Dr. Chuck Lawless is Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary. He recently wrote about his experience of connecting with those outside the church.
I’ve intentionally been hanging out lately with non-believers, and doing that has led to a lot of questions:
Does anyone have a church background anymore?
When long-term friends see you for the first time in years, why is the adverb “still” almost always in the question, “Are you married?”
When did the “f____” word become an adjective, adverb, verb, and noun—all in the same sentence?
Is divorce the norm now?
Is there anybody that has a real purpose in life?
Why are so many people skeptical about Christians and the church?
Is alcohol now the drug of choice?
Does anybody even think about death and judgment and eternity?
When did children start doing things that only adults used to do?
Who has genuine friends anymore?
Is adultery okay now?
When did Christians become more known for what we are against than for what we affirm?
How many non-believers ever have anyone praying for them?
Four decades after the civil rights era, has prejudice decreased at all?
Does anyone still believe that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God?
Why does it bother me that some of these questions surprise me?
Is it possible that I’ve sometimes been more uncomfortable around non-believers than they are around me?
Have I spent so much time doing ministry among believers that I’ve been disconnected from the very people who need to hear about Jesus?
How did I get here, if I really believe that Jesus mandated the Great Commission for all of us?
Do I really recognize North America as the mission field that it is?
How do I avoid making evangelistic prospects a “project”—especially when relationships in general are often shallow and fleeting?
How do I say, “I’m a Baptist preacher” without non-believers closing the door to more discussion?
Do I really know how to connect with non-believers anymore?
Why does the challenge of learning to develop genuine relationships with non-believers now consume my thinking in a positive way?
Why am I much more drawn toward evangelistic prayer when I’m praying for real people with real names and real faces?
Why is it that I—having pushed away from my office to enter the real world again—feel more excited than I have in a long time about ministry and evangelism?
Can local congregations renew their Great Commission focus apart from individual believers—starting with leaders—who do so first?
How can we individual believers ever experience a Great Commission resurgence if we don’t really know many non-believers in the first place?
Forgive me, God, for speaking about evangelism more than doing evangelism . . . and thanks for another opportunity and challenge to get it right.