Red Train, Blue Train; Me Train, You Train

Church people are often viewed as elitists, separatists, or at least snobs. We are viewed as excluding unchurched people from our lives. I’m not convinced that this is entirely true. The truth is, however, that most church people have very few, if any, unchurched friends. So, this got me asking, where are YOUR unchurched friends.

Red train, Blue train. I remember math word problems where you had two trains traveling in opposite directions. The problem would go on to tell you how fast they were each traveling and ask how long it would take for them to get certain distance apart. It would look something like this.

“Two trains, one red and one blue, are traveling in opposite directions. The red train is traveling at 20 miles per hour. The red train is traveling at 30 miles per hour. How long will it take the two trains to get 60 miles apart?”

No matter how fast the red train is going, or how long it travels, it will never end up in the same place as the blue train. In fact the longer and faster they travel, the farther apart they will move. It is not the red trains fault. Nor is it the fault of the blue train. It does not mean that the red train, or the blue, are trying exclude the other. It doesn’t mean that the blue train hates the red one. It is simply that they are going in different directions. Therefore, they will never be in the same place.

Me Train, You Train. Christians and non-Christians are kinda like these two trains. It is not that we hate each other, at least in most cases. It is not that we are trying to avoid each other. It is not that one of us thinks ourselves better than the other. It is, often times, simply that we are going in different directions.

I have experienced this in my own life. As I look back as some of the friendships I have had over the years I can see some that were quite close, but as I moved closer to God I found myself moving further from these friends. I was not trying to avoid them and they were not trying to avoid me. I just wasn’t going to the same places or doing the same things that they were. Likewise, they were not doing the things or going to the places I was. As a result we moved apart, just like the trains. Sometimes this happened slowly and sometimes more quickly.

So, how do we meet? The last thing I want to seem to suggest is that we, as Christians, should change the direction of our lives. As we move closer to God we WILL move farther from the things of this world. In fact, if we look at our lives and we are not moving farther from worldly things, then we cannot be moving closer to God. However, there are ways that we can seek out unchurched people to make connections, grow relationships and hopefully get them to the point where they can come to know Jesus and turn their train around.

Coffee, not beer. There used to be a group of people that I worked with in the ER that would gather on a regular bases at a local coffee shop after our shift. We would sit for hours and talk about all kinds of things. I have also spent my share of time drinking things other than coffee with this same group. As I have moved away from a lifestyle that includes alcohol I have also moved away from some of these friends. The thing is those mornings at the coffee shop were not bad. That is the sort of thing that is a perfect place to make and grow relationships with people that might not come to church… yet.

So, where are your unchurched friends? The vast majority of people come to church because someone they know invited them. How can this happen if our churches are filled with people that don’t have any unchurched friends? Certainly some will happen into the church without our help, but how many more could be reached if we sought out relationships with unchurched people in our neighborhoods, workplaces, etc?

Guard your heart. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us to “Guard your heart above all else.” As we seek to connect with unchurched peoples, we must take care that we don’t find ourselves falling into old habits, or even new habits that are not God honoring. Be careful that, in your desire to connect with unchurched people, that your train doesn’t lose its direction along the way.

So what? What ways are you seeking to connect with unchurched people around you? How are you establishing and growing relationships? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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The Messy Gospel. Orange Conference 2012

This week is Orange Blogger Week. A week where those of us that blog for Orange finally get the recognition that we deserve. A week where we are celebrated for the geniuses that we are. Ok, none of that is true. Rather it is a week to discuss all things orange. Ok, not ALL things orange, but all things related to the orange strategy that seeks to form partnerships between the church and families. I have written a number of posts about the Orange Strategy, the Orange Tour, and the Orange Conference. Here are some links to some of those posts:
For this post I wanted to do something a little different and highlight the sort of content that one can expect when attending this Orange Conference. This content comes from Reggie Joiner as he spoke at one of the general sessions about the messiness of the gospel.
The gospel is the reason that the church even exists. If we just existed for ourselves, then we could all move to a tropical island and not worry about everyone else. If we are not careful this is exactly what we do. Ok, we don’t move to a tropical island, but we do tend to build holy little islands within our communities. We have build buildings, hold services and have created cultures that, even if not intentionally, keep everyone else out. We build buildings where protecting the drywall, the paint, to the lawn is more important than reaching the lost.
I can understand why this happens. As Reggie Joiner points out it’s because, the gospel is messy. In his talk at OC12:
  • “Sometimes God calls us to step into a community or a place that we are not ready for.”
  • “Sometimes the gospel is messier that we signed up form.”
The truth is the gospel is messy. Sometimes it means doing things and being around and with people that we are not comfortable with, people that are different than us. This can be difficult and is definitely, messy. As Reggie pointed out Jesus couldn’t do what He came to do without getting messy. He talked with people that no one else would talk to. He had dinner with people that other Jews avoided. He touched people that no one else would touch. Ultimately, He went to the cross. It doesn’t get any messier than that.
Jesus was willing to do the messiest thing in history so that we might be saved. In spite of this we often avoid doing what it takes to reach people because we don’t want to get messy. Someone was willing to get messy for us and yet we try to avoid getting messy for others. Paul wrote, “I become all things for all people so that I may by every possible means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) This is the essence of the messy gospel. We must become all things so that some may be saved, even if it means getting messy.

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