My church has been preaching with a slightly different focus lately. We’ve been talking about living missionaly. It kind of changes the focus from the church being the entity that introduces people to God and moves that mission to our personal lives. We should build care about people and build relationships with people because that’s who God is. God cares about them. Hopefully we have opportunities to tell people about God and why he’s important to us but the focus is more about caring for people because that’s how God feels and how he wants us to live.
Of course the idea of telling people about God isn’t new. I’ve heard it hundreds of times but somehow for most of my life I had this perception that you strike up a conversation with someone to “witness to them” because that’s what good christians do. That makes God happy. We don’t really care about the person, we care about some list of what it means to be a good Christian. This list of course is a list of things to do and not do and the heart or motivation behind the actions is barely an afterthought. Besides, people who aren’t Christians are some foreign species and some story about people pulling you down and they’re just plain different and so you just don’t relate to them like you do with your Christian friends.
While something as important as a relationship with God can change the dynamic of relationships, I’ve kind of realized that people who don’t go to aren’t so foreign. Funny how we (churches I grew up in) have treated people who are outside of the Church in such an odd way. It’s not normal to walk up to a stranger and jump into a conversation about their relationship with God. Certainly we wouldn’t approach a stranger or acquaintance and start questioning their marriage relationship and start telling them what they should do to change it. Why did we act like it was fine and even commendable to walk up to stranger and ask them “If you were to die tonight are you going to heaven?” Perhaps there was a time and culture where this worked. Somehow since starting to see people outside of the Church as friends and “normal” people I just don’t see how forcing a socially awkward conversations or even waiting for them to come to church and “join our club” is the best approach. For now my approach is to be honest about who I am, don’t shy away from mentioning that I go to church, and try to be sensitive in conversations of when to bring up the more weighty topics of God and the Church. More importantly, I hope the way I treat others honors God and that He continues to change my heart to truly care about them as He does.