As most of you probably know I've been involved with the ministry of Evangelize Today for the past couple of years. This ministry aims to encourage Christians, especially pastors, to intentionally get involved with unbelievers, listen to them, hear and understand what they are saying, value them as actual people, identify with their hurts and questions, and look for opportunities to share with them the hope and good news of Jesus. One of the reasons we target pastors is because it is incredibly easy for the average pastor to get so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of leading his flock and doing administrative tasks that he has little time, energy, or even desire to get into the messiness of the world of unbelievers. We know from Scripture and I affirm from my experience that the unbelieving world is very ugly, vulgar, and dishonoring to God. My evangelism trainer is incredibly bold in the mess he willingly ventures into - he speaks at Atheist Society meetings, gets invited to Tattoo conventions, is investigating the cross-dressing community, soon to head to Sturgis, SD for the yearly motorcycle rally, and other such stuff. (Of course, the scariest group he works with is a bunch of PCA pastors like me!)
So if that world is so ugly and profane, why then would any God-fearing, Bible-believing, holiness-seeking, faithful Christian even want to get involved in it? Well, here's my answer to that ... it is precisely because we DO want to fear God, believe the Bible, seek after holiness, and be faithful to what God has called us to do. We're instructed by Jesus to "make disciples" of all peoples; our desire is to be more like Jesus who said He didn't come for the righteous but rather for the sinner; we even know that sanctification and growth in holiness will absolutely happen as we have greater trust in and reliance upon Jesus while engaging in the front line battle for the souls of men and women.
There are some amazing theological truths that we have on our side as we engage with unbelievers. We know that every one of them bears the image of God and that image will show itself in various ways if we're patient and observant enough. We know that God's Spirit is continuing to draw sinners to Christ, giving them life, and granting them repentance and faith; thus, we are confident the Lord will continue to grow His church and give her ultimate success in mission and evangelism. We share many of the same hurts, disappointments, questions, fears, and problems with unbelievers; we have the same "back-narrative" - the unbeliever asks, "If your God is so good, why is my life so hard?" while our back-narrative is, "If God is so good, why is my life so hard?" Yes, unbelievers are messy, but so are we! Many of the unbelievers I'm encountering are stunned when they discover that my life is also hard, that I have unanswered questions, that I share many of their same fears and hurts, that I'm a real person just like them. I contend most unbelievers are hungry for Christians who are simply real people and honest about life.
I recently asked an alternative-lifestyle, non church attending bartender what advice she would give for church-going folks like me. Her answer was simple - "Just get out and get to know people." So let me leave you with that same advice. And while my bartender friend's counsel may be given for a different reason, my reason in passing it along is for the sake of growing the Kingdom of God. Let's be intentional in building relationships with unbelievers for the sake of the Gospel ... let's seek ways to present the Gospel in word and deed ... let's not be afraid to get involved in the messiness of the unbelieving world ... let's pray that God would use us in our weakness, fear, inadequacy, and brokenness to build His church. He has used folks such as us for generations past ... He is using folks like us now ... He will use us in the days, weeks, months, and years to come! Believe it.