MISSION REQUIRES US TO SERVE AND SPEAK
Brett McCracken | JAN 10, 2018 | 8 MIN READ
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the book, “Uncomfortable: The Awkward & Essential Challenge of Christian Community” by author Brett McCracken
As an introvert who still has traumatic flashbacks to door-to-door evangelism from my Oklahoma Baptist childhood, I am much more comfortable with the “serve” side of mission than the side that involves talking to people about my faith.
On a college mission trip to Paris during my Wheaton College days (yes I know: a “mission trip” to Paris??), I loved the part where we prepared and served food for an arts ministry film outreach night. Not so fun was a “street evangelism” activity where we were given stacks of tracts and told to hand them out to passersby in the Bellevue neighborhood, especially awkward since we were English-speaking American tourists! Put me in a soup kitchen all day, but please don’t ask me to awkwardly talk to French strangers about their eternal destiny.
Yet as uncomfortable as it is for us (and for some extroverts, maybe the soup kitchen is a harder challenge), the truth is our gospel witness involves word and deed, proclamation and demonstration. We must speak and we must serve. We must embrace the God of justification, but also justice.
Christians bent toward theological precision and gospel proclamation should recognize that the gospel also has on-the-ground implications for things like poverty, hunger and injustices of all kinds. As David Platt writes in Counter Culture, “The gospel compels Christians in a wealthy culture to action—selfless, sacrificial, costly, countercultural action—on behalf of the poor.”
The two-pronged word/deed nature of mission is bound to stretch us all. For the Texas Republican Christian, the call to participate in “liberal” causes like racial justice and poverty relief may be uncomfortable. For the barista in Brooklyn, the call to speak about repentance is likely more uncomfortable.
Indeed, the awkwardness of sharing your faith publicly is especially pronounced in a world where private belief is fine, so long as you keep it private. For many of us the fear of offending or ruining a relationship often keeps us silent. Yet the words of Charles Spurgeon convict me: “If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself... It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him.”
Atheist celebrity Penn Jillette sounds a similar note from a different perspective:
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize... If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward… how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
Sharing one’s faith can be uncomfortable, but it is doable. To get past the fear and awkwardness we must first grasp why our faith is worth sharing in the first place. It is not just good news; it’s the best news! We should set aside any feelings of inadequacy, thinking there are better people to do the job. If our best friend is unsaved and we are their only Christian friend, there is likely no better person than us to do the sharing. We must be confident in the gospel (Phil. 1:4-6), trusting that we may do the speaking, but God does the saving. We don’t have to be eloquent or perfect (1 Cor. 2:3-5), and the Holy Spirit empowers us (Mark 13:11, John 14:25-26). We should pray for open doors to speak about our faith, and we should begin with the people who are already in our relational circles. Even Calvinists should pray for this and be active evangelists! As Tim Keller puts it, “The next person you pray for and/or share the gospel with may be one of God’s elect, and you may be part of the way God has ordained to bring them to faith.”
Content taken from Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.
Brett McCracken is a senior editor at The Gospel Coalition and author of Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty, and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. Brett and his wife, Kira, live in Santa Ana, California. They belong to Southlands Church, where Brett serves as an elder. You can follow him on Twitter.