Go
main image

Volunteer Opportunities
Dan Calvert

We’re looking for part-time office volunteers and event coordinator volunteers to help our Executive Pastor, Dan Calvert. If you would like to help in these roles, please contact Pastor Dan at dan@theresolved.com.

main image
A Story of a Child Prodigy
Sermon Discussion | Luke 2:41-52
Sean Keefe

Get Talking

Icebreaker: What was the last story (i.e. movie, book, TV series) that really captivated/gripped you? What was it about that story that drew you in?

Take some time to read through the passage again and re-familiarize yourselves with it. Were there any parts of the sermon that stood out to you more than others?

I. Formative Years

Duane asked, “If Jesus is God, why is He asking questions?” Duane’s answer was that Jesus is showing us what a perfect human should be. He is setting the example of teachability.

When you think of someone who is teachable, what character traits come to mind (i.e. curiosity? openness?)? What about someone who is unteachable (i.e. arrogant, a know-it-all)?

Duane said no one becomes a Christian nor matures in their Christian walk without being teachable.

Why is teachability such an essential part of the Christian life?

A few aspects of being teachable are:
- Asking questions
- Listening to answers
- Opening ourselves up to others asking us questions
- Answering those questions with sincerity and honesty

Which aspects are more of your strong suit? Which could use some work?

II. Fathers and The Father

This is the first passage in the Scripture where Jesus says something about himself, and it is significant: God is His true Father. And because of what Jesus has done for us, we have been adopted and God is now our Father, too.

Is the idea of God as a good Father a distant, un-relatable idea, or has fatherhood been represented well in your life?

Duane mentioned the idea of people having a “father hunger.” What do you think this means? What effects could this hunger have in our lives?

Why are fathers and the idea of fatherhood so important?

Jesus desires us to know the love of the Heavenly Father. This is what we’ve been invited to in the Gospel.

How might experiencing the love of God as our true Father effect us? The way we think? The way we live?

III. Fulfilling God’s Calling

Duane said Jesus is clearly portrayed as the hero of the story. He is the hero of all history.

Everyone in this story was amazed by Jesus, both those who listened to him and even His mother, Mary. When was the last time you were amazed by Jesus? What was it that led to that experience of being amazed?

Why do we struggle with staying amazed by Jesus and all He has done? How can we prepare our hearts to be more amazed?

God has given each of us different gifts and talents in order to engage others and show them how good and amazing Jesus truly is.

How are we doing with this calling?

In what ways can we use the gifts God has given us to point to Jesus?

Pray Together

Pray for open, teachable hearts.

Pray for a greater understanding and experience of the deep love the Father has for us.

Pray for the eyes of our hearts to be opened and captivated by Jesus.

main image

SAN DIEGO VIEW OF 'GOSPEL' + 'JESUS'
Pastor Duane Smets

At a recent THEO 101: Christian Beliefs class I taught, we had a discussion about San Diego's views of the word "gospel" and the word "Jesus." We came up with quite an interesting list. Here are some of the more interesting ones that were mentioned...

Gospel = Bad music made by Christians or people from the South.
Gospel = A euphemism for something unquestionably true, like "the iPhone is amazing."
Gospel = Something that weird people who hand out flyers are always trying to sell you.
Gospel = A book or message of the Bible about Jesus.

Jesus = A popular male name among our neighbors below the U.S. border.
Jesus = Something one yells, screams, or curses when they are upset.
Jesus = Who you get in tune with when you are Jammin' (smoking pot).
Jesus = The only hope for human salvation.

Knowing and understanding what the views are of our friends, neighbors, and city is important for us as Christians. Not so that we can start fights with people and tell them how wrong they are...but so we can properly address their concerns and hopefully shown them a Jesus and a gospel they have yet to actually hear of.

