The Last Crusade: Public Displays of Christianity

Last week, I popped into a gas station’s mini-mart and had a short conversation with the employee there. He was a really friendly older gentleman with an accent I couldn’t place, and I didn’t ask where he hailed from. We talked family, work, life, and it came away a positive conversation despite what probably were vast differences between us.

What I thought on the way out of there was, when he asked what was up with me, why didn’t I tell him I was on my way to church?

It’s a subconscious thing, but our society via media, the government, schooling has drilled into us for now 2-3 generations that our faith is something that should not be touched in public. that it is not to be discussed in public, not to be displayed in public. We’re told we will be shunned if we do so, and as a result of that, the culture has self-fulfilled that prophecy by becoming more and more hostile to the concept of faith. I feel like I’m doing something taboo even writing about it here, but after thought and prayer, I feel compelled that it’s more necessary than ever to be discussing the good news.

And it’s so necessary because it DOES feel taboo.

It shouldn’t. Faith should be a joyous thing. It should be something that defines our lives and interactions. What if God had called upon me to speak to that gas station employee, to remind him of Christ and his glory? Even though it was a trite conversation, I may have failed more than any other moment in my life, and it still weighs heavy on me.

We have an opportunity starting in 2017 to shift the culture of the United States, to change the way that we operate as a people. It shouldn’t be easier to talk about and giggle about the utter depravity shown in an episode of Game of Thrones than it is to say “hey, I’m on my way to church.”

Pastor Bill Haslim this weekend brought up a verse in a different context in his sermon, but it applies here as well:

Deuteronomy 6: 5-7

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The operative point to this topic is verse 7. We should be talking about God and our commandments literally all the time! This means we are called to be very public about faith, not to hide it and keep it to ourselves.

The culture has used the Bible against Christians out of context for these last couple of decades to promote a secularist, hedonistic and pagan cultural agenda. In as much as government has tried to erase the whole reason of this country existing (Christian pilgrims), the secularists cherry pick a few verses to try to tell Christians how to Christian better. We should instinctively know this is false, because any “teacher” that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is, by definition, leading us astray. However, it is the power of simple messaging through media. If something gets repeated enough, people start to believe it.

The concept that is used a lot to silence Christians stems from Matthew 6:1 “When you do good things, don’t do them in front of other people to be seen by them.” 

It’s used to tell us that we should be quiet, that Christianity should be something kept in our homes, in our hearts, but not somewhere others can see it. Hearing that over and over does have a psychological effect on us as a Church body, and it is completely wrong.

The point of that verse is that Christians should not use their good deeds to point to other Christians and tell them how holy they are in comparison. The problem Jesus speaks of is propping oneself up and not giving full credit to God for anything good. It’s not that we shouldn’t be talking about the commandments when we are at home or on the road. We certainly should. It’s the intent and the heart that matters.

Last Wednesday, I brought up something in this context to a Christian leader who I very much respect and admire. He had just quipped about taking a selfie in a church setting. I came back very seriously with “well why don’t we selfie in church?” He brought up the very valid point that the whole concept of self is the antithesis of church. This is true if the intent were to promote self in that setting, but I think the terminology that’s been used in the vernacular for “take a photo + social media post” is getting mixed with what could be a noble intent.

Anyone who follows me on social media has seen that I’ve posted photos before and after church (and sometimes during when the band is playing and I find it inspiring and want to share that), tagging the church in the process. I’ve done this as a means to promote the church, not myself. The thought is: we see everything on social media from concerts, to bars, to pictures of food, kids at Disneyland, every life event. And though social media is very much a cesspool of intrinsic selfishness, it is at the same time another cultural element where Christians have shied away from speaking because of the concept of scorn and because of the out of context Matthew 6 shaming. It could, however, turn into a place of great praise if we post Bible verses, if we tag our church, if we tag our spiritual leaders and talk about the great works God is doing through them. Now I’m not saying get on twitter while your pastor is delivering a message or someone’s reading scripture, as we should be focused and reverent, but there are times and places (like at the beginning and end of a service, afterward or before) where we can let others know how wonderful and enriching it is to be together in the Body of Christ, as a means to further remind them and invite them to join us.

Christ ends his ministry in Matthew 28:19 with “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If we stay completely disconnected and keep faith to ourselves in the modern social environment, if we never speak the truth, how will it get out there for people to be baptized? Society is different these days. We’re not plugged into a community and talking with our direct neighbors like we were in the past. We are plugged into a much bigger arena where it’s easy to get lost. And that’s why it is our duty as Christians to make sure it’s easy to get found again.

This plays into the end of days, a time in which we all live since the resurrection of our Lord Christ. This is a spiritual war, and the forces of this world will do everything they can to silence us, including and especially planting nerves into our subconsciousness that we shouldn’t be vocal. Remember Luke 19:40 though, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  We’re not there yet, but we often do shove our praise into just that one hour church time and ignore it in the rest of our lives. If we’re keeping quiet except for one hour a week, boy are we close to the stones having their say.

I’m calling on all Christians, my readers, my friends to spend this lent period in focus of making Public Displays of Christianity (#PDC!). It’s scary, it’s frightening, and remember not to do it with a heart that is seeking to boast or gain pride from these displays, but to do so in sincere wish to spread the Gospel. A few things that can be done, and if you want to comment with more ideas to enrich all of us, they are completely welcome:

  1. Tag your church and pastor before/after services. Make it known how excited you are for the church on social media.
  2. Pray in public. At restaurants, on breaks at work, wherever. (this is a hard one! I almost never do this myself).
  3. Talk about God and the Gospel in casual conversation, and how it’s changed your life positively. Start with Christian friends if it makes it easier. The goal is to get this to be a topic that rolls off your tongue with the ease and is a simple and natural as discussing a sports game.
  4. Read scripture every day! Even if it’s just a verse, it helps to keep God on your mind.

This is an important call. Let’s change the culture together. What else can we do?

Lent Day 1!

I did it, I’ve made it through a full 24 hours without checking my facebook feed. That’s the hardest part, right? It helped that it was a pretty busy day at work, but I don’t really find myself jonesing for that content. Most of facebook feeds now are all about negativity and fear mongering and clickbaiting, so it’s not really much of a loss. I do miss a few of my groups though, the only redeeming quality of the site at this point.

Also picked up a guitar for the first time in about a year last night. I’m going to be playing this Sunday, both services, at Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, CA. Their new minister of worship and arts, John Phillips, is a musical genius. It’s awesome to be invited to be a part of this.

Guitar is a bit hard for me these days. I quit in the first place because I’ve got this recurring tendonitis in my forearms which I can’t get rid of. Every time I hold down chords or whatnot for a few hours, my arms turn to a sore mush for a couple of days. Don’t know if there’s anything that can be done about that, but would appreciate advice. I ice, I stretch, there seems to be no way around it. Doesn’t help that I have to type a few thousand words per day on top of that. Just means my poor wrists never get a break.

But that said, practice turned out pretty well. It was so much fun and so fulfilling to make some small contribution to giving God glory. I definitely look forward to Sunday.

Obviously God has been on my mind a lot in the last couple of days, given the season and then the direction life has pulled on top of that. Another thing that caught my eye on that topic was YA dystopian authors Nadine Brandes’s blog: http://nadinebrandes.com/2017/03/01/does-anyone-read-the-bible-anymore/  where she challenged to read the whole Bible. that’s something I haven’t done in at least 15 years. I think it’s a worthy effort and thing to share around.

There’s my day one reflections. What did you do? Would love to hear from you!