In his recent talk called, “The Gospel Future: lessons from a post-Christian context,” Stonebriar missionary Carlos Moya helped us wrestle with how to live as ambassadors for Jesus in a culture that opposes our faith.
The evening centered around the question: How do I represent Jesus in a city that scorns our Savior?
Carlos faces this question daily. He is a seminary professor, husband, and father who lives and works in a suburb of Barcelona, Spain—a place where less than 1% of the population trusts Jesus alone for their salvation.
Based on his experiences, Carlos shared these four essentials for living our faith in a culture that thinks it’s too sophisticated for a Savior.
1. be relational
Remember that people in a post-Christian culture no longer value the Bible as a reliable source for truth and have dismissed church as a place they can go for teaching. The result is that the primary exposure to Christ must come through believers.
As a culture distances itself from Scripture and becomes less interested in church attendance, the way believers conduct themselves becomes an increasingly important source of truth. In a post-Christian context, seeing is believing—the people we rub shoulders with every day must see our faith in action to believe in our Savior.
That does not mean we have to be perfect. Far from it. As we wrestle with the realities of relationships and work, we need to show that we have a source of peace and strength to help us. To a watching doubter, how we choose to respond to the challenges of life is a testament to the transforming power of Jesus.
What it does mean is that we have to slow down and leave room in our lives for people. In our American culture, we live and die by the clock. We’re scheduled back-to-back and to the minute. In order to be relational, we have to leave margin in our lives for others and their unexpected needs. For many of us, that means making a conscious decision to become less task-focused and more people-oriented.
2. be intentional
Living for Jesus in a post-Christian context means saying good-bye to the secular / sacred divide. As believers, we must go about our lives with the understanding that God is at work around us, and look for ways to join that work. Each one of us is uniquely equipped and strategically placed by God in our families, neighborhoods, schools, and jobs to be part of how God draws people to himself through Christ.
We must go about our lives with the understanding that God is at work around us, and look for ways to join that work. Each one of us is uniquely equipped and strategically placed by God in our families, neighborhoods, schools, and jobs to be part of how God draws people to himself through Christ.
Instead of reserving our service to God for Sundays, or missions trips, or occasional outreach, we need to infuse every activity and relationship with the grace and truth of the Gospel. That means we can’t only talk about Jesus, we must treat people like Jesus would treat them—with kindness, honesty, integrity, and authenticity.
3. be helpful
Let’s be honest. We as Christians are good at sitting in rooms and imagining what we think people need. We are also good at answering questions no one is asking. To represent Jesus in a culture that questions His value—or even His existence—we must each learn about and address the real, practical challenges of our friends, neighbors, city, and world. In a word, we must be helpful.
We show that Jesus is alive and powerful when we take action in His name against the effects of sin that twist and tarnish the world around us.
Have a neighbor whose husband has left her? Offer to cut her lawn. Have a friend who has lost a parent? Sit with him and listen. See kids walking to school dressed in rags? Find out who is working on the problem and pitch in to help. Live with your eyes open and your hands ready. When the time comes to explain why you are bucking the cultural trend toward selfish apathy, don’t be shy. Give credit to the grace of God at work in your own life.
4. be aware
Every person around you who does not know Jesus has roadblocks in his or her path to Christ. Some of those roadblocks are built with deeply personal hurts. Others have been constructed by family or church behaving badly. Others are inherited through culture or religion. Our job is to be aware of these barriers and do our homework on how to help the people in our lives navigate the barriers.
For example, if you have a coworker who got burned by church as a child, your first move may not be to invite him to come with you on a Sunday morning. Or, if you have a neighbor with a Hindu background, you need to roll up your sleeves and do some research. And remember…that research includes actually talking to the person about his or her religion with the posture of a learner.
his present…our future?
As Carlos is learning in Spain, a one-size-fits all approach to evangelism is much less fruitful in places where Jesus is viewed as just one option in a marketplace of ideas and beliefs.
Cultural indicators point toward a future where those who follow Jesus here in the U.S. will likewise be in the minority. We would be wise to sharpen our thinking, hone our skills, and reconsider our approach to prepare for that possibility.