This is called "contextualization." Where we take the gospel of Jesus to all different kinds of contexts, and the way that we talk about him varies based upon what context that is. in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul calls us to be sensitive to the presuppositions of our hearers so that they might truly hear and receive the blessing of the gospel. Often people are turned off to Christianity, not because of the message, or even because they are not one day destined to embrace it, but often they are turned off by of the messenger. Sometimes we ourselves are the biggest barriers to the gospel for people because we do not first listen and learn how to contextualize the gospel in hopes that it will get the best possible hearing.

Ed Stetzer, a former pastor and church planter, now full-time missiologist, who is also on Board of Directors for Acts 29, was once interviewed by CNN asking the question, "Do Christians get on your nerves?" It is a very interesting interview, you can check it out HERE. From my perspective, it seems many of us as Christians have assumed we are living in a place that ought to conform to and understand Christians, when in reality we are truly living in a post-Christian, pagan, pluralistic culture. Rather than being upset about that, we need to accept it and figure out how to adapt and reach people with the gospel.

Another interesting study demonstrating how we may not be doing the gospel missionary work of adapting is a report based on statistical research titled, "Unchurched Americans Turned Off by Church, Open to Christians." You can read it HERE. Rather than fighting against our culture, it is my heart and desire that The Resolved Church would be a group of people who are constantly studying, loving, and learning the city of San Diego so that we can truly reach out to it and share the gospel of Jesus in words and ways which neither compromise the message nor unnecessarily complicate it.

Maybe you ask is contextualizing even Biblical? Besides the 1 Corinthians passage, I already mentioned above, think about Jesus himself, who came into our world, speaking the people's language of the day, wearing their clothes, and talking in parables that they understood. Think about Paul, who in Athens, took an alter used for diabolic worship as a positive illustration for the gospel. Think about foreign missionaries who for years have gone to other countries seeking a way to connect peoples of different tribes and tongues to the gospel. The difference is that now, here, in San Diego, our neighbor is a foreigner, whom we no longer can assume we know and understand. We must go on a mission for them. I pray you join me in that endeavor.

- Pastor Duane

main image

Musical Unity & Diversity at The Resolved
Pastor Duane Smets

Music is a wonderful gift of God. It’s something everyone loves, everywhere, all across the world. Not everyone loves the same music but we all love music. There is something about hearing music and singing songs that connects to something deep in our souls and ultimately connects us to God and His truth.

San Diego is an extremely diverse city and our culture is one with many different musical preferences and our church’s approach is to reflect and connect to that diversity. Currently, our church has four different rotating bands on Sundays: The Fount, Things Unseen, Sheep Draw Trail and Awake O Sleeper.

Each of our bands has a different and distinct style and musical genre, so on any given Sunday you may worship with an indie, blues, pop, bluegrass, folk, or upbeat rock n' roll style of music.

There are many benefits to having a diversity of musical genres in our worship. First, different people in our church get to enjoy different styles of music, both ones they prefer and ones they can appreciate in love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, it offers the opportunity for more people to be involved in the music ministry of our church and grow in their gifting. Moreover, it reminds us that ultimately worship is a matter of the heart between the individual and God which transcends musical preference, quality, and words.

The last book of the Bible ends with a wonderful picture of God’s people from every tribe and tongue worshipping our great God and savior with one voice. That’s what we’re after. Looking toward that and learning to be a people like that.

May God continue to enable the music ministry of our church to grow, flourish, provide a platform for praising God and enjoying the tool of song He has given to us.

main image

Moving from False Self to Deep Connection
Rich Plass & Jim Cofield

First, the false self is an image we create. Most of us create an image that is socially appropriate. As a result we receive affirmation and praise. Yet at its core, our construct is still an image, a façade. It is foreign to our truest identity as beings created in the image of God.

Second, the false self will control us if we don’t own it. It’s impossible to change what is false if we don’t take responsibility for it. But it’s really hard to recognize something is false when we have spent our entire life creating it. Over the course of years it becomes our “me,” the image we want others to see.

