Have Christians lingered in the church church too long?" asked my husband after hosting a table at an annual church-related banquet.
Responsible for inviting guests to sit at our table, we had deliberated on whom to invite for some time. Four of our Christian friends said they would attend but we needed two more people to fill our table.
"How about inviting Larry and Kathy?" Jim suggested, speaking of a non-Christian couple we knew.
"Great!" I replied, thinking what a perfect opportunity to acquaint the unchurched couple with our Christian friends.
When our guests arrived—a pastor and his wife, a Christian counselor and his spouse, and the non-Christian couple—we promptly seated them around the large, circular table.
Our Christian friends, respected church leaders, were experienced in the area of ministry; thus, we felt confident that our unsaved friends would feel right at home, even in a roomful of strangers.
After introductions were made, however, conversations emerged revealing the unchurched couple's spiritual status. After that, the alien couple was politely ignored as a rapid stream of religious jargon flowed from the Christianized end of the table, smothering our unsaved friends like a cloud of unwanted second-hand smoke. Throughout dinner, the Christians feasted on church-laden conversations, while the spiritual misfits quietly listened, offering an occasional nervous smile.
Jim and I exchanged awkward glances as we noticed the discomfort of the neglected twosome. Attempting to compensate, we excluded ourselves from our friends' table talk and focused on the couple, hoping the others would follow our lead. But the religious dialogue continued.
"Hey, I saw Brother Dan the other day," one said.
"Really? I haven't seen him since last spring."
"Well, you know the son he had so much trouble with? He finally got saved a few Sundays ago!"
The verbal discourse was foreign to the unchurched couple —almost as much as interaction in a social setting with the "unsaved" was foreign to our Christian friends.
Regrettably, most of us box our faith within the hallowed halls of the four church walls. We boast of programs designed to reach the unchurched; we speak of loving the unIoved; we quote appropriate Scriptures and pray significant prayers. We formulate strategic initiatives to lure the unchurched into our sphere of activity, and once there, we expect them to comprehend our language, accept our methodology, and embrace our theology.
Yet apart from our visitation programs on Monday, we struggle to relate to the gas station attendant, the store clerk, or the "worldly" business associate on Tuesday. When faced with the task of socializing with non-Christians, there's little commonality, so there's little exchange.
The result? We either ignore the unbeliever or, flaunting our spirituality, we blurt our salvation Scriptures in an effort to capitalize on the moment. Either way, the results are the same: alienation from the very people we want to reach for Christ.
Remove us from the security of our spiritual habitations and associations and we flounder as if trapped in a dark place. Consequently, our good intentions and pure motives are lost in our blindness.
Unlike most of us, Jesus communed with sinners. He spent more time preaching in the streets than He did sermonizing in the temple. The ungodly didn't intimidate them; they moved Him to compassion (Matt. 9:36, KJV).
Perhaps we have lost sight of our sinful pasts and prior indiscretions. So much so that our sensitivity, compassion, and love for the lost are buried in a maze of awkwardness and super-spiritual attitudes.
But Jesus still instructs us saying, "Co ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15, KJV). That mandate propels us beyond formulating extensive church programs and masterful evangelism techniques or luring the lost into our sphere of Christian comfort. Instead, He says, "(YOU) go into all the world
"Go" is defined as: "to move out of and away from where one is." From that perspective, perhaps we Christians have lingered in the church too long.