Fear often creates selectively silent witnesses

2/5/2012

 “Perfect love casts out fear.” - I John 4:18
So we can confidently say, ”The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" – Hebrews 13:6
          As witnesses in life we exercise selectivity in even everyday conversations. In December, immediately following the SEC championship game between LSU and Georgia, I placed a post on Facebook celebrating the finest first half of a championship football game that I have possibly ever witnessed. 
        And I stopped there. 
          Within 20 seconds of that posting some of my wonderful friends from Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina, and Florida were writing responses, eager to point out the second half rather than the first half. Isn’t it fascinating how we can’t only selectively hear what we want to, but also can practice selectivity in what we want to talk about with others? 
          Jesus commanded us as his disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Some refer to this as the Great Commission. Hundreds of articles have referred to it as, the Great Omission. 
          Moreover, thousands of American Christians have personally paraphrased it to read, “Stay in your churches and wait on visitors to walk in. Complain about how, when they do visit, they don’t fully fill out the visitor registration forms in the pads. Be comfortable. Focus your time inside the walls and pray that people will join who are searching for a church, want to tithe and sing in the choir.” 
          We have seen this become so rampant that now there is, “The Bishop’s Call to Action” which prioritizes “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” 
          We are entering into the mega-study mode. Hundreds of new books will come out on the Disciple Making theme - which has been in 90 percent of existing church bulletins and newsletters, often as a mission statement or theme for more than a decade. So in reality how will this really change? How will we move from study, writing, preaching, teaching and tweaking mission statements into action, when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ in 2012? 
          Using our faith to overcome our fears provides a great beginning in making disciples of Jesus Christ. 
       What are we most afraid of? It’s a toss up. In some churches the greatest fear is change. Spending money would rank in the top five, at least. But the one that still commands the widest influence is the initiation and pursuit of authentic relationships to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 
          In hundreds of congregations across the nation, our staff has asked leaders in churches for more than eighteen years, “Why are Christians afraid to share their personal faith stories with others?” The top reason, nearly 100 percent of the time remains, “Fear of personal rejection!” And the second reason, at greater than 90 percent is, “We don’t know how or what to say.”
          The best news today in response to that crippling fear factor is, “Not one of us is that important. It’s really not about us. It’s about sharing the unconditional love of Jesus Christ with others, requiring nothing in return.” 
          We can become selective in offering Christ and what Christ has done (and is doing) in our lives, our families, our situations through our own faith journey stories. And the great advantage that so many of us have as United Methodists today comes from the fact that nearly everyone in our nation knows that United Methodists are nearly always harmless! 
          Persons today, while really not wanting “church commercials” or “literature drops” actually do want to discuss spirituality and faith-in-daily living. We don’t have any reason to press them for immediate “decisions” or promises to “attend our church soon.” Our loving them unconditionally does not require their presence in our church buildings. 
          We are offering to share Good News of Jesus Christ and when we have done so, we have the freedom to simply, “leave it in the air.” Allow the persons we share with to decide, in their own time frame, in their own way, how they will respond to the gift of grace in sharing. Our mission is to become their authentic, caring friends. 
          Learning how to find joy in sharing the love of Christ through training and practice provides a second fine way to move from study to action. 
      Sharing Christ daily with joy comes not from six or multiple week classroom sessions, but from a combination of teaching, training and actual, relational outreach, which is both intentional and consistent. It can happen in any of our lives and churches. 
          Do you really feel the call to action in making disciples of Jesus Christ? Let’s get started. There are thousands both in and beyond the walls of our congregations with whom we can share the unconditional love of Jesus Christ in these days! 
 Rev. Jim W. Hollis is a General Evangelist of the UMC, the Executive Director of Proactive Ministries. He and his Staff provide practical discipleship training with hundreds of churches across America, since 1993. (Ministry website: www.proactive-ministries.org)


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