On both accounts we are in the fight of our life. We are masters at creating an image. In our desperation each of us forms psychological defenses to protect ourselves from exaggerated shame, fear and guilt. We do this to feel safe and secure, because we are alone and no longer trust God completely. Some of our defenses are obvious, like walls as high and thick as any medieval fortress. Some are stealth, buried beneath the surface like land mines ready to blow if activated.

We are masters at creating an image, but we are novices at recognizing and repenting of the image we have created. Thus we are caught in patterns of mistrust with God and others. And when our identity is enmeshed in our image, the soul is in danger of even greater self-absorption and self-reliance. Our situation is far more desperate than dealing with a few sins. Our state of being spawns deceitful and desperate strategies that corrupt our relationships in ways we find it hard to even recognize.

Our false self influences the manner in which we feel, think, desire, choose and behave. Over time, the way we exercise these five capacities is neurologically structured within our brain. Our way of being a “me” becomes an elaborate and sophisticated way of preserving our sense of security and uniqueness. This pervasive, hidden and tenacious state of being infects our implicit memory.

Inevitably, our best attempts at false-self living come up against the harsh reality of our brokenness. When we are preoccupied with maintaining an image that the soul was not created to maintain, we grow emotionally weary. We become disillusioned and discouraged without knowing why. God feels distant and so do others. The closeness we desperately need and want eludes us. The weight of creating our own false-self identity overburdens our souls. We become susceptible to despair and bad behavior.

Growing our capacity for receptive trust of God, others and ourselves requires tender humility and tough honesty. Mistrust never leads to life. We must face our soul directly and soberly. Cultivating soulful relationships is not for the faint of heart. But it can and must be done. The good news is that God makes change possible.

 

This is an excerpt from The Relational Soul fourth chapter, "The Reactive False Self: A Mistrusting Soul." You can find The Relational Soul on Amazon here.

main image

A Story that Intersects with Real Life
Sermon Discussion | Luke 1:57-2:40
Pastor Ryan Buss

When you think about something that is fake, what do you think of and why? This section is concentrating on taking the real life of Jesus and connecting it to the real lives of ordinary people.


I. Real Prophecy

Duane started off by teaching about two kinds of prophecy that we see in Scripture: forth-telling and fore-telling. What is the difference between the two of these?

There are 5 instances of fore-telling prophecy that we see in the first section of Luke:

1. Gabe’s prophecy of John birth
2. Zach’s prophecy of johns life
3. Angel prophecy of Jesus birth
4. Simeon’s prophecy of Jesus life
5. Anna’s prophecy of Jesus’ redemption

Putting these together, what do we see starting to form with regards to the message that God is giving to us, His people?

The chances of a fore-telling taking place is one to the seventeenth power, or nearly impossible. Yet, there are so many prophecies in Scripture that have been fulfilled exactly as they are described, giving the Bible more authority and credibility than any other book in existence.

What prophecy teaches us about God is that He is a God who know and determines all things. How are we to seek to live our life in Christ with this truth in mind?

We have a real place and a real purpose in this life for God and His glory. Do you know what it is? If so, what is it? If not, are you taking steps to know what it is?


II. Real People

Who are some of the people in this story? How does their life intersect with the Story of God? How is their life changed by that intersection?

We desire real and authentic relationships and lives, yet we are surrounded by fake relationships and inauthentic lives. How do you experience this in your life? What do you think about that?

The story that Luke offers us is real; it is earthy. God's entrance in the world is wrapped up in the lives of real people.

An older couple who could not get pregnant

A poor couple who could not offer God anything but only the poorest offering.

Angels coming to outcast shepherds to announce the entrance of God Himself. Low caste in social measures

A widow who lost her husband early on in life, to announce the redemption of all people

What this shows us is how God meet us where we are at, and reverses the bad things that have happened to us, or that we have done.

