3 Easy Ways to Build Relationship with Non-Christians

It is so easy to find yourself stuck in a Christian sub-culture. In fact, it is so easy most of us do not realize we are in one. Jesus commands us to be both salt and light (Mt 5). Both illustrations assume that Christians are involved in the rotting decaying world of darkness. In order to transform the world with the Gospel we must engage the world. Yet our temptation is to seclude ourselves into a spiritual bomb shelter. We create a large institution with all kinds of Christian programs so that we never have to interact with the lost world around us. Many churches and Christians have found themselves in a secluded sectarianism. Yet we cannot be salt and light if we stay hidden in our spiritual bomb shelter waiting for the apocalypse. Jesus is coming soon. We must leave our holy huddles and engage the world.

Am I in a Spiritual Bunker?

Are you trapped in a christian sub-culture? Well here are a few diagnostic questions to ask yourself.

  • How many non-christians do you know by name?
  • How many of those people do you have in your contacts on your cell phone?
  • When was the last time you had lunch with someone who didn't know Jesus?

If we are honest with those three questions I think we will be ashamed of their answers. For many of us (including myself) we simply do not know people who don't know Jesus. We have become so isolated in our christian sub-culture that we cannot function as salt and light because we don't know anyone to be salt and light too.

So if you are like me and tend to get trapped in the spiritual bunker, what are some practical ways you can get out and engage the world for Jesus? Here are three easy and practical ways:

1. Find a Hobby or Activity Apart from the Church

Do something that is not associated with the church at all. Rather than joining an upward basketball team go join the rec. league and meet people who don't know Christ. Go join a community bowling league. Go hang out at high school football games. Be active in your child's PTA. Be involved and active in things that are not church related and do not apologize for it. However, do these things as a missionary, participating for the good of the community and for the evangelization of the lost people and friends you will make.

2. Be a Regular at Local Establishments

An easy way to get to know people who are lost is to be a regular somewhere. Go to the same restaurant every week. Go to the gym at the same time every day. Put a smile on your face and interact with people. Be kind and tip well. Ask the employees questions and strike up conversations. Get to know people and be their friend. You will be surprised how many opportunities you will have to share Christ through those relationships.

3. Invite Your Neighbors Over for a Dinner Party

Everyone loves a party. Christian hospitality is a wonderful gift and a huge catalyst for relational evangelism. Invite your neighbors on your street over for a BBQ. Grill some burgers and get to know each other. Become friends and see where God will take that relationship. God has placed you in your neighbored to be a missionary to your community. Begin praying and looking for ways to get to know the people who live around you.

Functioning as Salt and Light

Be intentional about looking for opportunities to make new friends who don't know Christ. We tend to drift towards the spiritual bunker more than we drift towards missional engagement. Be disciplined and pray that God gives you opportunities to get to know new people. These three tips are things anyone can do and anyone can put into practice. Get out of the Bomb Shelter and go be the children of the light empowered and redeemed by the Light of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I recently preached a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16  on what it means to be salt and light. You can check out the sermon audio here.

5 Ways to Have a Christ-Centered Christmas

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Don't have a Christ-less Christmas. As Christians we must keep Jesus in the center of everything we do. In our increasingly consumerism-driven understanding of Christmas, we must fight the current of culture and commit to making much of Jesus during this time. However, you might ask yourself the question? How do I have a Christ-Centered Christmas? Well here are five extremely practical ways you can lift up the name of Jesus this Christmas:

1. Go to a Christmas Eve Service

Christmas Eve Services are awesome. They are always one of my favorite church services of the year. Make it a priority to take your family to one this Christmas. If you are out of town visiting family, find a local church and visit them for their Christmas eve service. It is a great way to usher your heart and soul into worship before Christmas day by praising our gracious God who put on flesh for you and for me.

2. Invite a neighbor over for Christmas Dinner

One of the ways we can honor Christ is by reaching out to those around us. As Christians we are ambassadors for Christ, and what a better time to be an ambassador than at Christmas time? Schedule a night to have that family down the street over for dinner. Share with them about who Jesus is and why God sent him for us. Share the Gospel with them. Not only does it honor Christ at Christmas, but it spread the Gospel to those who so desperately need to hear it!

