Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Tragedy of Indifference or the Beauty of Love - Your Choice

In the 1993 film, "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray is cast as Phil, an obnoxious, self-absorbed weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the iconic groundhog and his special day. Unbeknownst to him, he and his crew are caught in an endless loop of Groundhog Day, driving him to bizarre acts and even suicide...none of which have any effect on his stay in this town.  Eventually, Phil begins to make changes to his life and to consider the well-being of others, and at the end of the film, the time-loop is broken and life resumes.

Groundhog Day is a beautifully written and directed film that has had vast audiences and remains popular even today.  It reflects a sad life, missed opportunities, shattered dreams, and redemption. Unfortunately, many Christ-followers are stuck in an endless Groundhog Day loop, rendering them ineffective for ministry and for loving others in the world around them.

The principle is this.  The bible says that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  I like to say it like this...Acquiring knowledge without applying its principles results in arrogance.  Arrogance for those in your church, those who differ in opinion, and most importantly, those who need Christ so badly.  Many who sit in church on Sundays do little more, uninspired by clergy who value fellowship, peace, and consistency in their parish.

On this topic, two statistics are repeated in Groundhog Day-like fashion in American churches today.  I guess they are spoken to kindle guilt, but that guilt and conviction do not last outside the doors of the building.  How can I say this with such certainty?  Because the same statistic has been read to me for 25 years.  Nothing has changed because we still, as a church, do not have a passion for the lost.

The first is this.  95% of Christians have never shared their faith with anyone.  Second, if invited, 75% of those asked would attend church with a friend.  So what do pastors expect when they read us these statistics?  Do they expect us to bolt from the building and head to the mosque to chat up the adherents?  Do they expect us to dress like Jehovah's Witnesses and knock doors?  Better yet, should we invite a co-worker we barely know or a neighbor whose house we've driven by for thirty years but never met?  A better question of pastors is this.  Do they make it a priority to get out of the building and into the prisons, the shelters, and the streets?  Do they plead, beg, and cajole their members to invite somebody every Sunday?  Do they fear the response of those who have soaked in God's word for decades with hardly a breath of life outside the building?

The truth is...I don't know.  All I can say is, I used to soak it in without much effect on how I lived.  A few years ago, thanks to Five Oaks Church, Woodbury, Minnesota, I was challenged to get my hands dirty for Christ.  My family and I took the challenge on and blessings have flowed like muddy water down the Brazos ever since.

Look, there's no need to remind you, but I'm not particularly handsome, smart, or talented.  I can list 100 friends all over America who far exceed me in all these categories, and that's just scratching the surface.  But the Lord reminded me one day that I'm exactly who He's looking for.  There's only one quality required for a soul winner these days.  Show up.

Here's what I would encourage you to do.  Get out of your church building and live a life that gives you stories to tell.  Great stories aren't made at a potluck, Disney World, or a mall.  Stories that give people pause are the ones told about heartbreak and suffering that ends in triumph, prisoners set free, violence ending in peace and a new life begun.  You can only participate in these stories if you leave your church building, your home, and probably your neighborhood.  Contentment rarely leads to conversion.

When I recently served at two units in the Texas prison system, I met men hungry for a new beginning.  I could talk to them about anything, ask them any question, tell them anything about myself, because they were without judgment.  They had sunk to the lowest point in life and were crawling out little by little.  They didn't judge me because I didn't judge them.  The same thing happens when we volunteer at the soup kitchen, with refugees, or in other countries.  There's a reason that Christ tells us to whom we are to go.  These are the ones who will listen and respond.  The ones wearing rags who need clothing, the hungry who need food, the tired who need rest, the imprisoned who need freedom, the thirsty who need a drink.  Nowhere in my Bible does it urge us to spend time on those content and set in their lives.  Now I'm not saying ignore your neighbors and your co-workers, but sometimes you need to cut your losses.  The ones Christ mentioned are the ones who will respond to what you have to offer, which is a changed life.

I urge you, not as a leader, a scholar, or a director, but as a friend and fellow servant, to find someone outside of your own circle to love.  You will gain a friend and just as important, you will have a story to tell.  A story of God's great love that will inspire and impassion others to make a difference.

Don't wait another minute, people are searching for someone to love them right now.

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