Some of you are not going to like this post, and some of you are going to disagree with it. But some of you are going to agree with what I have to say. A few nights ago at a Bible study that I belong to someone commented that the problem with the church is that we focus on negatives. I didn’t think much about that statement until yesterday and I will tell you why.
Ruth was playing Thursday and Friday for the Saint John Busker Festival. It’s a celebration of street performers who gather in the city once a year for a four-day celebration of their creative talents. There are acrobats, aerial performers, sidewalk painters, musicians, chainsaw jugglers and even a troop of profession balloon benders. It’s Ruth’s third year of being invited to participate and we enjoy the two days we are there very much. But, there was a time we wouldn’t have come because of the secular atmosphere. We would have believed that it was wrong to associate with this frivolous activity, but we have changed.
Now some of you are already wondering about us. You are thinking that we have compromised our beliefs and have rationalized away our involvement with the festival. But the truth is much simpler than that. We have changed.
For far too many Christians, their experience is based upon negatives. So there I was sitting in the Hilton Hotel waiting for Ruth to finish a performance and writing this blog. As I was writing I was thinking about what my friend said last Wednesday about how the church focuses on the negatives. She was right because for many Christians Christianity is based on all the things that we shouldn’t do. The church is against just about everything and as a result we define our belief in negatives. In other words we don’t know in whom we believe, but instead only by what we are against.
Talk to young people and ask them what they know about Christianity and I will guarantee it isn’t that a retired pastor’s wife plays music with street musicians at Busker festivals. Instead they view Christians as people who are against everything including having fun.
One of the places Ruth played today was in a beautiful public park in the heart of the city. I talked a long time to the soundman that pointed out all the young people who were pushing baby carriages. He told me that many of these people are young teens who produce babies so that their welfare payments can increase. I don’t know if that is true or not and it is beside the point, but what is important is the hopeless and helpless look that each of these people had. They were defeated by life and it showed. One young stoned girl danced away, oblivious to the world while Ruth played. Now here’s the interesting thing. After Ruth finished playing the girl came over and dropped money in Ruth’s dulcimer case. A lot of straight businessmen crossing the park on their way back to work didn’t do that.
As Christians we need to start being for things. We need to engage the culture and make it work for us. We need to mingle with people and share our talents and skills. As Christians we must stop being separate from everyone around us because we are afraid of being contaminated by the lost. From being at the Festival I have a greater sense of the need to proclaim Christ to the world, but we are never going to do that if we spend all our time condemning the world instead of trying to relate to it and then change it.
I don’t want to be defined by what I’m against. Instead, I want to be known for what I believe. I long to portray Jesus as the answer to the loneliness, emptiness and pain so many people live with daily. I desire to share the love of God who cares for us unconditionally and saves us by His overflowing grace. I will never have the opportunity to share anything with anyone from the safety of my church or home.
On Pentecost the Gospel was driven out of the Upper Room and into the streets of Jerusalem. Thousands were not added to the church as long as Christians were huddled around the table reflecting on their fears, disappointments and confusion. It was only when the Holy Spirit drove them into the streets with power that they proclaimed the Gospel with boldness and people flocked to Christ. Read Acts 2 and you will soon see that the disciples were not preaching about what they were against but instead they were proclaiming Christ, Savior of the World, with all the power they had in them.
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians