Build Bridges, Not Walls

Most of us have been in the situation of chatting with someone and the conversation comes around to religion and then to Christianity the opportunity arises for us to explain to them something of what we believe.

We’re caught a bit off guard, we’re not that used to put these sorts of things into words and the result is not exactly what we’d have hoped for.

“So how was your weekend” is a common Monday morning question at work. You might say that you’ve fairly ordinary Saturday afternoon with a thing at in-laws and just stayed at home Saturday night. Then church on Sunday was pretty good.

The person you’re talking with might respond with “I didn’t know you went to church” leading you to reply, “almost every Sunday”, which may prompt a provocative question of “why would a sensible bloke as yourself go to church?” The next question could be “does your wife make you go?”

You might respond by feeling a bit defensive and say “I go because it’s my choice okay because I’m a Christian. Do you know what I mean?” While the other person in the conversation is more so curious than attempting to be provocative, they are seeking to learn more and may ask “I wouldn’t have the foggiest, do enlighten me, comrade…”

Whether you’re the person who’s been stumped by your Monday morning catchup at work or the person bemused that your colleague is a Christian, keep listening as there’s something for everyone.

Confusing

Often Christians respond in an unclear manner when explaining their faith. “Being a Christian is all about following Christ”. Such a statement might seem apparent and simple to a churchgoer but is confusing to everyone else and it is the responsibility of the Christian to be clear on what is being said.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of a Christian spiritual statement that’s left you more confused than before, I would like to apologise that you’ve not had the benefit of a clear presentation of the Gospel, what it means to be a Christian or been given more jargon when you’ve truly wanted to know what following Christ, having a relationship with Him, or who the Holy Spirit is.

Too often Christians focus on just how Jesus has died for our sins or unintentionally portray the impression that to go to heaven you only need to be good. In doing so, Christians have invertedly been responsible for a lot of fingers wagging which comes off as prejudicial judgement on non-believers especially when prompted by the next question of “I think I’m a good person, how come you’re saying I’m a sinner” or words to such effect.

Crazy

Another common directionthat such conversation ends up is with non-believers being told to “live like Jesus”, and if you’re not yet a Christian – you might rightfully think that this “crazy” churchgoer is telling me to be like someone invisible that floats around the sky. It’s time for Christians to have better conversations both in and especially outside of the church.

While evangelism can be in the form of flyers and overt conversations being had, being invitational to others for Christ often takes place best naturally through engagement with our neighbours.

As our churches plan for another year of challenges not just arising from COVID, Christians ought to be the ones in our local communities giving not just a hand out to those doing it tough but being a listening ear to get into the shoes especially of those who have not yet decided to follow Jesus.

Coming to attend church fellowship inperson on a Sunday morning for an hour or so while such is encouraging to our congregation (and brave during the ongoing COVID pandemic) isn’t enough to help our church be salt and light in the local community.

Being present in the community is the first step to building local connections and finding the opportunities to have meaningful conversations about Jesus.

It’s time that we strive to move beyond the average run of the mill conversation and hold fast to each opportunity to holistically share the Gospel. Speaking well, concisely and presenting the Gospel message in an easy-to-understand manner is important.

Too often we have focused on Jesus dying for our sins without giving the power of Christ’s resurrection enough credence. When we present the Gospel message, it is also important to be relevant to the local context in understanding the various existing perspectives that people that you speak with have especially in a highly multicultural and multi-faith country such as Australia.

Repentance

Christianity cannot be presented in a way that merely gives off the impression that Jesus is perhaps just another good teacher or a moral philosopher, but we need to be putting in and explaining the importance of the call to action being repentance. At first and not to be unexpected, our message will be offensive, but we speak such with love and patience through prayer. Ultimately, we rest assured that in making disciples of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit with us every step of the way which in turn calls us to be obedient to Jesus’ teaching and not give up in journeying with non-believers and new Christians.

We need to be building bridges, not walls with the followers of Jesus bringing the Gospel message to the community. An active church is not just bringing faithful long-time parishioners in on a Sunday morning to strengthen the inside of the chapel buildings.

Now is a great time for every Christian to help our neighboursbridge the gap toward accessing the Gospel in a way that is easy to understandwithout the walls of jargon or a timid presentation of Christ.

Being in the local community as an active Christian living out the Word and making disciples is a great step towards expanding God’s kingdom.

This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 24 January 2022.