God knows and cares for all people. Do you know God this way? All of the people that intersect with the story get excited about Jesus! Do you get excited about Jesus? Why or why not?

Jesus is the Savior for all types of people! Do you believe this? How can we live out this truth in our lives?


III. Real Praise

Zach praises God; Angels praise God; the shepherds praise God; Simeon praises God; Anna praises God

What made these people praise? What makes you praise God?

The heart of faith is a response to God. How have you responded to God recently? What made you respond that way?

All these people experienced drawing near to Jesus in different ways: they heard, saw, held, and believed Jesus. How do you need to draw near Jesus today? Why?

IV. Pray with one another!

main image

A Story That Seems Too Good To Be True
Sermon Discussion | Luke 1:5-56
Pastor Ryan Buss

In our next section of Luke, we see how God announces to the world how Jesus would be born. There are a number of key people that God used to accomplish His purposes, and they seem a little too good to be true. Luke, being a trained doctor, is concerned for truth and relating the story as accurately as he can. The story draws us into a fantastic scenario where God is doing seemingly impossible things to accomplish His salvation. And at the center of it all is a baby. A baby born in the most miraculous fashion possible to bring God as much glory as possible.

I. An Unimaginable Scenario

God sets up the scenario as sounding a little crazy; with angel messengers, two miraculous conceptions and the promise of a child who will rule all things forever. Which one of these things seems the craziest to you? Why? What might this reveal what you believe about God?

The priest Zachariah was supposedly the good guy, the good Christian; yet when he is in the presence of the angel, he calls him crazy and doesn’t believe the angel. We as Christians often say and do things that are not always a good testimony of God and our faith. Why is this? When do you find yourself being tempted to disbelieve God the most?

Zach had fear and he didn’t believe but Mary could imagine it to be true and received. Often the difference between fear and faith is imagination. What do you think about that? How does that sound to you?

II. An Inconceivable Idea

Imagination is the working of both the right and left side of the brain together to form our knowledge of the world. Our faith is founded upon both reason and imagination working together. In the first point, we took a look at the left side of the brain kind of stuff, the creative imagination stuff. In this point, we will be looking at the hard facts that Luke relates to us.

What are some of the marks of history we see in our passage in Luke? Why would this be important for us in our faith as we read it? What might he be trying to do for his audience in relating these marks of history?

As you consider your faith and what you know about God in the Bible, what are some of the more logical facts that bring you encouragement in your faith? Why?

“Nothing is impossible with God”! Do you believe this? Why or why not?

III. An Openhearted Response

Mary writes a song after she discovers the baby in her belly. She is overjoyed with delight and this is how she responds to God. What are some ways that you respond to God when you are overjoyed?

We expect Mary to respond with this reality with some combination of fear, guilt, and shame. What is it that causes her to not respond that way to God?

She sees her soul being satisfied in God, that she is a servant, she was favored and saved, and that Jesus will favor and save many others. How she views God and herself enables her to respond to God with openheartedness. What are some of the truths of our identity in Christ that cause you to rejoice and to cause your soul to be satisfied?

Who are you in this story? Zach? Mary? Why?

What is one “impossible” thing in your life that you want to trust God with?

IV. Pray for One Another!

main image

BEING ON MISSION
Pastor Duane Smets

"Mission" or "evangelism" or "outreach" or even "discipleship" are words we too often think of as something we do rather than something we are. Fellow Acts 29 pastor Jonathan Dodson wrote a blog addressing this. In it he writes,

"(Being) missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life... Mission is our identity, because we have be rescued by a missionary God and placed in his missionary family. We live missionary lives, doing everyday things with gospel intentionality."

I've said before it is imperative that we come to see ourselves as missionaries here in San Diego... that our very identity in the relationships of our families, friendships, neighborhoods, and workplaces becomes infused with seeing ourselves as a missionary. Dodson suggests 8 practical ways to "Easily Be Missional." I'm going to thief a little bit from him and expand on this theme...ways mission gets combined into everything.

