Are We Making It Hard(er) for People to Meet Jesus?

After our series on the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen atmosphere, this blog post on the Exponential Blog struck a chord with me. – Scott

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By Arron Chambers

Some things in life are more complicated than they need to be.

Like turning on the television. Remember when you could turn on the TV by just urning a single knob? Now, you need a degree from MIT to navigate the remote control. Or like ordering coffee–an infinite number of coffee options, but most of those options change with each coffee shop. I love white chocolate-flavored coffee in a medium-sized cup or mug, which at my favorite coffee shop, is a 16-ounce (not medium) white chocolate mocha. But when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, the closest thing I can find to that same drink is called a medium (not 16-ounce) Dunkaccino, which is always difficult for me to order because I have to pay for it with my man card.

Or becoming a Christian. Remember when becoming a Christian was as simple as hearing and responding to the gospel? Now, too many Christians and churches have made it so complicated to find Jesus. Put yourself in the Toms, Skechers, Vans, Doc Martens, or Birkenstocks of a lost person with me for a moment and realize what they have to be willing to walk through to actually hear the gospel.

They have to walk through the stereotypes that Hollywood and the media project of Christians as not being very nice or normal. I spoke for an event in Tennessee where I heard a heartbreaking story. A local church youth group ate at a local steakhouse, made a huge mess and left a note instead of a tip. The note to their server: “Repent or you’re going to hell.” The server burst out crying and left work. That story so enraged me that my wife and I made plans to eat at that steakhouse the next night with my in-laws. We asked for that server and left her a huge tip. My in-laws resolved to do everything within their power to build a friendship with that young woman with the hopes that she’ll meet Jesus along the way.

They have to walk through the well-documented hypocrisy of some of our biggest celebrity preachers who have sinned publicly and scattered their golden house fixtures, jewels and fur coats as they fell back to the earth.

They have to walk through our denominational division and find the “right” church with the “right” version of the gospel.

They have to walk through our undocumented and unspoken yet highly unbending dress codes, which clearly prohibit tattered jeans, skinny jeans or saggy jeans and T-shirts advertising beer, pot, the Oakland Raiders, Obama, or ‘80s big-haired rock bands.

And then, if lost people can clamber over, around and through those obstacles, they have to walk through our doors … where the fun really begins.

None of this is a surprise to Jesus. Remember what He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).

Yes, the way is hard, so why would we make it even harder? I’m convinced and convicted that it’s time we simplify evangelism, focusing on three key areas:

1. Relationships

Let me put it simply: Relationships are the key to reaching lost people.

I define evangelism as “an intentional relationship through which someone is introduced to Jesus Christ.” Healthy relationships are essential if we want to have the kind of life God intended for all of us. And they are also essential if we want to reach lost people like Jesus did. A few years ago, the Institute for American Church Growth (today known as Church Growth, Inc.) asked more than 10,000 people, “What was most responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Seventy-nine percent responded, “A friend or relative invited me.”

Which is why a man who was at one time the leading abortionist in the country came to Christ. I’ll call him Richard.

One day a preacher (I’ll call him David) met Richard and started a conversation with him. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, both unaware of the other’s profession until after a relationship had already come to life.

Richard, a recently retired abortion doctor—at one time performing more abortions than any other abortion doctor in the United States. David, a presently employed preacher—at no time thinking he’d become friends with an abortionist.

Over countless breakfasts and cups of coffee, they forged a strong friendship. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but in real life it did. David told me that Richard used to hate Christians, especially the ones who yelled at and picketed him and his office. He said that their anger only made him more resolved to keep doing abortions.

Interesting.

Well, David didn’t yell at Richard. Instead, he ate with him, loved him and rejoiced with him when Richard gave his life to Christ, repented of his sins and was baptized. You see, it’s really not that complicated.

Let’s just love people, intentionally.

2. Resources

I don’t know how Peter did it.

How did he convince about 3,000 people to give their lives to Christ without handing out even one fake $1 million bill with the steps to receiving the “free” gift of eternal life detailed on the back?

Where did we get the idea that gimmicks, pamphlets and direct mail campaigns were the best way to lead people to Christ?

What if we set aside the gimmicky resources and simply just told people the true story of what Jesus has done to transform our lives?

What if we removed the gospel from all of the impenetrable packaging so that lost people didn’t have to work so hard to receive and enjoy truth, grace, forgiveness and life? What if we embraced every opportunity to develop intentional relationships with lost people through which we can introduce them to Jesus telling them true stories of transformation?

Seeing this through the paradigm of The Golden Rule, I’d much rather you give me a true story than a fake $1 million bill.

3. Responding

At Journey Christian Church where I pastor, we’re big on taking away people’s excuses for not coming to church. So we’re intentional about creating an environment where truth can be proclaimed in a relevant way, where it’s okay to not be okay, and where grace always wins.

We want to take away their excuses for not being the church in the community, so we’re intentional about creating regular opportunities to serve our community in significant ways.

We want to take away their excuses for not responding to the gospel, so we’re intentional with how we present the gospel and how they can respond to the gospel each week. I’m surprised by how many churches are no longer publicly calling people to make decisions for Christ, and instead are leaving the presentation of the gospel for a more appropriate time, such as the quarterly New Members’ Class. We’ve intentionally designed our weekly services to include a lengthy time of commitment during which someone can take communion, pray in one of our prayer rooms, be prayed over by a church leader, give his or her life to Christ, and be baptized.

And when it comes to baptism, we’ve gone to even greater lengths to take away their excuses. We baptize people in their street clothes (I do the same, so I need three sets of clothing ready to go). We have large black T-shirts they can put on over their clothes, plenty of towels and plastic trash bags to protect their car seats on the ride home. And our worship center seats are plastic and thus waterproof. In the past 12 months, we’ve baptized 205 people. We see people submit to baptism almost every single week.

It’s amazing how such a simple act can have such a significant impact on a congregation and how a congregation who witnesses transformation on a weekly basis can have such a significant impact on a community.

Yes, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. Let’s resolve to not make it any harder than it already is.

Questions to consider:

What is one thing you can do this week to help your children or grandchildren to either find life in Christ or grow in their relationship with Christ?

What is one thing you can do this week to help someone who is “far off” find the narrow way?
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This article was excerpted and adapted from the new eBook Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism … & The Golden Rule by pastor and author Arron Chambers. 

About Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers, author of six books, including Eats With Sinners and Devoted: Isn’t it time to fall more in love with Christ? (NavPress October 2014), is also the pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colo., an inspirational speaker, a marriage coach, husband of a lovely wife, and the father of four beautiful kids. For more information, visit his website.

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