By Sam Snyder
I read an article today that really made me think. It’s a great article and I would encourage you to read it here. Don’t worry, go read it, these thoughts will still be here when you come back…
…Alright, you’re back. As I was saying, the research really hit me; it stated that “20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not ‘personally know’ any Christians.” That’s over 13 million people!
Check out this graph below:
Did you notice how few of those who don’t personally know Christians are Atheists or Agnostics? What do the majority of these people who don’t know Christians have in common??? Most of them are from ethnic groups that are different than the ethnic groups in America with large Christian populations. What does that tell us? Well, that tells me that we’re not doing a very good job of loving our neighbor.
In the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 Jesus teaches that to love our neighbor really means to love the LAST person we would think to associate ourselves with. The religious leaders would never have thought of a Samaritan as a neighbor, much less as one who was neighborly. Jesus was using this Samaritan to illustrate that loving God is demonstrated in loving others. Specifically people who aren’t like you, people whom you might avoid, be scared of, or have “nothing in common” with. Those are the people Jesus was telling us that we are to love! People who are not like us. People who we may have to go out of our way to serve. People who are around us already, but that we don’t even notice are there.
This reminder really burdened me throughout the day today. How often do we do ministry, as individuals and as churches, without thinking about engaging or serving those who are not like us, whether in belief, culture, or practice? How often do we “travel over land and sea to gain a single convert” on a mission trip but avoid engaging in God’s mission field that He has brought to us HERE because it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient???
The last I checked though, God doesn’t call us to what’s comfortable or convenient, but often to what’s costly and challenging as we partner with Him in His Kingdom advancing here on the earth.
I grew up on the foreign mission field and I’ve been leading a a church that’s a house of prayer for all nations in Minneapolis, MN, yet the greatest realization I’ve had in the last few years is that God has called me to live as a Missionary wherever I am and with whoever He brings into my life. You would think that this would have come naturally to me having grown up with parents who were ALWAYS on mission, but it doesn’t. I like what’s comfortable and convenient too. I don’t like being stretched and challenged. Yet what has it taken for me to get to the place of longing to reach the LAST people we normally think of as being near the Kingdom? God has been teaching me to:
THINK Different: God has helped change my paradigm from a drought mentality to a harvest mentality. There is a harvest that is ready! God is working in people’s lives and I need to find out what He’s doing and join Him in it instead of just working where I already know doing the things I’ve already done. Who would try to harvest in a field that hasn’t been sown in or try to plant in a field that’s ready for harvest?
SEE Different: God has been teaching me to see people of other cultures and religions as people to be loved and served more than people to be taught. Jesus was a master at cross-cultural communication because He loved and served people and He sends us in the same way that He was sent.
ACT Different: God has been reminding me that I am called to be an ambassador of the Kingdom here and now. I have had to begin to ask myself what I would be doing if I was living as a missionary in another country and begin to act with the same sense of mission here and now.
So the questions that come to my mind today are these:
– When faced with these facts and the people around you, do you have harvest or drought mentality?
– When you see cultural and religious barriers, do you see yourself as a teacher or fixer, or do you simply try to avoid those altogether, or do you look for ways to be a servant?
– Are you willing to GO wherever and to whomever God sends you, to do whatever He tells you, whenever He wants you to go?
I know that I have definitely not arrived and that our church has not arrived, but times like this challenge me to keep asking God to open my eyes to see who He wants me to see the way He wants me to see them so that I can love them the way He loves them. How tragic for someone to live surrounded by Christians and never experience the love of God through one of them because they weren’t seen how God sees them! Let’s lead by example BEING Different and raising up others who will also Think, See, and Act Different than we have in the past so that EVERYONE may know the love of God through His people.
How about you, how do you feel about this research?