Eating
Food is a regular part of life. We eat every day. Multiple times. How many of these meals do we eat alone when we could be eating them with other people? When we eat and converse we get to know people. It provides a context for "life" to come up and to talk about how the gospel is the source of our life. Whether it's lunch breaks or having people over for dinner...eating with people is one of the primary ways we can be missional.

Frequenting
We all go to stores whether it be for food, household goods, Starbucks, DVD rentals, or whatever. One of the best practices you can get into is going to the same stores and getting to know the workers there. You begin to recognize each other, get to know them by name, and it provides a context for relationship to form naturally since you are already living/working in the same community together.

Hobby-ing
Everyone does things for fun, whether it be surfing, going to plays or the opera, playing sports, sewing, guitar, book clubs etc. If you check out Meetup.com you'll find that you can hook up with someone with a similar interest for just about everything. If you don't have a hobby get one and start hobbying with other people. It's a great way for gospel relationships to form and connect.

Working
Talk to you co-workers. Don't just work together but care for their lives. Ask them how they are doing and what's going on. People naturally tend to hang out with the people they work with. Do that and care for the people you work with rather than compete with them. The workplace is one of the primary places you can put the gospel out on display and show people something different in how you work and how you express interest in the people's lives you work with.

Volunteering
San Diego is a very activistic city. There are all kinds of "causes" and non-profits, and charity events that happen regularly. Just because many may not exert themselves in these efforts with a gospel initiative doesn't mean you can't bandwagon with them and express love and care for the city of San Diego too. In volunteering others can get to know us and discover the gospel in us that drives our compassion.

City-ing
Go to events, concerts, festivals, run marathons, get into the Padres and show up at other city-wide events where people are. Become a part of the city by getting involved in the things the people in our city get involved with. You get to be where people are, see the things that are happening, and really become a citizen of San Diego. When we love truly love the city other people love, our love for the people in this city will shine that much brighter.

Neighboring
Be a good neighbor. Get to know them. Take walks around your block. Have your neighbors over for BBQ or drinks. Help your neighbors out with projects. Intentionally borrow sugar and flour or extension cords. Get to know your neighbors and invite them into your life.

Praying
Pray for people by name and when you get in conversation and people's struggles, challenges, fears, or whatever issues come up, ask them if you can pray for them right then, out loud. Very few people will reject prayer and most everyone ends up feeling really cared for and loved when you pray for them.

Conclusion
There are many other ways to be on mission... these are just 8 easy, practical things you can naturally incorporate into your life. A lot of it has to do with being intentional...where you do normal life things but you do them with gospel intentionality, because you are on mission.

May Jesus things like these to help us to be obedient and joyfully respond to his call for us to be missionaries and go out into all of the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

Pastor Duane

main image

A STORY THAT HAPPENS TO BE TRUE
SERMON DISCUSSION | LUKE 1:1-4
Pastor Ryan Buss

The way that the gospel of Luke begins is asking What if? What are some “what if?” questions that you have asked or want to ask?

We all have a story. We are a story-formed people and love stories! What are some of your favorite stories that you have watched or read lately? Why did you like it so much?

I.  A Story About God

Narrative is the key word for the first verse. The story is a good story about God. The whole Bible is one big story about God, who He is and what He does. The beginning of the story is that God acted.

God acted, then He walked among men. Why might this be important for us as we engage with God?

Luke was a doctor from Syria who became a Christian after Jesus lived and rose again. He heard the story and his life was changed forever. He encountered the story and believed. Luke set out to understand what he has believed. Why might that order be important for our faith and relationship with Christ?

Luke seems to be asking “what if?” What if all that stuff about Jesus is actually true and accomplished salvation for all humankind?

II.  A Story About Lost People

Eye-witness accounts were helpful and necessary for Luke as he compiled the evidence for Christ. This brings to mind false news/true news. How had fake news come to the forefront in our culture? With all the possibility of false news, how can we truly know what is true? The same is true for our faith? Why is eyewitness account necessary for our faith?

