For the past few months, we have been exploring how to share and live out the gospel in a post post-modern and post-Christian culture. Having spent time taking stock of our culture, we’re now going to take stock of ourselves. How does the Christian respond in a post-Christian world? To begin with, I contend, we need to consider what kind of Christian we are.
A few years back, I learned about the “night nurse.” (Apparently, that term is outdated – the correct term is now “newborn care specialist.) Maybe you’ve heard of this? A night nurse or newborn care specialist is a person hired by the parents of an infant to care for the infant during the night so the parents can sleep. They may feed the baby, bring the baby to the mother to breastfeed, change the baby’s diaper, or just rock the baby back to sleep. They are essentially “specialists” at being moms (and dads).
From the outset, I want to be clear that I am sure there are many new moms and dads who have an essential need for a newborn care specialist. Women may struggle with severe post-partum depression, have had a difficult pregnancy, or have some other condition or situation that requires this kind of support. It is important, indeed a blessing, that this type of help is available!
But I also have heard of parents who hire newborn care specialists simply because they can; for convenience sake really. For whatever reason, dad doesn’t want to experience the magic of a 3 a.m. diaper change, if you can imagine that! Or mom would prefer someone else feed her baby in the middle of the night.
I get it. Amy and I have been through it. Four times. Would we have preferred at the time for someone else to do this job? Probably. But if I am honest, my first reaction to hearing about the concept of a night nurse was, well, there are just some things that come with being a parent. Some things you don’t avoid, because they just come with the territory. Like lost sleep. Or baby puke on your shoulder. Or even baby poop under your fingernail (which you don’t discover until you are at work the next day – yes that happened).
So what does this have to do with sharing the gospel in our culture today? A lot, actually. For me, it’s a great metaphor for how I fear many view their role in the church. And that’s important. Because if we want to see the gospel move, if we want to see revival, if we want to see our faith regain relevance in people’s lives, we have to start by understanding the role we play in that.
So while many of us may pooh-pooh the idea of hiring a newborn care specialist, when it comes to our spiritual lives we may be no different than those parents who do. Just like getting up in the middle of the night to care for a newborn is a fundamental part of being a parent – it comes with the territory – so too sharing the Good News is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It is something we do! The question is, are we doing it? Or are we looking to someone else to do it?
There is a sad trend in churches toward consumerism. Whether intentional or not, we come to see our Christian purpose as showing up on Sunday, worshipping, hearing a message, maybe taking in a Sunday School lesson. Then we typically go home, or out to lunch. We bemoan the rise of “consumer churches” and yet adopt the role of church consumers. It is important to gather together, to worship God in community, and to grow in His word through biblical teaching. But we must always ask, to what end? The point is to grow His kingdom, not merely reside in it.
If we are not actively engaged in sharing the gospel, we might just be guilty of looking for a night nurse, or perhaps more accurately an evangelism nurse. We might be looking to a preacher, teacher, or some other leader to do the work God gave us to do. We want the joyous experience of the baby without all the hard work. Sadly, what we miss is that the deepest joy comes in the midst of the hard work.
Think about it. As I reflect on some of those 3 a.m. sessions with my girls, yes they were hard. But they were also some of the sweetest moments of my life. Had I missed out on them, I would have missed out on an incredibly meaningful element of being a parent. Worse yet, I would have missed a fundamental lesson in parenting – that it begins with sacrifice.
And so it is with being a Christian. I truly believe that aside from experiencing the love of Christ for the first time ourselves, the most joyous moment comes in experiencing it with another. Getting there is hard, requires sacrifice, and could involve ridicule, persecution, or even pain. But the cost will never come close to the reward.
In the next few weeks, as we close out this series on evangelism today, we’re going to look at how Jesus did it, how the apostles did it, and how we might apply their approaches today. In the last post, we were reminded that just like today, they brought the gospel to a world that didn’t know it and didn’t seem to want to know it. We can take heart in that, and in the fact that they never focused on the obstacles in the way – just the Way.
But like Jesus and His apostles, we have to start somewhere. Today, let’s start with us. The work of the gospel belongs to one person. That person is not your preacher. That person is not your teacher. That person is not your elder, or your mentor, or worship pastor. That person is you. So today I ask you to recommit yourself to sharing and not just consuming the gospel. Let’s give our night nurses some time off, and feed the spiritually hungry ourselves. Are you with me?