Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Christianity Isn't for Everybody

The title of this post is deliberately provocative. Of course I'm not saying that God doesn't want all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). In that sense, of course, Christianity is for everybody. What I'm referring to is the fact that not everybody will express an interest in Christian faith, and we should accept this fact.

We should accept it because Jesus himself said this would be the case. In a recent reading from the Sunday gospel (July 8th) Jesus told his disciples that there would be those who would not receive the message. They were then to shake the dust off their feet and move on (Mark 6:1-13). In other places Jesus said many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14) and broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Belief is the exception, not the norm.

We should also accept it because it will affect the way we do ministry. I believe it will cause us to act in a way more in line with the early church, and it will help us avoid unnecessary frustration while at the same time increasing our effectiveness. We will spend our time on the interested people (the thirsty of John 7:37). We will recognize the miracle of those who do believe and spend time nurturing and expanding their faith.

I'm not saying we shouldn't share our faith with those outside the church or that we should abandon praying for unbelievers, simply that we recognize that not everybody will be interested and that's okay. In fact, I believe that as we focus our efforts on the interested and the believing their lives of increasing faith will awaken interest in the unbelieving. They will act as the salt and light of which Jesus spoke and will make people thirsty.

I'm also convinced an awareness that Christianity isn't for everybody is key to the church's health. So much of the watering down of the faith takes place in the false belief that somehow everyone should be interested and if they're not it's our fault. This leads to an emphasis on generating excitement through various techniques and giving only messages which are of interest to a wide audience. Christian distinctiveness gets lost and the salt is no longer salty. Ironically, Christianity is made uninteresting in the very attempt to make it so.

The future belongs to those churches and church bodies which recognize that what they have is not for everybody, and they shouldn't expect everyone to want what they have to give. Yet strangely as they do just that they will continue to become stronger and more interesting to those around them and will grow. Jesus said this would be the case (if I be lifted up--me in my contradiction with the world expressed by the cross--I will draw all people), and we don't have to look far to see that it is so.