What are some of the “fake news” about God and Christ that our culture is believing?

Have you ever been lost or lost something dear to you? What did that feel like? The same is true for our soul feeling lost. We are a searching people, always searching for truth and certainty. How does Jesus give us this sense of certainty and truth in life?

We are a people who often need assurances, especially after we become a Christian. What are some truths and promises of God that give you assurance?

III.  A Story About Jesus Friends

What is a friend? What does it look like to be a friend to someone? What does this kind of relationship do for our souls?

Who is Theophilus? 3 main ideas:

1. A high-ranking Roman official

2. A code word for non-Jewish Christians (Theophilus is a Greek compound word meaning “God Friend”, which is a word that Gentile converts were called)

3. An invitation for us to believe

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which one is the right one. That which really matters is that we find ourselves, as we read and believe the story of Jesus, being friends of Christ.

How do we grow in our friendship with Christ? Is He your friend? Do you know Him as the best friend of your soul?

IV.  Pray for one another!

main image

10 THINGS THAT KEEP US FROM MISSION
Pastor Duane Smets

When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, there is one constant, blaring thing about it that we cannot escape... Jesus was constantly and radically missional.

No matter what gospel you read (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) Jesus is always reaching out to both the rejected and the religious. Jesus extends and gives himself to both those who are outcasts and to those who are in the "in." Jesus loves both for the lawbreakers (the antinomians) and the law keepers (nomians).

Yet, despite this most obvious feature of Jesus' life, which he passes on to us as an ever abiding commandment (Matthew 28:19-20), many of us find it difficult and challenging to have a lifestyle of mission like Jesus. Why is that? Below are ten common reasons given for what keeps us from mission, coupled with ways we can work to combat their tendencies in us.

1. Too Busy

Most live extremely busy lives. We are constantly juggling all kinds of things. Maybe we do care about mission but it just seems like one more thing added to the list of stuff to do and to be honest it just isn't that high of a priority.

I think the key to combating the competing things that vie for our time and attention, is to see mission not as something we do but something we are. It's an identity thing. If we're Christians hooked up with Jesus then we have become missionaries who are on a mission. When you look at it like that, there are a lot of common ways we can be on mission even in the midst of being extremely busy.

2. No Community Support

Sometimes, we can become very passionate about Jesus' mission and so immersed in it that we become overly missional. This happens when all the people you are living with and spending time with are all non-Christians. You may still show up to church on Sundays but you are really mostly sharing life with people who all don't know Jesus.

This is not good. I believe we are meant to reach out to the those who don't yet know Jesus out of the strength of our Christian community. If you are not in a community group, discipleship relationships, and finding your primary source of belonging from your Christian relationships, then it is inevitable... your bad company will corrupt you (1 Corinthians 15:33). I believe that you should have more Christian friends than those who are not yet Christians... otherwise, it is very likely that in time you will be overpowered and overcome by non-Christian influence.

3. Uncertainty of One's Own Beliefs

Many times if we are honest with ourselves we don't try to persuade others or speak the gospel into their lives because deep down we're not really sure. We may not be sure of what we really believe or not sure whether it is really relevant or applies to the issues of life that our friends may be dealing with. There are three things I think help with this one.

First, the apologetics level. Apologetics are the reasons for the Christian faith. If you've never studied them you should. Christianity is the most reasonable belief system on the planet and gives us sure footing on which to plant our feet so that we can have confidence in its truth.

Second, the gospel application level. Sometimes we can become convinced that the gospel is true but we don't see how it really plays out practically in our lives, from common things like coming home tired and cranky from work to more intense things like sexual molestation or an addiction to porn. The more we begin to work at applying the gospel in all areas of our lives the more we will see how it can really benefit the lives of others who don't yet know Jesus.

