Note: The video below includes profanity. If you’re in a public place, heads up.
For the last several weeks we’ve been journeying through Jesus’ beatitudes with our church. This morning I’ve been reflecting on the last couple months and as I do I find myself once again captivated by Jesus and overwhelmed by the depth and richness of his words.
In the beatitudes Jesus puts flesh and color on the resounding theme of his life: the presence and availability of the kingdom of God. Those present to hear his words no doubt found them every bit as shocking as we do.
In a culture marked by religious oppression and exclusivity, one in which things like power and financial blessing were assumed to be evidence of God’s favor, Jesus makes a shocking announcement: The kingdom of God is available to those religion has failed and the world has forgotten.
One of my heroes, Brennan Manning, used to tell a story about a friend of his named Mary. Mary worked out of her home in New Orleans and in her living room hung a large banner that read, “Today I will not should on myself.” Whenever one of Mary’s friends said something to her like “Mary, you should get back into teaching” or “You should go on vacation,” Mary would respond “Don’t you should on me. Don’t you dare should on me.”
Should is a powerful word.
At any moment on any given day there is an endless list of things I should be doing. I should eat right. I should exercise. I should spend time in prayer. I should read my bible. I should be more productive. I should be more generous. I should be more disciplined. I should read that book. I should pursue that thing I’ve always talked about. I should get together with so and so. I should be a better husband, dad, friend, neighbor, employee, _______.
There is a special place in my heart for skeptics. You know who they are, right? Skeptics are the ones who are always questioning things. They are always asking questions like, Is this really true? Is that really what happened? Can that leader or organization really be trusted? Are their motives really what they say? Where is the fine print? When is the bait and switch coming, really?
While there may have been a time when skepticism was largely pushed to the cultural margins, that time has long passed. Churches and their leaders no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Instead, doubt is alive and well. Skepticism has become a staple in the increasingly post-Christian West. Sadly, however, many churches continue to go on with business as usual. And many of them continue to shrink and die as a result.
I have the privilege of leading a church that has consistently reached skeptics in the four short years of our existence. What we’ve done is not innovative, but it has been intentional. Here are five things you can do to more effectively reach skeptics:
I’ve tried my hand at a number of odd jobs in my relatively short life. Paperboy. Car wash attendant. Lawnmower. Dry waller. Waiter. Umpire. Commercial Christmas light hanger. Seat belt use surveyor. Professional lab rat. But perhaps my favorite odd job of all time was that of bartender.
I was a pastor by day and bartender by night. It was a great gig. The conversations and relationships were priceless. I miss hearing returning patrons ask, “Hey, is the bartending pastor in?” I miss getting to share about the Jesus who spent so much of his time with those who frequented the local watering hole. Honestly, there’s hardly a week that goes by when I don’t think about getting back into it.