Someone asked me the other day where I was from before I moved to Thailand, and I told them that we had most recently lived in Colorado Springs, CO. “Oh yeah,” he said, “isn’t that the center of all Christianity?” He was making a joke about the number of Christian organizations based in Colorado Springs, and there are many. In fact, when my wife and I made the decision to move to Colorado Springs, we did so because we found a list online of 108 different ministries that had their headquarters there.
I got to thinking about his comment later on. Is it a good thing to have a “center of all Christianity?” Yes, but only if the center is Christ, Himself. Otherwise, I would say it’s a decidedly bad thing. Why would Christians want to isolate themselves to one place on the planet? Wouldn’t that limit our effectiveness everywhere else? Sure, it would attract lots of Christians to come live there (like me, for instance), and you can have collaboration between ministries and such, but then it would also be easier for people who didn’t like Christians to avoid them.
I think we do this (isolate ourselves) quite often. We have Christian communities and Christian schools and Christian friends and Christian groups that we belong to. We have Christian music and Christian radio stations, Christian movies, Christian authors, Christian bookstores, Christian TV stations and Christian websites. I participate in and partake of these just like many other Christians, but is it the best thing for us to do? Have we asked ourselves why everything needs to be “Christian” before we will be part of it?
It’s probably about comfort zones and safety. If you are a Christian, other Christians are safe and comfortable (mostly). Those who aren’t Christian are a little scary. They do things that we aren’t supposed to do, and they speak a different language than our carefully crafted Christianese. It’s hard to find anything in common with non-Christians, because they don’t go to the same bookstores or listen to the same radio stations or have the same friends that we do. And when we are around them, we feel like we should be evangelizing or something, and if we aren’t, we feel guilty. It’s hard to enjoy ourselves when we feel like we have to draw them closer to God every time we meet.
But maybe we have become too “Christian” to be relevant. We are like a giant lump in the cake batter – safe from the messiness outside but a little dry and dusty. If we are going to make a difference in this world, we are going to have to leave the lump and start mixing with the world. I’m not saying that we need to start sinning so that we can understand those outside the Body of Christ, but I am saying that we need to look for the common ground we have with non-Christians.
There is some outstanding music out there that won’t corrupt our hearts and minds even though it’s not overtly Christian. (Some of it is produced by Christian artists who are trying to reach the world by not wearing the Christian label.) Some movies (a little harder to find) uplift the soul, bring injustice into the light or celebrate what’s good about life. Many authors are writing incredible books that will help you build a bridge of discussion to an unbeliever.
Instead of creating a Christian group for our favorite hobby or sport, we should join someone else’s. Rather than attend church every time the doors open, we should find opportunities to interact with our communities. When we throw parties, organize a potluck or hold a neighborhood yard sale, we ought to try to invite non-Christians to participate.
And the rule for all these interactions should be that we don’t “try” to evangelize anyone. God does the evangelizing. We should just be ourselves. We should enjoy the company of our non-Christian friends without any agenda to win them to Christ. God will work out all those details; He’s just saving a little piece for us to do. Sometimes that will include openly sharing our faith, but most of the time He is going to use things from our lives that we would never expect in order to break up hard hearts and plant eternal seeds.
We are part of the batter; He’s the Cook. All we’ve got to do is blend.