Christianity 201

October 1, 2015

Our Message Isn’t “Church” or Simply “God;” It’s “Jesus”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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I often tell people if you have company over and it’s getting late and you want your guests to go home, start talking about Jesus. Unless it’s church people, your friends will get fidgety and start looking at the time on their wristwatches or phones.

In the Christian bookstore where I spend a couple of days per week, I differentiate between using “the G-word” and using “the J-word” and often include the E. Stanley Jones quotation we’ve used here a few times:

When we begin with God we begin with our idea of God and our idea of God is not God. Rather, we should begin with God’s idea of God and God’s idea of God is seen in Christ.

People like Jesus (for the most part) but he has a way of making people uncomfortable. Yet the message of hope we bring to people is:

I Cor 1:23 …but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness…

and again Paul repeats

II Cor 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

Yesterday at Daily Encouragement, Brooksyne Webber posted this:

Yesterday morning I walked with my neighbor as we try to do once a week. We often talk about the things of the Lord though our Christian backgrounds are very different. She, being a very conservative Mennonite, is quite reserved in speaking to others outside her church about the Lord. In the course of our conversation she said, “Brooksyne, I thought of you the other day when I was talking to the father of a boy that’s in my daughter’s class. He has lots of problems and I told him that if he would start going to church it would help him with his problems.” In hindsight she chuckled as she said, “You would probably tell me that I should have witnessed to him about finding God, rather than finding a church.” She said this because she later found that he was already in a church yet not living according to God’s teachings.

It led to further discussion about being bold in our witness. I shared with her about a turning point in my public witness to others. About 30 years ago a woman named Sally, who had many difficulties and overcomings in her Christian life, would regularly stand up in church and with a huge smile say, “I love Jesus”. Jesus was always at the center of her conversation and witness. She told me one day, “When I talk to my clients about God they nod their heads and pretty much act as though they’re going along with me. But when I speak about Jesus many of them grow uncomfortable and want to end the discussion.”

Like my neighbor who was comfortable talking about “church” but it would have stretched her even more to talk about Jesus, I was comfortable talking about God as I witnessed to others but I rarely talked about Jesus. It changed my witness approach and made me more bold to declare the name of Jesus who came to die for us, rose again from the dead and evermore lives making intercession for us.

Perhaps you can’t relate to this, but if you do, speak about Jesus more openly until it becomes a regular part of your conversation to outsiders, especially those who need to be saved.

Reading this reminded me of something we started in a church we were serving in many years ago, a Sunday morning featured called “The Witness Stand” where people in the congregation whose voices were rarely heard could tell their salvation story. When I began, I automatically chose people who I knew would do a good job with their presentation, but eventually I worked my way down the list and noticed we started getting people talking more about how much “this church” meant to them, and not how much Jesus meant to them.

Were we converting people to Christ or converting people to our church? I immediately dropped the feature after about three weeks of this.

Many years later, in another church, we did something similar only more spontaneous and with a broader focus. This one I modeled on the verse

I Cor. 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

I’ve seen this verse applied in both conservative Plymouth Brethren-type churches and also independent Charismatic circles. Initially, people stood up with a verse of scripture or a testimony they wanted to share. But then people started talking about things that were rather random, and after the one woman went on about her dog, I knew it was time to shut that one down for a season.

One blogger writes,

One of the greatest marks of the unhealthiness of the Church is that rather than manifesting the glory of Jesus and the offensiveness and foolishness of His cross, the culture-exegetes of today attempt to show the world how much alike we are. In so doing, professing Christians present themselves to the world, and, purposefully or not, implicitly ask unbelievers to receive them long before calling them to receive Christ.

Peter reminds his readers in his second epistle:

II Peter 3:18 …but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

not Bible knowledge, not how to be a better person, not moralism, not the history of our church and denomination, not how our local church governance works; but the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

…The song we’re ending with today has both dated music and a few obsolete lyrics, but I hope that a few hours from now, when you’ve forgotten the verses and the instrumentation, you’ll remember the line from the chorus, “It’s Jesus That They Need.”

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