You’ve probably heard it said that there are two things we should not discuss in polite company – religion and politics. If you google “things not to discuss in polite company,” you’ll see that many other topics have been added to that list, but those two remain at the top.
The reason is simple. Politics and religion are divisive. And being divisive is rarely a virtue (although it’s worth noting that the same Jesus who prayed for us to be united with one another in Him also said that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. There are times when we, as His disciples, need to say hard things. But I digress…).
The desire to avoid conflict, mixed with a desire to be liked or to fit in has often had a chilling effect on our obedience to the command Jesus has given us to make disciples, to teach and to baptize. Faith, we are told, comes by hearing. But hearing can’t happen if no one seems to be speaking anymore.
Pastor Tim Keller addressed our hesitation to speak openly with others about our faith in an article he wrote recently. Here’s what he said:
It is no surprise that every poll and study shows that over the past two decades there has been a steady increase in the number of Americans who say they are atheists, agnostics, religiously unaffiliated, or believe “nothing in particular.” Each generation — from Gen X to Millennials to ‘Gen Z’ — are significantly less religious and less church going than the generation before.
This should mean Christians talk more to their neighbors, colleagues, and friends about the reasons they believe, but that is not what is happening. A recent study commissioned by Lutheran Hour Ministries found that since 1993 the number of Christians who said “I believe every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith” and the number who said they would speak to others about the benefits of becoming a Christian has dropped precipitously. (See Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age, A Barna Report, 2018.) So at a moment when there is more need for evangelism — sharing the good news about Jesus — there is less willingness to do it.
There are many factors. First, talking about Christian faith is more complicated. A generation ago you could assume that the vast majority of people believed in a personal God, an afterlife, moral absolutes, the reality of their sin, and had a basic respect for the Bible. Christians routinely assumed the existence of these concepts (or “dots,”) and evangelism was mainly connecting the dots to show them their personal need for Jesus. But we can no longer assume that any of these basic ideas are common knowledge or, if they are, even acceptable. To talk about faith now entails working to establish very basic concepts before Jesus’ gift of salvation can have any meaning.
Second, talking about the Christian faith is more difficult. In the past those who didn’t believe always granted that religion was a good thing for society though ‘not for me.’ But Christianity and religion in general is no longer accepted as a good influence in society or in individual lives. From the history of the church supporting slavery and religious wars to the current involvement of religious persons in politics, the flaws and sins of the Christian church are foregrounded in our culture. There is particular anger over traditional Christian views of sexuality. To talk about faith now means being peppered with hostile questions.
Third, younger adults especially have been told repeatedly that “no one has the right to tell others what to believe — so you should not be trying to convert anyone.” This very statement, of course, is self-contradictory, since it is doing the very thing it forbids. Nevertheless, it is a slogan with enormous cultural power and it is hard for younger Christians not to be swayed by it. In addition, Sherry Turkle, in her book Reclaiming Conversation, points to studies that show that the more people use social media, the less able they are to empathize or put themselves in another’s shoes, and the more unable they are to talk face to face with anyone who disagrees with them.
In short, doing evangelism today will take more patience, courage, and thoughtfulness than was needed a generation ago. And yet there is no substitute. Jesus told his disciples: “You will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In Acts 8:4 we are told that after the persecution in Jerusalem all the Christians were scattered except the apostles and that they “evangelized wherever they went.” Obviously, all Christians are neither gifted nor called to do public speaking. It meant, and means, that every Christian talked to friends, neighbors, and colleagues about the gospel.
In the end, what we most need to be public about our faith is not more training (although that is highly recommended) but proper motivation arising from a grasp of the gospel, that we are sinners saved by grace.
There are at least three major reasons for evangelistic unfruitfulness. There is a lack of sensitivity — countered by the humility that comes from knowing we are undeserving sinners. There is a lack of courage — countered by the boldness that comes from knowing we are unconditionally loved. Finally there is indifference. We look around us and we see people struggling to find meaning, satisfaction, hope, confidence. The biggest reason we keep our mouths shut is that we are failing in love for them. But the gospel produces love (Galatians 5:6).
Now you may say: “Well, yes, I see I ought to be that humble, that confident, that loving — but I’m not.” But see, you’ve confirmed the point. The problem is ultimately in our hearts, not in our lack of training or knowing how to answer all the questions.
Remember the woman of Samaria that Jesus met at the well. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39) Why? She had no training, but he had changed her with his mercy, and now she didn’t need to care what people thought. “Come,” she said, “See a man who knew all my failures and still loved me.” And they came. “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:42)
Lord Jesus, change our hearts so that we have the love for our sorrowing, perishing friends that will fuel our bold yet humble fuel our bold yet humble witness to the grace of God that can only be found in Jesus.
