"And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." - Luke 9:23-27
We've celebrated Easter morning, the family dinners are over, and the most magnificent Christian holiday is winding to a close.
Many nominal individuals will not attend a single additional church service for the rest of year, aside from Christmas...maybe.
I could insert here a wide variety of depressing statistics about just how much your church's attendance is boosted on those holiday Sundays. I could insert here even more depressing statistics about just how many of those holiday attendees probably don't even know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But, I will spare you, because I think we all know these things to be true.
Perhaps even you are a part of these statistics. Hopefully not.
How do we change the statistics? How do we reach folks who have a positive view of Christian faith, yet do not actively participate? How do we convince someone that he or she is undeniably tricking himself/herself into believing they are saved just by "being a good person"?
Let's take a look at Scripture and work through three potential ways to make a difference.
#1) It starts with you. Take a look at the passage posted above from Luke Ch. 9. Are you denying yourself and picking up your cross and carrying it in obedience to Christ? Daily? Maybe your cross is being more disciplined in reading the Word and praying. Maybe your cross is taking the next step in serving your church, loving your family, or sharing the Gospel with your neighbors. Maybe your cross is standing up for the Kingdom in your workplace despite the potential consequence of losing friends or prestige or income. Are you making "every effort" as it says in 2 Peter Ch. 1? "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
#2) Preach the Gospel accurately. Are you (and those in your sphere of influence) conscious and aware of the true cost of following Jesus? This path through the "narrow gate" is not an easy path. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his famous work, The Cost of Discipleship that, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." Look at Luke Ch. 9 once more. Is this the Gospel that we are sharing with our nonbelieving or nominal friends and acquaintances? Or, does the gospel we share seem a little more fluffy and easy and noncommittal? God does not need a lawyer. The harsh beauty of the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross is powerful enough in and of itself to change ANY heart. We need not make it more attractive. Instead, let's preach accurately and simply, and pray to God with all our might for those who do not truly know Jesus. ( See also 1 Corinthians 1:17)
#3) Be intentional. Did you notice anyone who looked new during your Easter Sunday service? Was there anyone sitting towards the back of the room, a little bit uncomfortable perhaps, eager to rush out the door after the sermon without any interaction? It says in Colossians 4:5-6 to, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." This is incredible advice for us, whether speaking to the nominal attendee, or the coworker with zero interest in Christ. Notice that Paul writes to be wise in the way you "act." He is making the gracious assumption that we will DO something. Surely you can think of a way to intentionally interact with one person in your life who doesn't know Jesus. Send that text message. Make that phone call. Invite that family over for dinner. Be intentional instead of floating through faith without a driven sense of urgent purpose.
So, how do we change the statistics? How do we reach folks who have a positive view of Christian faith, yet do not actively participate? How do we convince someone that he or she is undeniably tricking himself/herself into believing they are saved just by "being a good person"?
Jesus tells us in John 13:35, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Love is an action that we must choose to do. We must do something to change the depressing holiday statistics. We must check our own hearts first. We must preach the Gospel accurately and simply. We must be intentional with those who don't know the Truth.
Easter is over. What now?
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES