I read a story the other day about a young pastor who stopped at a gas station to fill up his car, and he had a meaningful conversation with the gas attendant about faith. When he got back in his car to drive away, he realized that had been the first conversation he had with a non-Christian since he started in pastoral ministry a short eighteen months earlier.
He resigned the next day.
I’ve been pastoring churches full-time for the past 28 years, and I get it. I know how easy it is to stay in the safety of the Christian bubble where we speak the same language, share the same values, and live the same lifestyle. But there’s only one problem with this.
That’s not what Jesus did.
Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He ate with a disreputable tax collector named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He sat at a well with a woman of the world (John 4:1-30). He spoke the truth with love to a woman actually caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). And He didn’t care what people thought of Him when a prostitute wiped His feet with her hair and anointed them with oil (Luke 7:36-50).
Jesus lived no cloistered life, separated from the struggles of humanity. And, yet, I fear I have remained far too insulated from the very people with whom Jesus would sit and share a meal. I’ve done this not from a judgmental attitude or from fear of getting tarnished with the sins of the world. I’ve done it simply by default of church busyness, and in that, I have lost sight of my calling.
Os Guinness warns us, “When Christians concentrate their time and energy on their own separate spheres and their own institutions—whether all-absorbing megachurches, Christian businesses, or womb-to-tomb Christian cultural ghettoes—they lose the outward thrusting, transforming power that is at the heart of the gospel” (The Call, 219).
Well, 2020 is a new year filled with new opportunities. And if you’ve found yourself, like me, isolated from the very ones we need to be loving and reaching for Christ, then here’s some good news. We can make a change. We can choose to be salt and light, to be in the world but not of it.
I love the words of C. T. Studd: “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”
I leave you with the same challenge given by Os Guinness, “Is your faith privately engaging but socially irrelevant? Is it as consistent in your place of work as in your home? Are you acting as `salt’ and `light,’ or do you need to be locked out of a Christian ghetto? Listen to the commanding invitation of Jesus that is both a call and a charge: `Follow Me’” (ibid., 220).