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Pastor's Corner

August 2019

Evangelism in a Post-Christian Culture

At the end of July, I had the opportunity to attend a continuing education course at Trinity Lutheran Church on the Gospel of John, taught by one of my seminary professors from Fort Wayne, Dr. William Weinrich. The whole course was excellent, but one thing in particular seems worthy of my sharing with you: According to a 2019 Barna poll, the Quad Cities was ranked fifteenth out of the hundred top “post-Christian” cities in America (I have verified that this is in fact the case). What does post-Christian mean?

It means that there is no commitment to those fundamental truths about God, His Law, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that our society used to take for granted. We live in a culture that is worse off than that addressed by St. John the Evangelist. The Jews of John’s day had to be convinced that Jesus was the Christ. The Gentiles had to be convinced that the God of Israel is the one true God who made heaven and earth. Our culture has to be convinced that there is a God, that there is truth, that there is good and evil, and that there is such a thing as sin. This is truly unprecedented. To take one especially egregious example, as Dr. Weinrich pointed out, never before in the history of mankind has there been a culture that assented to the idea that a man can marry a man. We live in a culture that is so fallen from all reason, from all connection to God’s created reality, that we have drag queens reading storybooks to our children at the public library. Evangelism in a post-Christian culture seems like a virtually impossible task. The usual means of introducing people to Jesus simply will not work. How can you convince someone to flee the coming wrath when that person has accepted the tenets of a culture so divorced from all reality?

Dr. Weinrich’s answer, apart from simply suggesting that we’ll have to learn how to evangelize in this context through bitter experience, is to live the form of evangelism practiced by the first Christians: be the people whom God has called us to be in Christ. The world around us celebrates pride in the most shameful imaginable sins; we refuse to participate, and we live dutifully in our callings as men and women. The world around us treats unwanted children and elderly as waste to be unceremoniously disposed of; we treat them as precious gifts of God, made in His image and worthy of our compassion and care. The world around us treats chastity as a quaint remnant of a bygone era of puritanical repression; we hold the marriage bed in honor, fleeing from all forms of fornication. The world around us treats religion as something optional, a cultural pastime that can still be satisfying for some people, but is obligatory for none; we treat our life together in Christ as a necessity on which our lives depend, and we would rather sacrifice everything, we would rather die, than cease to gather with the body of Christ for worship and praise. We need to live the life of Christ in such a way that the world cannot help but notice. We need to stick out like a sore thumb.

The consequence of such a life is that the world will hate us. They’ll label us as hateful, as bigots, as racists, as whatever other insult du jour they might come up with. But they’ll notice us, and they’ll know we’re different. And when our neighbors see that we love them with unfeigned love, that we never look down on them or talk ill of them, that we put our money (and our lives!) where our mouth is, when they are compelled to ask us for a reason for the hope that is in us (“Why do you insist on living so differently? So strangely?”), that is fertile ground for the Gospel to take root and for the Holy Spirit to bring forth life from the midst of death.

Related to this take on evangelism in the midst of a post-Christian culture is an evangelism tool developed by our own Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, called “Every One His Witness.” This is a method of evangelism that emphasizes the forming of sincere, lasting relationships and invitation to where Christ is found. The core of “Every One His Witness” is a six-hour workshop, designed for twelve participants, that provides guidance in engaging in Christ-focused conversation with our unchurched and dechurched friends and neighbors. I would like to host this workshop at Holy Cross. If you would like to participate, you may sign up on the sheet on Vivian’s office door, and I will be in contact with you to determine the best possible date, probably a Saturday in September.

But whether you participate or not, remember that you can be the best possible witness for Christ simply by living as you are called, living noticeably differently from the world around you, being constant in fervent prayer for your neighbors and your community, and being always prepared to tell other why you live so differently: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

EVERYONE HIS WITNESS

God's Blessings,

Pastor Neuendorf

 

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