They will come, and you will see them. They will ask questions like, “Where do I pay?” and they won’t know where to sit. They’ll scout the place out before bringing their kids. They’ll look around constantly to make sure they’re doing what everyone else is doing. They’ll check what you’re wearing to figure out whether they’re overdressed or underdressed. And they’ll be terrified. But they’ll also find themselves in awe and wonder of a God who can love them, a Supreme Being greater than the universe that wants to be in a relationship with them, and a pure and just God Who at the same time forgives all sin.
They’re the unchurched, but they won’t come unless they have a compelling reason to. And they have lots of compelling reasons not to. Now, you may be tempted to think, “But they just should!” But that makes church sound like Metamucil: It’s not pleasant, but it’ll clear the bad stuff out of you!
Missional living is about showing people that faith defines who you are instead of being something you do. And it’s more than being nice: it’s living sacrificially. “These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8, GWV) Some pastors call it, “Living the Six,” or living out your faith the other six days of the week like you do Sunday morning. And what happens when we do that?
In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, GWV)
As Christians, we live in such a way that it will lead people to praise God. Think about that as you plan your day, your week, your life. “How can I live that people will be so amazed by the love I show that it will move them to praise God for me?” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Yet that’s the kind of life Jesus calls us, His disciples, to live. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. What does that look like? St. Paul spells it out for us in a familiar passage often read at weddings (then forgotten before the reception!).
Read this passage, and think about your spouse. (If you’re not married, think about a family member or good friend.)
I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels. But if I don’t have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal. I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don’t have love, I am nothing. I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don’t have love, none of these things will help me. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7, GWV)
How greatly have you failed in this kind of love?
Now read it again, but think about the people in our community who don’t know Jesus. Seriously, read it again. Have you been loving to your community? No? Jesus forgives you. He didn’t just come to model that love, but to live that love and die that love for you as well as for those who don’t even know that.
But read it one more time, and as you read each sentence, pray, “God, show me how to love that way, the way You loved me.” Memorize it. Tape it to your car’s dashboard. Attach it to your computer monitor or your TV or bathroom mirror. Set it on your dinner table. Paste it in an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org so it keeps getting sent back to you every day. And read it, praying again and again that God show you how to live that kind of love.
When we read about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, we don’t bat an eye, because our feet, at worst, have sweaty lint on them. To get an idea of the kind of life Jesus was demonstrating, contemplate volunteering (i.e. no paycheck) to change adult diapers in the local Alzheimer’s unit. Every day. Third shift.
If God hasn’t called you into charitable elderly care, in what ways is He calling you to live like that? Because when you do, people who don’t know Jesus will come to know you. And they will wonder what makes you tick, why you’d live your life in a way that may seem admirable, but just doesn’t make sense. And when they hear about Jesus, they’ll realize that the Almighty God did exactly that for them, all the way to the cross and back. And they’ll change their Sunday morning plans.