FAITH: All things to all people

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By Al Earley

Our Christian faith is an outward directed faith.  From the very beginning early Christians sought to tell unbelievers about the good news of Jesus Christ and convert them to the faith.  However, individuals and churches can easily become inward directed, so preoccupied with their own needs, that they forget about those who have no faith, or no church home.  
Statistics will show that in any community 50 percent of the people will have no church home. That means half the people of our county have not found a reason to join a church, or don’t even know what the church’s Good News is. Churches can try a whole variety of advertising techniques, programs, and evangelism plans, but the one way churches grow is if the members invite their friends and acquaintances to their church. Six to seven out of every ten people join a church because someone invited them to worship.
Who are the people you know who have no church, or no faith, or may be an inactive member of your church?  Think about co-workers, neighbors, family members, or a struggling friend.  Imagine how their lives would be different if they practiced their Christian faith regularly in a community of faith.
Some people try to convert people to the faith by living a “Godly” life.  Sometimes this works. A woman was crossing the street when a man stopped her and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but I want to thank you.”
Surprised, she asked, “Thank me?”
He responded, “Yes. I used to be a ticket collector, and you would always walk by and give me a cheerful smile and a good morning.  I knew the smile came from somewhere inside. One day I saw you carrying a Bible, so I went and bought one myself, and have found faith in Jesus.”
We never know when even our simplest gestures will nurture someone and change their lives. But there is one problem with this story. Not many people are so observant to notice the source of our joy and hope in life. In fact, sometimes people are watching to see when we fail to live the “Godly” life so we can be stamped hypocrites. And since we all sin and fall short of God’s glory chances are they will not have to look long to find behavior that falls short of Christ’s perfect example.
Often it is more important to share with someone why we try to live a certain kind of life. When we help others, let us not be afraid to say something like, “I help others as a way of saying thanks to God,” or “I volunteer as an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ.”  And don’t be afraid to ask if someone has a church, and invite them to yours. When done in a nurturing, caring way, it will almost always be received as intended, as concern for the person.
Do you rely on your deeds too much to be your only form of evangelism? How often do your deeds measure up to the perfect example of Jesus Christ? How often do you fall short? As food for thought, think about how often you drive like Jesus would drive. Is that Christian bumper sticker the best witness of faith?  When was the last time you invited a friend to church?  Do you have any friends outside the church? Where can you go to meet some people who need a church home? Do you know all your neighbors? Does the love of Jesus Christ call us to get involved in the lives of other people who may not be like us?
The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22). We can be all things to all people as well, responding to the needs of those around us, and sharing the source of our good news, that some may find the great power of God’s salvation. This may require us to break out of the safe circle of friends we are used to, but if half of the people in our county have no church home, then we won’t have to break out very far. If we do, it will forever change the lives of those we reach out to. In the spirit of the great apostle Paul, I challenge you to let people know the source of your joy, hope, and love, and to invite them to find the good News of Jesus Christ.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer. Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit LaGrangePres.com.