NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–We’ve all heard the old adage: “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
This old quote makes sense, doesn’t it? If you provide the tools or the knowledge to someone, he will go a lot farther than if you just keep doling out the salmon. At the same time, no one’s going to learn anything on an empty stomach. That’s why as Christians we often talk quite a bit about meeting physical needs in order to meet someone’s spiritual needs. But how often do we really do it?
The recent tsunami disaster brought out the best in people of faith. Thousands of volunteers have made their way to Indonesia and Thailand and India to pass out much-needed food, water and clothes as well as assist with the rebuilding and new construction of homes, schools and villages. As a result of meeting physical needs, the opportunity to share Christ in a Muslim-concentrated area has opened. Christians are meeting the needs of the Indonesians and Thais and Indians right where they are. And in turn, people are responding to the Gospel.
Here at home, the term “relevance” has been a buzzword for a few years now, typically in more contemporary churches with younger congregations. I’d like to make the case that relevance must be considered across the board -– and no group should go overlooked.
We live in a broken, sinful world and Christians as well as non-Christians must wrestle with the consequences of this. Nothing positive can result when we elevate the traditional family and overlook or dismiss the struggling single parent; no benefit is made by insisting Christian parents pull their children out of our nation’s public schools when the only option for many of these parents is the public school system. What message can this possibly offer to non-Christians? A message they decidedly do not want to hear. We lose our opportunity to share our hearts when we miss the relevance.
Brock Gill is a 20-something evangelist who uses the art of illusions as his way of reaching people with the Gospel message. Many times he includes extreme teams of bikers and skateboarders as well as Christian rock bands in his outreach. He and his ministry team don’t look or dress like your typical Southern Baptist pastor. His audiences don’t look or dress like your typical church members. But he’s meeting people where they are in their likes and in their interests. Over the span of his ministry, he’s seen thousands of people come to Christ.
What must it take for us to share the Gospel with others? It’s easy to share when someone walks, talks and looks exactly like the person we see in the mirror every day. But what about the guy with six earrings in his ear and a tattoo down the length of his arm? What about the woman who’s been married three times and can’t seem to keep her marriages, or her jobs for that matter, for any length of time?
All Christians on some level want to impact the world for Christ. That’s our calling, that’s our assignment. But we must find a way to do it with relevance. We cannot assume that our reality or way of life is the same reality for everyone else. It’s too easy today for people to write Christ off and write off the people trying to share Him unless we can show that we understand where they are coming from. Christ understood that better than anyone else — so much that He stretched out His arms and died for us all.
It will take more than just saying we want to be relevant. It will require stepping out of our comfort zones, out of our familiar surroundings, maybe even grinding our teeth or clinching our fists as we attempt to impact a culture that may seem alien to our own. We need to ask God to help us shape a vision for reaching people where they are, not where we’d like them to be.
“For where there is no vision the people perish.” I would also add, where there is narrow vision, the people still perish.
Give a man a fish?
I say give a man the Gospel message once and he may or may not change; share the Gospel with relevance and his life will change forever.
Sara Horn is media relations specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources and the author of “A Greater Freedom: Stories of Faith from Operation Iraqi Freedom” (Broadman & Holman, 2004), with executive editor Oliver North. The book is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.lifewaystores.com.