What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places? (Part 3 of 3)
Friendship is powerful and opens closed doors. When you have proven that you genuinely love someone they generally will listen, even if they reject what we share, and some will. Let’s be honest about it; not everyone wants to believe even when they see genuine examples of Christ’s love at work.
As the Holy Spirit provides opportunity for friendship we find ourselves in a place of influence to share the love of God. This reality is so crucial to reaching people no matter where we find them or what culture they reflect. Authentic friendship, it cannot be some substitute built around winning them to our Christian faith. Others will smell that motive out long before we get close enough to be friends. And if they don’t, one day, when it is revealed, they will be scarred to the point that makes them cynics who are virtually unreachable. Friends influence friends; that is a reality. It cannot be forced or simply a front; it has to be real … you have to care about each other.
One important thing we believe is that those with whom we share the Gospel will have the opporutnity to make a good decision about their interest in the Gospel. How is this accomplished? We do this by being a good friend in their life. We know that every person has to make their own decision concerning Jesus; we simply cannot believe for them. Thus, it is important that our friends are able to understand the message of the Gospel. If they understand the message of Christ then they can make better decisions about Jesus. And when they can both hear and experience the Gospel it provides the listener with even more ability to make life decisions.
We see these places as difficult because they require everyone to learn, grow, and change. When we say everyone we mean all who are involved: our missionaries, the followers of Jesus who join them in this work, and those to whom we have come to share the Gospel with. As we intersect (converge) through everyday life situations we peel away one layer at a time until trust is built. It is like taking down layers of past experiences and opinions, one layer at a time, until the real person can be seen and the true Gospel can be found.
Once trust is built we simply live the Gospel and allow the truth of Christ to go to work. We share our faith in natural ways, never hiding who we are, while being sensitive to the people around us. Trust grows and with it understanding and the love of God which changes everything.
The difficulty is more in the learning process than anything else. It is in the breaking down of barriers that keep relationships from developing. It is the willingness of those involved to do the hard work of love that dispells the bias of misinformation. We then can patiently work through the things that divide us and grow in our appreciation for one another. Then the Gospel does the rest and, just like in any other situation, people have to make their own choices in what to do with what they discover.
Missionaries do this everyday where they work as they cross cultures and share the good news of Christ’s love with those they live with. Today America is a mission field and needs us to use such approaches as we establish new communities of Christ in new places to reach a new people. This is what we mean when we say that we want to establish new churches in difficult places. It is what Jesus has called us to do.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.