Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bad News... Good News

Recently, Newsweek magazine ran an article on the decline of the number of Americans who would claim they are "Christian."  The article was by Jon Meacham. He offers some powerful data, notably a near doubling since 1990 of the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, from 8 percent to 15 percent. Meacham also points to a 10-point drop in the share of Americans who self-identify as Christian, from 86 percent to 76 percent.
This is a cause for great concern. But, I am actually encouraged about the future. It's actually pretty simple to explain in our church and across America. Let me explain using Spring time and a garden illustration. Some of you are getting your gardens ready as Spring time is upon us. You have raked leaves, sticks, and stones out of your plot. You have tilled and cultivated the soil. You have added some ph balance if the soil is too acidic, etc. You have also set up irrigation systems to water it and have rejoiced with the rain we have received of late. But, you know you cannot expect rows of lush, green corn along with okra, squash, cucumbers, and tomatos if  you forget one important step. You've got to plant the seed in the ground to expect fruits and vegetables to abound!
It's no different when it comes to our church. Being a bridge of God's love to all people means we must plant seeds in the ground every week. We can't rely on the single mom's oil change we did last May or the awesome Fall Fest we did October 31 or the lightbulb giveaway we did in February. We must be planting seeds each week. Every week the first question I am asked by my Life Transformation Group (LTG) is, "Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and your actions?" As I write this article on Tuesday afternoon I am reflecting back to yesterday when John Mauldin, Milo Wilson, and myself went out to the North Ridge neighborhood off of highway 14 and gave away seed flower packets as a way of sharing God's love in a practical way. I can answer yes to that question.
Please hear me Ridgeview! We cannot expect our church to grow whether we meet in a school or own our own building if we are not planting seeds in our daily week. For me, it means every Monday I go out around lunch time and share the love of Christ in a practical way. I've shared with you over the last month the ways I've done just that (cleaning restaurant restrooms, flower packet giveaway, free soft drinks to local businesses, paying for someone's meal, etc). Believe it or not, it's actually very fun!
Why aren't more people being a bridge of God's love? I believe we haven't seen how fun it really can be. Let me encourage you this week to look for one way you can be a bridge of God's love to at least one person. You can pay for their meal in line at the drive through, buy them a cup of coffee at Starbucks, mow their lawn, give them a fern to beautify their porch. The list goes on and on. When they ask why you did it you simply tell them you were wanting to be a bridge of God's love and wanted them to see that love in a practical way. It's as simple as that. And I promise when you do Scripture promises you this in Acts 1:8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." If we as a church and churches across America simply do some of the basics of bridge building for Christ there will be no more articles in Newsweek about the decline of Christianity. I suspect different cover stories will have to be written.