Summary: I want us to look at how to share our faith without coming off like a jerk. We will make some observations about how our cultural context has changed in the last few decades, and then share five principles about how to share our faith in Jesus.
Caring about Others
Romans 9:1-4a I speak the truth in Christ-- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.
Intro: Today I want to talk about how to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others without being a jerk about it. In our study of Romans we have typically dissected each verse to see what the Lord would say to us. But today is going to be a bit different. This is going to be more like a workshop about sharing our faith. Instead of looking in depth at this section of Romans to hear with the apostle Paul is writing, we’re going to look at how Paul shared the message of Jesus with others. So today we’re going to talk about how to share our faith without coming off like a jerk.
-My goal for this message is twofold. First I want to share with you some observations about how our cultural context has changed in the last few decades, and then I want to share five principles about how to share our faith in Jesus.
1. How Has Our Context Changed?
-It is possible that many of us who love Jesus come off as jerks become we don’t understand how our culture is changing. Most contemporary thinkers believe that you and I are living through a transition from something called modernism to something called postmodernism.
-Pre-modernism is that time from when the New Testament was written until the 1500s. Up to that point, people were mostly illiterate and truth was based on relationships of authority. In pre-modernism, you didn’t question authority because people in authority knew better than you and were more educated than you were. Pre-modernism was a time of kings, bishops, and emperors, and it was all about power.
-Modernism grew out of the 1500s and it basically believed that reason would be the answer to everything. The events that led to the birth of modernism in the 16th century were the invention of the printing press, the rise of science, and the Protestant Reformation. Modernism believed that all human evils would be solved through reason and technology. Modernism was book focused, and from that point on literacy rates began rising and the primary way to communicate was the written page.
-The rise of postmodernism is harder to date, but some people think it started in the 1980s. Postmodernism is no longer confident that reason and technology will solve all our problems, because technology has created as many problems as it has solved. Postmodernism is suspicious that everyone has a hidden agenda, that there are no people who are entirely neutral. In postmodernism digital technology and the internet are the primary modes of communication. Characteristics of postmodernism are cultural pluralism, an emphasis on tolerance, a belief that there’s no such thing as absolute truth, and a focus on individual freedom and liberty.
-We live in the transition from modernism to postmodernism, which means there are lots of people who embrace modernist assumptions, but increasing numbers of people who embrace postmodern assumptions. This transition has enormous implications for how we share our faith in Jesus Christ with others. Not understanding these changes is often what makes us look like jerks when we try to talk about Jesus.
-In modernism outreach was about CONQUEST, but in postmodernism it’s about SERVICE. In modernism, outreach was having a Bible in one hand and a sword in another hand. It was believed that ultimately Christians would "Christianize" the world. Christopher Columbus was a typical modern Christian, as he came believing he was on a mission from God to spread the Christian faith, yet he also freely used violence and power to spread his message. In modernism it was often hard to separate the message of Jesus Christ from western European culture, because the two had become so mixed together. In modernism, Christians talk about "taking their cities for God," and "winning souls to Christ." The language modernist Christians used to speak of outreach was the language of conquest and victory.
-Now a conquest approach to outreach terrifies most non-Christians. This is because the Christian faith has such a terrible track record in this area, whether it’s the crusades of the middle ages or the Salem witch trials in Puritan New England.
-Outreach today must be much more service oriented. Mother Teresa modeled being a servant to others. She once spoke about abortion at a large gathering, and said, "If you don’t want your baby, don’t abort it. Give it to me. I’ll raise it." No one questioned whether she was serious or not, because she’d devoted her life to service, to ministry. Her life of service to Jesus Christ gave her credibility to say that.