Third, the discipleship level. when we recognize that we have doubts, uncertainties or are just confused about things, we should find another Christian brother, sister, or pastor and talk them out with them. Just leaving them unaddressed never helps us and continues to hinder our ability to be missionaries for Jesus.

4. Don't Think You Should Try To Convert

Sometimes we can find ourselves believing in Jesus and really benefiting from having him and his people in our lives but we know we are different from a lot of other people, so who knows if it's something they'd be into or if it's even something they need? Or one may feel even more intense about it and believe that one's religious beliefs are private and personal and are an area of life and belief we shouldn't intrude on with other people by trying to persuade them one way or another.

The interesting thing about this one is whether knowingly or unknowingly it presents proselytizing or trying to convert someone to being a "gray area" so that withholding judgment or influence, keeps one safe and ambivalent, free from manipulation or coercion. The funny thing is, it is not a gray approach. If you have children what will you teach them? You cannot leave it up to them. If you teach them to love God and his Son Jesus then you are telling them such a thing is important. If you don't teach them to believe in and follow Jesus you are telling them such a thing is unimportant. There is no gray middle road. You will influence them one way or the other.

It's the same in all our relationships. Plus, what we essentially have with the person of Jesus is him living a life of constantly trying to convert people...which should tell us that you can't love Jesus and not love his mission. That would be duplicitous and wrong. If we love Jesus we will figure out how to be on mission for him and seek to persuade others. "Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others" (2 Corinthians 5:11)."

5. Don't Want To Waste Free Time

Since being on mission necessarily means spending time with other people, as a result, we can feel like we won't have the time to ourselves we enjoy. Free time can be very limited and if we spend that time with others on mission, we may think we won't have any time to ourselves.

This brings out two things. One, we should have regular alone time. That is good, important and healthy. However, it brings out a second thing and that is we can also have too much alone time, where we spend it all on ourself and look at the hours of our day as "ours" to do with what we want. Each day we live is a gift of God, the hours of the days do not belong to us but to him. So there is a natural sacrifice of self and our agenda that moves us to "make the most of our time" for the sake of the gospel (Ephesians 5:16).

6. Don't Have Anything in Common

One barrier we can experience with the idea of reaching out as a missionary to people who are unlike us is we can feel as though we may have nothing in common with them. It may seem like we are so different that there is no way to relate or connect. Or in the most extreme cases, we just may downright not like a person or that type of person.

It is very true that often there are people who are unlike us that Jesus has called us to reach out to. Yet, similar to Jesus who being God was very unlike us, became a man in order to reach out to us, we too have the ability come down the ladder and find commonality with others (Philippians 2:5-11). We may be different in our music or movie tastes, hobbies, or the way we dress...but all people share the most important things in common. We all come from a creator and we have all experienced and participated in sin and are in need of a savior. The real stuff of life, the heart stuff like eternity, morality and relationship we do have in common and we can relate and connect on those levels in a very real and powerful way.

In fact, interestingly it's often the people who are the most unlike us in our outward interests who can break through the things that can sometimes hinder our ability to get beneath the surface with each other. Sometimes it's the people who are the most unlike you that really force you or enable you to grow in the ways you need to.

7. Fear of Condemnation

For Christians, there can be a fear of what their other Christian friends, family, community or church will think if they see them or hear of them spending time with non-Christians. Christians historically have the bad track record of being some of the most unkind and judgmental people out there. So guilt by association can be a common fear. The thinking goes like this, if I'm seen in a "sinful place" with a "sinful person" then that must mean I condone sinful behavior and am participating in it.

This fear, while a common and frequently felt one is based both on a faulty idea of mission and of community support for mission. It's a faulty idea of mission because it turns mission into something that merely means being different and letting people comes to us because of our difference (centripetalism). This approach commonly misquotes Jesus' words in John 17:15-16 as being a command to be "in the world but not of the world" and says because of that we shouldn't have anything to do with non-Christians because that would be "being of the world."

