I grew up in churches, but truthfully, most churches I was exposed to turned me against Jesus more than draw me toward Him.
Personally, it wasn’t until my 40s when Angus Buchan from South Africa and Allen Jackson from World Outreach Church introduced me to the person of Jesus. I learned more about the living God and was moved by His love for me. Before this, I attended church occasionally, mocking Christians and thinking that as long as I tried to do good things, I was guaranteed a place in heaven regardless of my relationship with Jesus. But after encountering His love in a raw and radical way, I could not get enough of Jesus. I read the Bible multiple times and looked forward to going to church every Sunday, even to the point that my Christian wife proclaimed that she became jealous of Jesus because He was all I talked about.
I think back to times when I had gone to church and listened to different pastors and congregants worry about the style of music played in church, the way people dressed, whether tithing was pre-tax or post-tax. If tongues were real or not, or whether the communion wine was fermented or not, etc. Looking at those experiences from the lens of 2020, it is amusing to think that those little details are what we thought were important. Honestly, it is upsetting to see how many opportunities there were to prepare people for such a time as this that was wasted by fixating on the non-essential details.
Instead of criticizing people’s outfits or whether or not they choose to drink, we could have taught people about the power of fear and how trusting God helps eliminate fear. We missed opportunities to teach people to praise God during crises. We could have shown people the importance of not compromising the truth and the value of having a gracious attitude toward those who are different and to be an exceptional witness to non-believers. Sadly, I think many individuals surrounded by Evangelicals feel alienated by the obsession with the small things. Especially throughout 2020, as the rise of controversy has created opportunities for division, there is a stronger spotlight than ever on how the church responds.
This is a special time for us to be the light of Jesus unto the world. But what’s shining more: our political opinions and social media rants? Or our love for Christ and dedication to serving others?
We get bogged down on missed opportunities or mistakes that we fail to look forward and inward, which is the posture required to hear from the Lord. Jesus warns us that, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62. I don’t want to look back and grumble about what others have done wrong: I want to look upward to heaven and be led by the Lord.
As Christians, let’s not make some of the mistakes that our predecessors made. We have a greater obligation to share the Gospel with those who have not been exposed and who are living in fear and shame. Concerns over the style of dress or the version of the Bible we read is long past. There are far more critical questions to consider as we strive to be the light of Jesus to the world. For instance:
Do the people in your sphere of influence know that Jesus loves them?
Do they know that He died on the cross so that if they believe in Him, they will be set free from sin and shame?
Do they know where they will end up if they do not give their life to Him?
These are the critical salvation questions with which Christians should be most concerned. We should want to be remembered for caring about people’s souls, not our Facebook rants about culture and politics or how quick we were to “unfriend” those with different viewpoints.
It’s time to correct our ancestors’ mistakes; it’s time to start a revival that begins with you and me.
We must repent and ask God to realign our priorities. Let’s consider how to make Jesus the ruler of our lives instead of our personal opinions. Think about it: do the people with whom you interact most know that you are a Christian and that Jesus loves them?
Peter Demos is the author of Afraid to Trust. He’s a restaurateur, president and CEO of Demos’ Brands and Demos Family Kitchen, and a leadership source expert.