A balanced diet

A few years ago I read an article about a woman who claimed to be a stripper for Jesus. No lie. She believed that God had called her to do that and she spent her time in strip clubs and seedy joints "doing her thing for God." In this postmodern world where many people of faith disagree about such things as whether church meetings can be held in bars on Sunday mornings before they open, there is nothing ambiguous about the audacity of this woman's claim. Not only is this over the top but it is biblically and morally unfounded.

The desire to reach a lost world with the gospel is both obvious and imperative to the follower of Christ. Now more than ever we are seeing churches make more concerted efforts to relate to those in the culture around them and, in doing so, many have been criticized for embracing the culture and even conforming too much to the ways of the world. Whether or not that is the case, there is certainly the danger that people of faith will acquiesce too far in an effort to appeal to those around them, and in doing so run the risk of compromising the message of the gospel that they initially set out to propagate. The well-worn phrase "be in the world but not of it" is based not on a specific line of Scripture but rather a broad concept given to followers of Christ. We must be careful.

We as Christians must also be careful of the danger of insulating ourselves too much. What does that mean? Simply put, there are many in the body of Christ who, in response to a desire to shield themselves from the corrupting influence of the culture, basically build walls around their lives so that no one else but those whom they handpick can come in. This is not to say that desiring to teach our children in a certain way or striving to keep harmful influences out of our homes is wrong. It's not. But when our lives are so protected that we admit that we know of few or any who are not followers of Christ, then I would say that we have come to a personal roadblock in fulfilling the great commission. My fear is that if we keep the circle of our lives limited to only fellow believers then when we do encounter opportunities to share with those who don't know Jesus, we simply are not going to be prepared or even motivated to do just that.

So what is the balance in all of this? I honestly don't know if there is supposed to be a certain percentage that we shoot for, but I do know that Scripture is our guide with all of this. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are not to be in the habit of "staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25) We in the body of Christ need each other. We need fellowship and corporate worship. We need the church. And we have a beautiful picture in Acts 2:41-47 of just how much the early believers flourished in their assembly and community together.

And then there is the example of Jesus in the gospels. Yes, He frequented places where the lost congregated, but He also did so with a group of group of disciples in tow. Did Jesus need to have those men with them for what we might call today "accountability"? The better question is, "Do we?"

I carry with me a deep conviction of the need to build relationships and share life with those who are lost and/or unchurched. I realize that this can be tricky and even messy, but I cannot ignore the fact that while many of these individuals may not enter the door of a church, they will gladly cross the threshold of my home. That puts an enormous amount of responsibility on my family to live our lives in a gospel context when we are with them while at the same time speaking the gospel into them. And I have discovered that if most of my time is invested in the community and culture around me, then I hunger and thirst for even more communion with the saints.

As one who has just moved into a community that is very unchurched this has been a challenge for me and my family but we are striving to build those essential Christian relationships while we are at the forefront of loving our neighbors in an effort to see them know and love the gospel. We are in regular contact with our close brothers and sisters who have walked with us over the years, even thought that contact is now limited to phone calls, emails, and social media. And we are seeing God provide fruitful new friendships with believers here as well.

In short, we have to strive for balance and I would suggest that if we have to put a percentage on what that balance would looks like, I believe the bulk needs to sway sharply in the direction of our Christian community. It is foolish to believe that we can engage the world while neglecting the accountability and fellowship afforded us by the body of Christ. We do indeed need each other.

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