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If you’ve been in more than two churches in your life, you’ve probably heard talk about them.

Those people who aren’t church members, and who probably aren’t Christians.  We have strategies for them.  We have special Sundays for people to bring them to church, because it would be weird to just bring them on a normal Sunday.   We have classes where we learn about how to approach them, how to talk to them, and how to introduce a spiritual conversation to them.  We talk a lot about them.

But we often underestimate one thing about them:

The thing is, them are smart. They are on to our tricks, gimmicks, and sub culture of awkward relationships and painfully forced conversations.  I know it’s hard to believe, but they are even unimpressed by our tracts!  It’s no wonder they aren’t very interested in what we are offering.  We’ve packaged it in such un-interesting ways!    But rather than admit and assess that, we get frustrated at them because our ways don’t work.  We label them worldly and secular, and lament to ourselves about how evil and anti-God our society is becoming.  And so, we build higher walls and thicker doors to protect ourselves.

Maybe there’s a better, more interesting way… 

Maybe instead of thinking about them, we should consider us.  Not us as in our church people and Christians.  But us as in you + me + them.  Maybe if we remove the barrier of superiority, we’ll find commonalities to connect over instead of talking points to rush through.  Maybe we’ll view people more as friends and less as targets.

Yeah, I think it’s better that way.  Here are a few ways to start:

  • Focus on sharing, not telling.  Stop thinking you know all the answers and are swooping in to save the day.  Consider living your life out with them, not above them.  
  • Learn names and stories, not stereotypes and dynamics.  Be more pre-occupied with learning their names and knowing their stories than learning about what you think they believe because of their age and generational trends.  They aren’t flash-cards.  They are people.  
  • Be genuine, not evangelical.  Drop the Joel Olsteen act.  Stop pretending like nothing hurts, or gets to you.  Talk like a normal person.  Share your struggles if you expect them to share theirs.  Be a real person, not a Christian superstar.
  • Listen more than you talk.  This is the biggest obstacle for most Christians.  We want to rush to the answers, and be quick to offer the solutions.  But, trust is generally earned by listening, not talking.  Be a listening person.  You’ll be valued in your community.
  • Point to better things instead of whining about current things.  Talking about how worldly the world is generally won’t win the world to Christ.  Stop condemning everything you see and threatening hell, and choose to tell better stories.  Provide a compelling example of the real, tangible love and hope of Jesus.

Maybe if we start here,  Jesus will be evidenced more clearly, beautifully, and clearly to those seeking hope and better things.  It seems like common sense, but must be stated:  the best way to reach them is to tear down our walls and to be present with them, not isolated from them.  

It’s time to move into the neighborhood, not drop by.  What’s one thing you would add to the list above?

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