At the church in Ft. Worth where my son James is on staff, they’ve asked everyone in their congregation to think of one or two people in your life who you can pray for regularly, invite to church, and look for an opportunity to have a gospel conversation with this year.
Take a minute right now and ask God to put on your heart the name of a person or two. Then start praying for those people. Make plans to invite them to come to church with you. And keep alert for an open door to ask this question: “Has church or faith ever been part of your life?” And see what happens next.
Okay, we have a lot to cover this week. You ready?
NEW CHURCH ONLINE DIRECTORY
First, the new church online directory.
If you were in church Sunday, we shared with you about our switch from the Courtyard online church directory to a new app: Instant Church Directory.
You may have already received an email from Cathy Crowell with all the details, but here again is Cathy with everything you need to know.
As Bob mentioned just said, Redeemer has teamed with Instant Church Directory to create a NEW (and much improved) directory.
Here are the easy steps for logging into the Online Directory. Go to Church Member Sign In page. If you have not set up your member account, go to First time signing in? Then to Create Login
When asked to enter your email address you will need to use the email address listed in the Courtyard Directory (our previous site). If that email has changed, you will still need to use it to log into the new Directory. Once you’ve logged in you will be able to update all your information.
Not sure if your email was in the Courtyard Directory?
Please email me and I’ll check it out for you.
This one page sheet of login instructions is really helpful in leading you through the process. Once you enter your email address, you will follow the directions on-screen to complete the log-in process. Please make any updates to your information and add a current photo! Please.
Our new directory has an added level of security which requires that any changes made to the Directory be approved by the Directory Administrator (that’s me!).
Most of the changes I’ve seen so far have been to the new photos added (which is great!). Sometimes it looks like a photo fits – but when received at my end there is a minor adjustment involved so everyone’s head is in the photo. That’s a good thing too!
I plan to be in the foyer for the next few Sundays after church to help as much as possible with the process. I’m learning along with everyone else!
Cathy Crowell, Directory Administrator
THE ART OF PARENTING
|Okay, next – The Art of Parenting. It starts a week from this Sunday.
Moms and Dads, it’s time to log on, sign up and lock this in.
I know we all live in a “let’s keep our options open and wait until the day before to sign up for anything” culture. But going ahead now and deciding to make this a priority is a good thing, for everyone involved. I know you may have to miss a week or two. That’s fine. Come as much as you’re able.
Remember, each person – both a husband and wife – need to register separately.
Here are the details:
It’s small groups kick off time!
Here’s all the info on our six small groups that are starting up again the week of September 12.
| Small groups are where community happens, where the “one anothers” of scripture are lived out and where we connect. We think small groups are a big deal. We hope you’ll make it a priority to be part of a small group this fall.
| Next up. Guys, next Tuesday night is our first First Tuesday.
This is simple. Show up next Tuesday at church at 7:00. Come ready to answer two questions: What do you like best about your job? And what’s the biggest challenge you face as a Christian in your workplace?
Dr. Stephen Nichols will join us via Zoom.
|He’s the President of Reformation Bible College in Orlando and the author of the book What Is Vocation.
WOMEN’S FALL BIBLE STUDY – Begins Sept 13
And ladies – the fall Women’s Bible Study starts the week of September 13.
The study is of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. There are three options for being involved. Pick the option that works best for you, click your choice of hyperlinks, register and get more info online.
You can do the study in person, at church on Monday night at 7:00.
You can Zoom in on Monday nights.
Or you can join the all virtual, Zoom only study on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm.
Again, click any link above to find out more about the fall study.
NEW MEMBERS CLASS – SAT, SEPT. 11
On to New Members Class. Our next class Saturday, September 11. There is a little pre-work necessary for the class.
Here are the details.
| Next up.
Are you a Grandparent? Or do you know any grandparents?
If so, mark out October 21 and 22 on your calendar and register on line now to be part of our two day Legacy Grandparenting Summit. We are one of ten host churches in Central Arkansas for this simulcast event.
Legacy Grandparenting Summit
|Three simple action steps for you.
First, watch the video to find out more.
Second, think right now about someone you can invite to join you. Or if you’re not a grandparent, but you know someone who is, pass the info on to them and encourage them to attend. We think the Grandparenting Summit can be a great outreach event for our church.
Finally, go ahead and make your reservation now. Sign up. Click here and register. Mary Ann and I will be there. If you’re a grandparent, I hope you will too.
Last thing. Look at the fall calendar, pick 2-3 Sundays when you can help with kid’s ministry, and then click this link. Signing up usually works better if you do it from a computer instead of on your mobile device. So if it’s easier, just text Jen the dates you can be available and she will take care of everything for you (859-771-6580).
|Whew! That’s a lot, right! I’m tried just writing about it all!
Sunday, we finish up John 12. We’ll look at what Jesus says about the kind of believing that makes a real difference in our lives. When it comes to our Christian faith, not all believing is created equal.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!