Besides the fact that this is a misquote of Jesus' words which actually focus more on us being in the world as agents of Jesus for people, it also fails to see that the gospel must be appropriated to varying contexts (contextualization/adaptation) through us. The unchanging message of the gospel must tailored in particular ways for various people(s). The apostle Paul modeled this for us well, "To those outside the law I became as one outside the law that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:21-23)".

8. Fear of Corruption

When you ask why some may say that we should only let people come to us rather than going to them, often at the root of it is a fear that spending time with sinful people in sinful places will corrupt us. The thinking is non-Christians will rub off on us, so rather than risking it we should just completely cut ourselves off.

While there is a genuine concern here that "bad company will ruin good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33)" as mentioned above... this is an overreaction akin to not driving because of a fear that we might get in an accident if we get on the road. As Jesus reminded us, it is not what is outside of us that corrupts us, it's what we do with it, how respond, how our heart corrupts it (Matthew 15:10-20). If we are genuinely walking with Jesus and in community with his people there ought to be enough natural restraint and protection to guard us while we sojourn in this wicked world (3 John 1:2-8).

9. Fear Of What To Say

Many are good at making friends with those who are not yet Christians but actually bringing up Jesus or talking about the real stuff of life and how the gospel relates is a whole other thing entirely. While there may be other things at work holding back a person from opening there mouth, sometimes there is just a plain of simple fear of not knowing what to say.

It is good and right that we should not just give a pat answer and say the same thing every time. Silently in our heads, we ought to be in prayer and be led by Jesus' Spirit to rightly handle his word and deliver it accordingly (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus seemed to be very aware of this apprehension and he addressed it directly. Jesus said when the time comes for us to share about him to, "not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-12)."

10. Fear Of Damaging The Relationship

One other potential downfall for those who are very good at making friends and keeping friendships with those who are not yet Christians, is a fear can then arise about bringing up issues concerning sin and the need for Jesus because such conversation has the potential to drive a wedge in the relationship or even eventually end it. The fear is you will then come across as being so different and unlike your friend that they will no longer want anything to do with you. If you have genuinely been loving the person, you have most likely grown to enjoy their company as well, and besides losing the opportunity for mission you simply don't want to lose your friend.

In response to this one three things come to mind. One, if you've really been a good friend and care for the person's life, then it will not only be difficult for you to share the gospel in an unloving way but it will be difficult for the gospel to be received in such a way. Very rarely will the expression of a loving concern be rejected as oblique judgmentalism.

Two, the most unloving thing you can do for a friend is to withhold the gospel from them. The gospel is the gift of love and without it, we run headlong into hell. If my daughter is unknowingly running toward the street with rushing cars the most loving thing I can do is tell her to stop and go pick her up.

Three, it is a real reality that there may be cases where bringing the gospel into the relationship will end it. Jesus promises this and had it happen to him. He says that there will be those who reject him and our word of him and when that happens we are to kick the dust off our feet (Luke 10:1-16). In these cases, we must remind ourselves that knowing Jesus is the richest and most rewarding relationship we have, one not worth compromising if there is a relationship with another person that becomes directly opposed to him and our love for him and his mission.

Conclusion

I'm sure there are other things that hold us back from mission at times. These have been ten common things I have both experienced in my own life and witnessed and heard from others. What it comes down to is Jesus knows no such thing as a follower or disciple of him who is not living a life of mission for him. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry on earth, his calling to his first followers was an invitation to become fishers of men. At the end of Jesus' ministry on earth, his last instructions were to go be his witnesses.

Being a Christian is being a person who is on mission, a missionary. Let us beware of the tendencies in our heart that would keep us from being that which Jesus has called us to be and the example he has left us to follow. There is no greater joy for us in this world than knowing Jesus and making him known. Go into all the world and preach the gospel! (Mark 16:15)

- Pastor Duane