Barriers & Bridges
When we think about spaces, we need to consider things that are barriers to the Gospel and that which function as bridges to the Gospel.
Issues of practice, culture, or perception that inhibit the progress of the gospel.
Opportunities for people to encounter the truth of the gospel through conversations and experiences with the people of God.
What kinds of things can present obstacles to the gospel related to the time, space and availability?
Example: Church building - too large, cold / Somebody’s house - too intimate
Example: “insider” language can make most people feel either unwelcome or unaccepted
We don't want to build additional barriers of culture between us and someone else.
Example: Church starting a food bank, when another exists through the city. (why not partner?)
Receive / Reject / Redeem
When we address cultural engagement, we need to employ a more rigorous filter in assessing whether a certain activity, practice, etc. can be productively engaged in for the life of a Christ-follower or a community of faith. In order to help us analyze our lives and the various questions we may need to help our Via Communities to answer regarding certain social/cultural issues, we should ask ourselves three primary questions:
Can this be received?
Things that should be fully received would be items that scripture doesn't speak directly to but rather can be engaged in for the glory of God. Food would be an example of this. We need food to thrive as mankind and there are pleasures in eating that we can partake in for the glory of God. Food can also be a detriment to our spiritual life if we abuse the gift of food through excessive eating habits or by eating to escape the realities of life, treating food as a functional savior.
Matters of conscience factor greatly into this area. You may be able to partake in a glass of wine, but your neighbor may greatly struggle. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." Be aware that just because something can be received doesn't mean it is always beneficial to do so. See 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 for more of a full understanding of what Paul is discussing.
Should this be rejected?
There are certain things that we should not engage with due to the natural of their existence in our world. This list would include items such as: murder, stealing, abuse, etc. These behaviors are to be rejected, because biblically we have a clear mandate to recognize these acts as a direct result of the perversion of sin in our world–seeking to destroy the good, the true and the beautiful in this world.
- God will not lead someone to divorce their wife (for reasons outside of those listed in Scripture).
- God will not lead someone to sleep with their boyfriend/girlfriend.
- God will not lead someone to take some else's life.
- God will not lead someone to lie on their expense reports to get a head in their company.
Can this be redeemed?
There are other aspects of life that are a corruption of the good, the true and the beautiful, but have redemptive qualities that can be taken advantage of.
A key example of this would be the holiday Halloween. Many Christians have an odd almost mystical and superstitious view of Halloween, almost as if it has inherent spiritual power. This is silly. Halloween was a holiday originally purposed to celebrate the faithful departed and make fun of the power of death. The original purpose of Halloween has dramatically changed to become something more of a celebration of death. In our culture, the experience of most people is Halloween as an opportunity to dress up, scare someone and go around their neighborhood collecting candy. The meaning has been almost completely lost.
Halloween can be redeemed and utilized as an opportunity to get to know neighbor and to bless neighbor.
Belonging prior to Believing
In Via Communities, we need to make sure that we are inviting people to belong to their communities first. Then, as they see the life of these communities, we pray God will open their eyes to the reality of who Jesus is and we will have the chance to witness their trust being placed in Jesus. Our behavior will vary greatly as Christ-followers. Some may feel you need to dress a certain way to church–others will disagree. Some may feel you need to abstain from certain alcoholic beverages–others will disagree. Some may feel you need to talk a certain way–others will disagree.
- Scripture, prayer, worship, confession, repentance (should be hallmarks of this)
- A non-believer entering this does not cease these things from happening, but rather causes you to have to explain them
- Avoid the holy ghetto
- An environment where you are still inviting someone, but it invites people to belong to your community.
- Examples: throw a party, have a standing reservation at a local restaurant, poker night, bowling league, etc.
- Lower the energy barrier - focus on welcoming people
- Think of the preferences of others over your own
- Offer a welcoming experience
- Going out
- Meeting the practical needs of your neighbors and community
- Example: Mechanic using his skills along with others to serve low-income families and single moms in their area
- Use local organizations - what can you come alongside?
- Go to the party - join your community at events put on by your neighborhood, school, etc.
- In what ways do you participate as a community in these types of events?
- Example: Join the block party by bringing your grill and asking what you can do to serve
- Idea: Join your association - have your group volunteer to help with events
- Join rather than create