3. Read the Christmas Story Together as a Family

As a family, sit down and read the Birth Narrative of Jesus in Luke 1-2. It is a great time to spend some time in the Scriptures and foster family worship. I know many families that will do this first thing on Christmas morning, before opening presents and before the busyness of the day. The family will gather by the tree and Pastor Dad will lead the family in scripture reading and prayer. Dads, make a priority to start this tradition with your family. It is a great way to disciple your children and keep Christ in the center of your home.

4. Skip the Gift Exchange this Year

What? Are you serious? Skip the gift exchange? I know, I know. That is exactly what you are thinking. There is nothing wrong or sinful about giving gifts to one another at Christmas time, however I think everyone can admit that it does distract us from honoring Christ. So often the thing that Christmas Day centers on is the getting of stuff. It is a travesty and poison that American Marketers have been telling us for decades. How about one year, maybe this year, you take a fast from the gift giving as a family? Maybe take the money that you would spend on Christmas Gifts and give it away? This is something I have been praying about in my own family. Kaitlyn and I are not planning on doing much gift exchanging this year with one another, but we want to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which goes to fund and support all of our Southern Baptist Missionaries over seas. Maybe we should do something a little radical this Christmas and be counter cultural for the name of Jesus.

5. Volunteer and Serve Others

At this Christmas time, why not keep Christ at the center by serving others? After all, "even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Imitate your savior this Christmas and honor him by giving of your time to serve other people. Get your eyes off of yourself and onto this dying world who needs you to show them Christ with your words and your actions.

Christmas is busy. It is so easy to get distracted by the next Christmas party you have to attend or the next Christmas show you need to watch. Don't let the busyness of Christmas distract you from keeping Christ at the center of your life and your worship. As Christians we must keep Christ the center of our lives in every season, not just in December, but this Christmas may we seek to lift high the name of Jesus for the whole world to see! The King has come. The savior is born. What great and glorious news!

What are some ways your family keeps Christ at the center of Christmas? Share with us in the comments!

Rethinking Discipleship

We use programs to replace discipleship. Programs are distant. Discipleship is up close and personal. Programs are organized and planned. Discipleship is unpredictable. Programs are neat and clean. Discipleship is messy. What do I mean by discipleship? I mean imitating the model Jesus followed as we read the Gospels. Taking a few people inviting them into the rhythms of your life as you teach them, encourage them, and pour yourself into them, all in hopes of strengthening their spiritual maturity. Discipleship is personal. It is relational. It can't be done with just a program. It can't be done only through a sermon on Sunday morning.

Most churches make the false connection that discipleship and programming are the exact same things. It isn't. Churches do a lot of programs that don't produce disciples of Jesus. However I think there is a reason that most of us prefer awesome church programing rather than getting involved in each others lives in relational discipleship. The reason is, programs are way more comfortable. With a program I don't have to confront a brother or sister in sin. With a program I don't have to take a friend by the hand and pray for them. With a program I just have to sit and watch. I just have to sit in a bubble of my own personal spirituality.

We have such an individualistic understanding of discipleship. In our culture today, that makes the individual supreme, we've seriously forgotten how to live in community. While we are the most connected generation in the history of the world, we are also the most isolated. Most of us think that my relationship with God is exactly that, me and God. It is me and God versus the world. We think, "I don't need the church. I don't need anyone to grow in the faith. It is just me and God, and that's all I need!" Although that sounds incredibly good, and even righteous to us, the New Testament calls us a liar. We absolutely need each other. Community is essential to the very essence of what it means to be Christian! We are not chosen in Christ as individuals, but as a people, as a holy nation, and as a royal priest hood. We are a body. We are the bride. Notice that when the New Testament describes the church, the church, although it involves as many people, is a singular entity. The many Christians are one bride. The many believers are one body. The followers of Jesus are one nation.

As we think through discipleship in our local church, may our programming not hinder us from developing the sort of intimate and personal relationships with one another that foster discipleship. Older and mature believers grab a hold of a younger believer and disciple them. Meet weekly for coffee, invite them into the rhythms of your life, and pour yourself into them. Discipleship is messy. It is hard work. But if we are going to be faithful to the New Testament and the people God has called us to be, we can't keep doing what we are doing. There are many in our churches who are heavily involved in programs but completely unknown in their churches. This should not be the case. May we grab hold of one another, get involved in each others life. May we encourage each other, rebuke each other, and press on together as we seek our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.