As I drove through the neighborhood the other day, I noticed the dozens of yard signs everywhere. There were signs for every political candidate you can imagine. There were also signs for different schools. Flags on houses for college sports teams.
As I drove, it was really easy to see what people stand for — what they identify with. All you have to do is look at the signs in their front yard and you can learn a lot about what that person finds important.
Yet, there was no way to tell if people identify with following Jesus. There were no yard signs. No flags. No markers that identify Christ being important in people’s lives.
Tonight we’re talking about moving beyond the mission field. The mission field is where we go to share about Jesus. We tend to define that as the place we go on summer mission trips. Those mission fields are easy to see, easy to interact with. We’re in a spot where that’s our entire focus.
Yet, we need to move beyond that as the sole definition of the mission field. In fact, as John shared last week, the mission field begins when we walk out the doors of the church.
We come to this place to get fueled up in order to go out into the world and live a life reflecting Jesus to others.
But do we do that?
Do we stand up for our faith and proclaim the Good News of Jesus in the same way we stand up for our preferred political candidates? Do we identify with the teachings of Jesus in the same way we cheer on our favorite sports teams?
Paul was one of the first followers of Christ not part of the original Disciples. He had a conversion experience that changed him and Paul devoted his life to teaching others about Christ. As a result, more than half the New Testament books are letters Paul wrote to church communities to encourage them to continue following Jesus’ teachings.
Paul was in Athens trying to talk to other people about Jesus. The Bible describes him in the town square in a place where there were many statues dedicated to various gods. This was the same place that philosophers and other thinkers came to discuss important things.
He was standing among the statues dedicated to various gods. Paul was inviting people to question what they identified with by teaching about Jesus among statues of other Gods, yet his message wasn’t resonating.
I envision him like those street preachers on the corner yelling as people walk by. Nobody pays attention to those people.
Paul was brought before the judicial council at Mars Hill. They wanted to know what it was Paul was talking about. It was in front of this group that Paul stood up and used a statue dedicated to an “unknown god” to help explain the known God of gods, Jesus.
22Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. 23As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. 24God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. 25Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. 26From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. 28In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29″Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold, silver, or stone image made by human skill and thought. 30God overlooks ignorance of these things in times past, but now directs everyone everywhere to change their hearts and lives. Acts 17:22–30 (CEB)
We’re called to live our lives in a way that reflects Jesus into the world. Our mission is to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Yet sometimes we don’t have the right language to even have the conversation. We’re like Paul standing among all the yard signs speaking a language people don’t understand.
Many of you have watched the show Queer Eye on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. There are many episodes in which the members of the Fab Five share the Good News of Jesus with the people they interact with. They project love. They project acceptance.
One episode in particular involves a woman, Tammye, and her son, Myles. Myles is gay and had a very difficult time finding acceptance in his small, church-going town. His story was replicated by many of those in the Fab Five.
Tammye was honest and explained she wasn’t accepting and loving when Myles told her he is gay. Yet, as she thought about the gospel, she asked Myles to forgive her for not loving him unconditionally.
The Fab Five discuss being treated similarly with their own families and church backgrounds. For some, the wounds are deep. However, in the truck driving to one of their appointments, Jonathan, one of the Fab Five, speaks truth in love and shares the gospel with viewers. He says, “I feel completely loved and accepted by God and Jesus; it’s a lot of the politics of the Church that made me feel not welcome.”
Through his words and his actions, Jonathan proclaims the Good News of Jesus.
The institution of the church has hurt people. The institution of the church has caused people to turn away and never want to return. Yet, we, the people of the church must proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in everything we do.
We are responsible for how we live our lives. Just as I’m able to drive through the neighborhood and see what politicians people identify with, we should all be able to look at each other and see the Good News of Jesus radiating out through each of our actions and words.
This is what moving beyond the traditional mission field looks like. The mission field is not a distant place. A trip somewhere. A corner preacher. The mission field is how we live our lives every day.
We must live in a way that proclaims love and acceptance, not one that causes people to be hurt and turned away. The welcoming love of Jesus why our communion table is open to all.
Just as Paul said to the council at Mars Hill, we must change our hearts and lives and live in a way that shares the love of Jesus with everyone.