Summary: Four important principles for sharing our faith in Jesus without being obnoxious about it in a postmodern context.
(Note: This sermon was introduced with a drama called "Nail The Pagan).
The reason we laugh at satire is because there’s an element of truth in it. Sometimes in our enthusiasm to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others we can tend to come across like outreach commandos. We can come off like pushy salespeople, eager to sign people up for our agenda, never really taking the time to listen, to care, to try to understand people. When we do that, we come off like jerks.
Today I want to talk about how to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others without being a jerk about it. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called "Good News for Our Times."
But today is going to be a bit different than my normal sermons, because this is going to be more like a workshop in 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. One of the reasons why I want to do this today, is because on Monday I found out one of the guys I’ve been sharing my faith with died unexpectedly in a fire. He was only 34 years old. Is I look at his obituary, it makes me wonder if I’d done everything God wanted me to do in his life. So today we’re going to talk about how to share our faith without coming off like a jerk.
Today I want to essentially do two things. 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?
I want to talk first about how our context has changed. I believe 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. We I could spend months talking about what postmodernism is all about. I’ll simply recommend a book by Chuck Smith, Jr. called "The End of the World As We Know It."
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 its 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. I believe 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. That’s what we saw satirized in the drama, and in some cases the satire isn’t too far from the truth.