Monday, January 13, 2020

Big Question #3: Who is my gospel excluding?

"Of one the Lord has made the race
Thro' one has come the fall
Where sin has gone must go His grace
The gospel is for all

The blessed gospel is for all
The gospel is for all
Where sin has gone must go His grace
The gospel is for all

Say not the heathen are at home
Beyond we have no call
For why should we be blest alone?
The gospel is for all

Received ye freely, freely give
From ev'ry land they call
Unless they hear they cannot live
The gospel is for all
The Gospel is For All (Of One The Lord Has Made)

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

This big question is a corollary to the previous question.  Who is my gospel excluding?  Put another way, what people, what race, what group, what section of town, what person have I written off as not worthy of receiving the gospel?  Not worth my time to share?

I should start this exploration with a bit of background in what I mean by gospel.  One of the labels for this blog is evangelism, and while it is perfectly applicable, I think it carries a specific connotation that can put people off.  The idea of the guy on the street corner, holding a sign telling people they are all going to hell.  Or the door to door missionaries, asking every person they meet if they know about Jesus.  And while these are definitely examples of a type of evangelism that can occur, they are by no means the only ways, nor should they be the primary types of evangelism we rely on.  

Evangelism is telling your story of the gospel.  Gospel is good news.  Evangelizing or witnessing, is then simply telling people the good news that you know.  How your faith has changed your life.  What amazing things you have seen happen.  

In this way, everyone is more ready than they realize to evangelize, to paraphrase Brian McLaren.  We just have to be willing to tell our story, and to answer questions when we are asked.  To the latter, we have to be willing to say, "I don't know" when it's true and be willing to look into the answers for our friends.

The problem is, we all at every level, have those places where we refuse to carry the gospel.  Refuse to share the good news, whether because of apathy, antipathy, or outright hostility.

I see this playing out in a couple ways.  First, in regard to who is welcomed into our churches, and secondly, in terms of where we are sending out people to witness.

This is more easily observed in the macro.  For example, with regard to who is welcomed in our churches, the evangelical church has largely written off the entire LGBTQ+ population, determining them to be at best approached from a distance or at worst exiled.  If you quibble with this description, imagine what would happen in your church if a young gay couple came in and sat in a pew holding hands, or even dared to kiss.  What kind of discussions would be had, internally or with them?  How welcoming would the people of your church be to them?  Would they be vocal in their displeasure?  Would the couple be asked not to come back?  Not to come back if they did that again, or just not to come back at all?

And that is just the most obvious example.  In what other ways are our churches unwelcoming, shutting off the gospel from other people?  If a smelly, obviously homeless person comes into church to worship, how are they welcomed?  Are they treated like everyone else or are they given a wide berth, left to their own?

If a man of Sikh heritage comes into your Christian church looking to join in worship wearing a head scarf, are you suspicious of him?  How about a man of apparent Middle-Eastern descent?

The macro is also an easy way to identify our discrepancies in where we are sending out.  How easy is it for us to donate to send to foreign missions, when we are not crossing the tracks in our own towns to witness?  How often do we leave other parts of town to their own churches to evangelize and decide exactly where our borders of reach stop?  This carries dangerous connotations, as often towns are still de jure segregated on racial lines.  

The harder issue is to drill this down to the micro level.  Who do I think does not belong in our church?  Where are my prejudices showing when someone different comes to church?  Am I as welcoming to the homeless as I am to the wealthiest in town?  When people of a different race come to our church, do I help make them feel welcome?  If the Middle-Eastern man came to our church, would I be inviting or suspicious?

Likewise, where am I refusing to take the gospel?  In the micro level, I see this as subtly different than refusing to go into different parts of town, though that problem remains the same.  For individuals, I think the question becomes the places where I choose not to bring the gospel with me.  Where I conveniently leave it behind.  

Am I carrying the gospel to my work?  To school?  To my family?  To those family members?

Where am I refusing to share my story?  Not open to questions about faith?  Not willing to share the good things that God is doing in my life?

Where am I very careful about not saying anything about God, church, or faith?  Do I have friends I purposefully downplay this part of my life, not because of anything they've said or asked, but because I want to fit in?

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."
1 Peter 3:14-16

This is one I am working on.  I think and I hope the answer is remembering that this does not have to be as difficult as I make it.  It's about being willing to give an account, a defense, for the hope I have.  Being more ready than I realize just to share the good that I know.  Being willing to answer questions that are asked.  Not being afraid to discuss what He is doing in my life.

Just being open to share.

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