Be. Do. Share.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12
As a new church plant we do not want to just be inward focused - building up and equipping our own people. We also want and need to have an outward focus - we must be intentional about reaching others. Over the next couple of weeks during our launch team meetings we are going to be specifically looking at how we do this, by looking at the model we see displayed throughout Scripture. But this past Sunday we took a birds eye view of the whole process and talked about how in order to reach people we are going to have to BE different, we are going to have to DO good, and we are going to have to SHARE the gospel.
1. Be Different
The first step in reaching others is by being different. This is what the bible calls holiness, or being set apart. This is what Peter is referring to in 1 Peter 2:11 when he urges us to abstain from sinful desires. And tragically, this is what the church has not been good at in recent years. We have failed at being different. We try to tell other people that they need to change, while we ourselves have judged others, discriminated against other people groups, and have just come off as hateful, selfish and and intolerant rather than loving.
German philosopher Heinrich Heine posed this to Christians. He said,
Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.
This was Gandhi's problem with Christians too. Gandhi once said that he had read the Gospels and seriously considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India – the divisions of hereditary rank, profession, and wealth. So one Sunday while he was visiting London, he decided to attend a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. But when he arrived at the church, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested he go worship with his own people. Gandhi recalls that he left the church and decided that if Christians have a caste system too, I might as well remain a Hindu. He said,
I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.Your Christians are so unlike your Christ
If we want to reach people, if we want to call them to leave behind their former lives and move to a life in Christ, then we must demonstrate to them that we ourselves have left behind our former lives. We must be different, live different, and act different than the world around us. And because of our sinful nature this causes an internal conflict within us.
We so want to be like everyone else around us, while God wants us to be like Christ. But if we want to reach people then our community, our friends, and our families need to see we are different. They need to see us loving, serving, and sacrificing for others. They need to see us practice integrity, humility, self-control, patience, contentment, peace, joy, hope, honor, hard work, restraint, generosity, and grace. While everyone else is fighting, trolling, criticizing, complaining, judging, raging, getting all hot and bothered, being greedy, unfaithful, selfish, proud, lustful and fearful we must be different.
This is the difference the lost must see before they will listen to what we have to say. We too often want to just jump straight to the sharing part of reaching others. But it all starts with being different.
2. Doing Good
The first step in reaching people is by being different - an internal holiness. But the second step is an outward goodness. We demonstrate this goodness only because of what we have received from Christ. Jesus has given us so much that should not be able to do anything but make a difference in the lives of the people and the community around us. Peter tells us to live such good lives that the world and the culture cannot help but notice our good deeds. This is part of how we will reach people.
Herb and Ruth Clingen served as missionaries in the Philippines, and they were imprisoned in an internment camp during the Second World War under the Japanese. In his diary, Herb describes the three years they spent in the camp. He tells stories about the people that were murdered in these camps. He tells about the deprivation - how people were being starved to death. He tells about the overall horrors of the camps. And he also talks about the man the was primarily responsible for all these horrors. A man named Konishi.
Herb says that Konishi was the fiercest of all the Japanese authorities. He was a ruthless, brutal, murderous torturer who starved people to death, who shot people through the head, and who did all kinds of unbelievable things. Herb writes,
Konishi found an inventive way to abuse us. He increased the food ration but gave us pele, which is unhusked rice. Eating the rice with its razor-sharp outer shell would cause intestinal bleeding that would kill us in hours. And we had no tools to remove the husks and doing the job manually by pounding the grain or rolling it with a heavy stick consumed more calories than the rice would supply. It was a death sentence for all internees.
Herb and his family, along with the rest of the camp, were liberated by General Douglas MacArthur on February 24,1945 - the very day Konishi planned to kill them all. And Herb closes his wonderful testimony by saying this. "Years after the war we learned that Konishi had been found working as a grounds keeper at a Manila golf course. He was put on trial for his war crimes and hanged. Before his execution he professed conversion to Christianity, saying he had been deeply affected by the testimony of the Christian missionaries he had persecuted.
Despite being persecuted, despite being tortured, Herb and his family had become the silent means of Konishi's salvation because of the good that they had displayed. If we want to get the world's attention, if we want to reach people, we must show them goodness. We must show them grace.
3. Share the Gospel
After we have begun to be different, after we have begun to do good, we are finally ready and able to share the gospel with other people. We will go more in depth about how we do this in the weeks to come. But for now it is important for us to recognize and understand that reaching people - sharing the gospel - does not actually begin with our words. It begins with our actions. It begins with us living differently - living like Christ - and doing good to the people around us. Reaching others takes being different, doing good, and sharing the Gospel. As a church let us not neglect the first two steps. But together let us reach people by being, doing, and sharing.