It’s a whole new world out there – but, really, it is simply running parallel to the world as seen and experienced by the first Church as recorded in the book of Acts in the New Testament.
A fairly large segment of the population today do not have a “Christian memory”. I borrow that phrase from a course on prophetic evangelism by Doug Addison (which I highly recommend, by the way). They have not been brought up with a Christian worldview. They have not attended church on a regular basis. They have not been baptized or confirmed. In fact, those words are meaningless to them. They have not read the Bible and, in many cases, do not own one and have really never seen or held one.
Yes, I am talking about North Americans – not some third world nation which claims another world religion as its predominate way of life and the basis for its moral behaviour. Many people today have no “Christian memory” because they were not and are not church attendees and were not raise in a home with Christian values. As a result, they have no reference point for much of what the average Christian shares with them today. They do not know the basic Bible stories, they have no idea who Christ is and what He claims to have done. They do not watch Christian television nor listen to Christian radio (thank God).
This realization has changed the way I approach people in the skateboard parks, those sitting on the grass enjoying the sun at the many parks in my city, and those sitting having coffee in the coffee shops located near my home – youth and seniors. When approaching them to strike up a conversation I realize that I need to present biblical truth without using bible words (or at least explain the words I use). That takes practice. And, if they receive Jesus as a result of my time with them that they will actually be “first-generation Christians” in a society that is hostile to the born again Christian faith. Much like the book of Acts and the early Church. This raises its own unique challenges that the Church of my generation has not had to face before.
But, I also need to do this for those who are believers – even born again believers. I have discovered that many of them do not know or understand the basics of the Christian faith and that they have their own definitions for words that Christians commonly use when talking among themselves. I always knew this about groups like the Mormons who have a “different Jesus, a different Holy Spirit and a different Gospel”. But, there is so much craziness that is being believed – in both Christian and religious circles – that we must not assume, when talking to a believer or a religious person, that the words we are using have the same meaning to them as they do to us. We live in a day-and-age when people, even born again believers, have taken some of this and some of that and put it all together with an opinion or two and come up with their own “personal belief structure” that they sincerely believe is right and biblical.
And, as I realized this, I have made some serious changes in the way I preach and teach the Bible; not just in the way I reach out to the unsaved. I now explain words and concepts that I simply take for granted. This is more than watching how much Christianeze I use – as I am fairly good at not using those big religious words. I’m referring to explaining any word I use that may be unfamiliar on the street or in the coffee shops. So, “Paul’s epistle to the Philippians” becomes “Paul letter to the believers in the city of Philippi”. You get the idea. Because, let’s face it, Christians today are often simply Bible illiterate.
But back to reaching out to those potential “first-generation Christians”…
Reaching out to and seeing the people in our community who are without Christ and do not understand the Bible or the message of the Christian Church, does not happen without intentionality. If you’re not intentional about reaching the unchurched, you just gravitate toward meeting the needs of the other members of your Church or the other believers whose company you enjoy. You see, nobody speaks up for the unchurched. The unchurched – that aren’t coming to your church or mine – aren’t going to gripe and complain about how you are not meeting their needs. They just silently go on their way without knowing the hope that you have.
So, you have to make a quality decision to reach out to them with the true gospel. Then, you have to add some time to your regular daily events – grocery shopping, buying gas for the family vehicle, walking the dog … so that, when opportunity arises to share your faith you are not pressed for time. But, you have to first relate to where they are at and what it is that is going on in their lives so that you can share the good news in a meaningful way that will actually be listened to and result in some good interaction leading many to meet Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. And, as you share remember that they have no “Christian memory” and live in a society that is anything but Christian in values and lifestyle – so choose your words and approach wisely.
It is time for true believers to truly connect and interact. It is time to get out there and intentionally interact with their world as true ambassadors of Jesus Christ.