each year through our local church.

Instead of a shotgun-style, “spray and pray” method to try and share the gospel with masses, this cultural shift in mindset dictates that our approach must become increasingly more granular; person to person, one-at-a-time through relationships. In truth, the context for communicating the Gospel has always been based on personal relationships. It was how Jesus did ministry, and how He encouraged his followers to do it as well. Somewhere along the way, however, ministry became more about events and programs and less about walking alongside people, existing in community with them, loving them, and appreciating them—even though these are the very things that build and strengthen relationships.

I’m aware that this approach is messier than creating a program. It also takes significantly longer. However, I’m also increasingly convinced that the way the Gospel will reach hundreds of people in our local setting is for hundreds of us (including you and I) to be engaged in personal relationships with the not-yet-Christian and not-yet-Adventist beyond the walls of the church. The communication of our faith begins, not with doctrine or proselytizing, but in relationship. It can happen at home, at work, on the golf course, at Rotary, with friends, family, and co-workers—on whom the Holy Spirit is already working. Remember, we’re not being asked to do a new work, we’re asked to partner with the Spirit in a work He is already doing. If we’re faithfully living as who God created and called us to be, the right conversations, directed by the Holy Spirit, will happen in His perfect timing.

“Christ commits to His followers an individual work—a work that cannot be done by proxy…Individual responsibility, individual effort, personal sacrifice, is the requirement of the gospel.”

Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, 147.4

Who is God calling you into a deeper relationship with? Who is He calling you to step out in faith and invite into this community? Maybe someone with whom you already have a trusted relationship? Is He perhaps calling you to make this invitation today?

Christmastime, as I mentioned last week, is one of the seasons in which people are the most open to attending church. Within our local context, there is a fantastic opportunity to extend an invitation for this Sabbath, as our Advent Christmas service will be one with broad appeal, even for those without much exposure to Christianity or Adventism. Our guests may recognize the music, and the readings may sound familiar too.

As Christians, our charter to take the Gospel to the world is as important as ever. Each of us are given daily opportunities to strengthen relationships with those around us. Cultivating this trust will open doors, creating opportunities for the Gospel we live to begin a dialogue about the Person we love.