The greatest hindrance to living outward is focusing inward.
Not long ago, I sat in a restaurant with my friend, Greg, as we caught up on all the happenings in our families. I have known Greg for many years, stretching all the way back to when he was a student in high school. I know his parents well, and both are wonderful, godly people. Greg and his family are active in our church and fully engaged in ministry. They have a pioneer spirit and love Jesus with all their hearts.
As we talked, the conversation turned to living on mission with Jesus. After a moment of silence, Greg confessed, “The thing that keeps me from sharing my faith more is that I’m selfish. It’s not that I don’t know what to say — honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to get into a conversation.”
My friend’s brutal honesty shines a spotlight on the reason most of us do not have more spiritual conversations. It’s not that there is a lack of people who need Christ. It’s not that the Gospel has somehow been drained of its power. It’s not that the Spirit is no longer prompting believers to speak about Jesus. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that often we just don’t want to reach out. It is easier to stay to ourselves, focus on our lives and our responsibilities, and cocoon in our world.
We live in a culture that is becoming increasingly isolated. We get up early and go to the gym with our ear buds in so we don’t have to speak to anyone. We stop for gas at the local convenience store and pay at the pump. We grab something to drink at the grocery store and choose the self-checkout line. We venture to work and head straight to our spot. Throughout the day, we post, text, chat and tweet. We “like” and “share” the things we see on social media, but we seldom have personal conversations with anyone. After work, we head home, driving alone in our car as we listen to our favorite tunes, and then pull into our garage so we won’t have to make eye contact with our neighbors. Even at home, families sit in separate rooms watching TV, playing video games or scrolling through media — but rarely talking. Then we hit the sack (while our smart phones recharge until morning), so we can be ready to do it all over again.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but honestly think about this. When was the last time you went out of your way to start a conversation with someone you didn’t know? Chances are good it’s been a long time.
While our culture has all the technological possibilities of connection, we are more disconnected than ever before. That reality is both a dismal admission and an incredible opportunity. It’s dismal in that God created each one of us to live in community, and it is not good for us to be and live in isolation. It is an opportunity because all around us are people desperately looking for true friendships and longing for true connection.
Now more than ever before, people are open to those who will reach out and care about them with genuine love and concern. The question is not, “Are people open and searching?” The question is, “Are you willing to reach out?” Remember, God has called you to go on mission with Jesus. He has placed you right where you are — in your office, school and neighborhood — so you can shine His light to the people around you (Matthew 5.14 ESV). You are strategically placed to be a difference maker.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you are willing to make a difference?
- Are you willing to linger at the school and strike up a conversation with other parents?
- Are you willing to go deeper than surface talk with your neighbor?
- Are you willing to stop and pray for that client who is struggling through a divorce?
- Are you willing to take that friend to lunch and care about his or her needs?
- Are you willing to intentionally pray that God would draw your lost friend to Christ?
- Are you willing to carve out time in your schedule to make a list of people you care about who are far from God, and ask God to help you reach out to them?
- Are you willing to put yourself to the side so God can use you to reach someone with the Gospel?
Written by Craig Etheredge This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Reach Your World, which you can purchase here.