Monday, August 11, 2008
The Content of Our Character - Billboard Wars
The billboard wars are alive and kicking in Philly. As you can see from the pic our friendly neighborhood atheist launched a salvo that challenged God’s existence. This was met by our Roman Catholic hombres who counterpunched with a plea to pray the rosary. And thus the battle for the religious hearts and minds of the citizens of Philadelphia has been joined.
I’m pretty sure that it’s fairly safe to say that the Christian church has been looking for ways to connect with unbelievers and deliver the message of the gospel for the last two thousand years. And now 20th century marketing techniques have given us a new tool in our arsenal of weapons. We may not be able to get you in church, nor are we likely to meet you as we serve in our local community (since we may not be too enthused to be about that) but by golly we will grab your attention as you fly by on I95.
So just how should believers in 21st century Philly, or Detroit, or Berlin, or Nairobi or anyplace else in the world seek to connect with nonbelievers? Should we spend lots of money (they’re not giving away billboards you know) and come up with clever ad campaigns tailored to speak to a technologically sophisticated, entertainment saturated society? Perhaps. One of the advantages the church has in addressing this question (or for that matter any other question regarding church ministry, mission etc. ) is our access to the scriptures. The ability to read, study and rely on scripture to answer our questions keeps us from endless speculation concerning what we should do and how we should do it. Could we be wrong in how we read, interpret and apply scripture? Of course we can. The alternative however is far, far worse. Why? Because without referring to scripture we’re left to the speculation of people. And I for one don’t think it’s a good idea to leave the witness of our Lord in the hands and minds of people who’ll decide to do what they think is right based on whatever man-made criteria they dream up.
So what does scripture say about our witness, where should we look in scripture and how can that help us today? While there are many places I’d like to begin with the beatitudes. Why you ask? Leading off it seems that Jesus had the gospel witness in mind when He proclaimed the beatitudes. Look at Matt. 5:10-16. Notice how that passage assumes that believers will come into contact with non-believers. It’s just makes common sense that one cannot be persecuted for the sake of righteousness if one isn’t in a position to express righteousness in a hostile environment. To put it another way Jesus didn’t expect His followers to confine our practice of proactive biblical holiness to ourselves. In fact He expected us to be among those who would actively reject our visible demonstrations of Christ likeness.
Another reason I’m partial to the beatitudes is that they don’t make our witness dependent on any particular expertise. You don’t have to be a theologian, seminary graduate or student, pastor or even deacon. And you don’t even have to be a talented Christian rapper. This allows our witness to branch out much farther than if we only relied on the theological experts or artistically talented. The beatitudes are also particularly relevant as they address the basic issues with which people from all times and all places struggle. It is the people the Way who by God’s grace can actually speak to the root issues of fulfillment, grief, power, integrity and reconciliation that weigh so heavily in our culture.
Lastly, but by no means least the beatitudes propel the church to highlight and emphasize the uniqueness, supremacy and deity of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Himself who embodies each of the beatitudes and in so doing each of them makes the case that He alone is the only way that anyone can be assured of a place of honor, acceptance and delight before the Father.
So brothers and sisters let’s join the battle. Armed not with clever slogans but with the power of Christ transformed life.
To Him Who Loves Us…