A little while ago, we had a ‘visitors day’ at church. It was a special program with lots of music, and specifically oriented towards people who might be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with a ‘traditional’ church service. The idea was that we would invite friends and family who would not normally attend church services.
I’m genuinely ashamed to admit how hard that turned out to be for me. I resolved to ask at least one person from the organisation at which I work, and that didn’t seem like it should be terribly difficult. I’m good friends with most of my colleagues, and they know I’m a Christian. We’ve had the occasional chat about beliefs, and you would have thought that this was a great opportunity for outreach.
But when I actually thought about who I might invite to church, my mind simply flooded with excuses about why I really couldn’t ask this or that person – that it just wasn’t ‘the right time’ for this person, or that that person wouldn’t really enjoy that kind of program… all pretty weak stuff, when you get right down to it. 2 Timothy 1:8 tells us not to be ashamed of the gospel, and I think it applies to this situation. I was afraid of looking foolish in front of my secular friends, and I regret to say it, but it’s a real indictment of my own willingness to share my faith.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the first person to feel that kind of reluctance, but as I sat and prayed about it, and gave it a little more thought, I realised that there was also something else going on in my head as well. A lot of my friends at work are highly educated, and most are hard line atheists. They feel that religion in general isn’t rational. Faith in a Supreme Being just doesn’t stand up to intelligent analysis in their eyes.
So I was worried that they’d be turned off by a program of worship and praise. I didn’t want to push them further away by bringing them to a program that wasn’t really suited to their highly rational, scientific outlook.
On the surface, this might seem like a valid concern. I mean, when you witness, you want to meet people “where they’re at”. I’m not talking about compromising the Christian message just to please people, just reaching them in the most effective way possible.
But when that gets in the way of me asking people to church, I’ve come to realise that that was worse than just being scared of looking foolish. I was actually scared of Christianity looking foolish. I was worried that Christianity would be discredited to my friends. If I start making judgements about who to invite to church, based on whether or not I think God will be able to reach them, I’m actually taking on the role that belongs to the Holy Spirit, which is a form of blasphemy.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the disciples “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth.” That means that I have to be a witness to everyone, no matter who they are. It’s not my place to decide who will be reached by what.
In the end, I did ask someone at my office to come to church. As it turned out, she couldn’t make it, but she did say that she was interested in visiting my church at some point. I hope and pray that she does, but I also think I gained something, simply by asking. I believe that God has shown me something important.
I’m still going to try to make my Christian witness appropriate and effective for the people around me, but the real miracle of conversion comes from God. It’s Him that reaches people, and it’s not for me to say how that will be done.
Lord, please help me to be the best witness possible, to draw people to You. Work through me Lord, and help me not to let my own imperfect perceptions and judgement cloud your perfect Truth.