This phrase is ringing in my ears. I’m not sure exactly why – I haven’t heard anyone else use it recently, nor have I read it. There is something about the post-resurrection stories from the gospels in the New Testament and from the beginning of the book of Acts that seems to call forth this phrase in me.
Taking Christ to the World.
I’ve never thought of myself as an evangelist (though I do consider myself evangelical in the strict sense – that the story of Jesus is good news (meaning of the world “Gospel”) which I want to share and believe others need to hear. But I’m not been the type to ask folks on the street, or even my neighbors, if they know Jesus.
Funny thing, though. Over the last several months I’ve found myself several times in intense conversation with people who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or apathetic re: all things “god” – without exception they’ve been folks who have some background experience with Christianity, but it and life have left them doubting or simply not caring. They also have very painful stories of brokenness to tell, broken lives to which I believe Jesus’ love can bring wholeness.
And so I find myself wondering what it means to take Christ to the world – how my life becomes a place where I as a Christ-bearer (a meaning of the word christian) represent and even reveal His love to them in a redemptive way. And how, in reverse and simultaneously, I might be like the friends in the story from Mark 2:1-12, who carry their wounded brother to Jesus so that he might receive a blessing. What does it look like for me to carry someone to Jesus.
Taking Christ to the World. Does the world want to meet Jesus? Its a tricky question, I think because so many have represented Jesus in such a way that people think they know who He is, and what being a follower of His means, and they don’t want any part of it. There is so much baggage to unpack in some folks lives. What does one do when the very people who tell us about Jesus are also abusers and violators and idolaters? How then can the true message of Jesus be separated from the experience with those personalities? Where is the accountability and responsibility? What is the church to do in ministry in the world where this scenario is so common?
What is Forest Grove to do in response to this call? The local church, as the Body of Christ, is to love one another in His name, to worship God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to help followers of Jesus grow till they reach maturity in Christ. But this is for the sake of the world. Our love for one another (when its real and visible) is a sign and foretaste of the kingdom of God. Our ministry to others becomes a manifestation of Christ’s ministry in the world, and is at the same time our act of worship to Jesus. And presumably there is good news to tell, that God loves creation and desires its wholeness, and so has redeemed it from a self-centered entropy-toward-oblivion back to a position of right relationship with the Creator. This redemption has the capacity (by the work of the Holy Spirit), to make right our human relationships – as parents, children, spouses, siblings, neighbors. This redemption puts into perspective the brokenness of this life, offering hope for the hopeless and help for the helpless.
Who wouldn’t want some of that? And who are we to withhold it from others? And ought we not do all within our capacity to convey that good news, in word and in deed, to those into whos midst God has placed us? And ought we not to lay aside our own wants for the sake of the Kingdom of His Son? Ought we not to say in everything, How does this Glorify God and How does it advance the Kingdom?
If we are not taking Christ to the world, we are doing neither. I feel so personally challenged by this call – Take Christ to the World. And I feel personally drawn to make some sense of this in relationship with the people around me, in ways that so honor and respect who they are, from where they have come, and what God is up to in their lives that they can not help but understand how much Christ cares for them. I do not know what all this means for my life or my ministry, but I am stirring with excitement for what God might do in me.
I am reminded of a time years ago, when I was in college and together with some close friends of mine was involved in starting a soup kitchen to feed children in Lubbock, Texas. We had such a clear sense that what we were doing for Jesus really mattered in the lives of people. We were living out the call to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. We were also mindful of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4:14 “Those who drink of the water that I give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give will bcome in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
I want to do both – am called to do both – offer literal water for the thirsty, and be a channel through which others might receive Christ’s living water, that they too might become an overflowing spring.