Spend any time on social media websites like Facebook, and you’re bound to see articles about seemingly any topic under the sun. A recent scroll through my Facebook home page produced these reports to consider:
Your Guide To A Very Busy Weekend in Southeast Wisconsin
51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature
Skydiver Falls Near East Troy After Parachute Fails
Bus Driver Hailed A Hero For Stopping A Couple Of Gunmen At School
Bart Starr Walking Again After Stem Cell Treatment
If you’re like me, most of the time I just glance at the headline to decide if I’m going to spend any amount of time reading what the author is reporting. This last week, however, one article caught my eye. Entitled, “American Christianity has been Hijacked,” the article told the story of the 30,000 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America youth who invaded Detroit for the denomination’s National Youth Gathering. These kids, reporter Mikah Mayer noted, “Brought a wave of hopefulness too strong to avoid. As a volunteer at the event, I couldn’t seem to go anywhere without encountering this zeal. Every walk through downtown or along Detroit’s riverfront greeted me with a multitude of teenagers raising their hands for a high-five or cheering in elation.”
Their exuberance was infectious—so much so the people of Detroit thanked them for coming and for sharing Jesus with the city.
Mayer continued, “For a faith rooted in sharing the Gospel (meaning “good news”), I can think of no better manifestation than the week of constant optimism that radiated through this city. Whether it was mobs of teenagers singing “Make A Difference” through the streets, or one high-schooler cleaning up a blighted neighborhood, I saw it infect every person that encountered a Gathering participant.
“As I witnessed this enthusiasm, I was overcome with a pride for the universal church that I, unfortunately, haven’t recently felt. In fact, the last time my eyes welled up with this bliss was while working at a church camp. As I examined the differences between normal life and what I experienced at both the camp and this Gathering, I found one key difference:
Mayer contends that the positive, uplifting message—the Good News—of Jesus Christ has somehow gotten lost as people within the church tend to define the church by what it’s against, and not what it’s for. Because the church has spent so much time passing judgment and negativity, a call to love—and to be a people known because they love—is in order, he believes.
I think Mayer’s right. I’ve always believed that if we, as people who claim to be disciples of the One who loved so much he gave his life for us, have a default behavior, it should be all about loving others. I’d rather we be accused of loving too much than too little.
And that’s why I think undertaking ministry like mission trips is so important. Through these trips, we share the love of Christ with people who may not know of Christ as we work side-by-side with them, or as we work for them. Perhaps our presence might draw people to Christ as the wider community sees us loving Christ and loving those who he’s called us to serve.
Last month, a few members of the Faith family worked at sharing that love as they lent their skill and energy to Habitat for Humanity of Washington and Dodge County. As Jamie mowed the lawn at the jobsite; as JJ, Bruce and Beth helped pour concrete; as Cathy and Bryan helped prepare the foundation for the concrete to be poured; as Chris and Jamie and Beth helped clean and organize the Habitat warehouse so people could do their construction work effectively, a positive message was being proclaimed. And not just any positive message, but the message of the Gospel of Love which Jesus himself brought to us and died for and called us to share. Hopefully that message turned some heads—to Christ.
Perhaps now, more than ever, the sharing of the love of Christ is crucial. People need to not only hear, but experience, the Good News of Christ because we live in days of division and name calling, violence and hatred. People need to see Christians as those who will consistently meet them with love. People need to see Christ’s church as one of the places where they can encounter love and live out that love.
And for us, I think it means that the task of living the life of selfless and serving love is of utmost necessity. It means that being silent in word and deed and witness to Christ, can’t cut the mustard when it comes to being a follower of Christ. However, sharing the Gospel need not be an intimidating proposition because Christ will power our efforts if we ask him to enter our hearts and head and hands so we can love as he did—every day. Sharing the Gospel need not be an intimidating proposition because Christ promises to take our efforts, bless and transform them—so this requirement to love is a duty we can daily honor with great joy. And hopefully, it will result in more heads being turned—to Christ!