Before congregations strategize about sharing the gospel with lost souls in their community it may be important to clearly define those who are lost.
In the most succinct way, a “lost” soul is a person who does not have saving faith in Christ. Some have stubbornly and willfully rejected the existence of God. Others believe that there is a higher power, but have rejected the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A large majority adhere to a world religion that attempts to provide a path for a soul to attain perfect righteousness and harmony with the universe. These are lost souls who are easier to distinguish from those who place their trust in God’s promises in Christ Jesus.
There is another group of lost souls that are more difficult to distinguish. They live in our neighborhoods across the U.S. and have clearly become a ripe mission field with great potential.
Studies are revealing that there is a growing number of people who may claim to be Christian, profess a belief in God, and pray intermittently, but are refraining from being an active member of a Christian church. They may feel an affiliation with a certain church or denomination, but rarely attend except for weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve services. This gives evidence to the fact that Christ may not be real or relevant in their lives.
Dean Inserra, author of the book, “The Unsaved Christian”, refers to this group of people as “cultural Christians”. They are lost souls who are reachable and need to hear the Good News.
From my experience with Praise and Proclaim Ministries and conducting door-to-door evangelism campaigns throughout the U.S., I have met many people who could be considered “cultural Christians”. They live in the Bible belt, west coast, east coast, and the Midwest. They may declare a belief in God but they don’t know Jesus. I am convinced that many of them have never heard a clear message of who Christ is and what he has already done for our salvation. They are lost and need to hear about the treasure that all believers have in the finished work of Christ.
Living in Idaho, there is a strong Mormon presence. If you asked a Mormon if they were Christians, most of them would immediately answer “Yes!” without hesitation. They would be deeply offended if you told them that they were not Christian. They verbally profess a faith in Jesus Christ and even include Jesus in the name of their church, but many have never heard the Truth of what the Bible teaches. The Jesus they “know” is far different than what orthodox Christianity teaches. As Mark Cares of Truth in Love Ministry would say, “Mormonism is more of a culture than it is a cult.”
There are a growing number of people who are like my Mormon friends and neighbors. They are cultural Christians who don’t know Jesus.
Atheists or agnostics verbally deny Christ or the existence of God. They usually have reasons that have little to do with the Truth. They are usually angry at God or disillusioned about a God that doesn’t seem to care about them or anybody else.
Cultural Christians believe they are Christian but have a misunderstanding about the severity of sin, the concept of God’s grace, or what Jesus has done for us. They think they are just fine with God because they are generally good people and far better than those who are deserving of hell. They respect the church but don’t want to be part of it. They may respect church traditions or important Christian holidays, and may appear reverent on Sundays, but it all seems irrelevant to their lives.
It is challenging to reach people who feel they are already right with God. It can be intimidating to reach out to people who appear comfortable with their status before God.
How can we reach out to the cultural Christian? In a society where it may be considered a taboo or intolerant to proselytize, how can we comfortably reach out to others to talk about something that is often feels uncomfortable?
How can we help our friends and neighbors to know they are lost so that they can be saved?
I encourage Christians to believe that people in today’s world are willing to hear the Truth, despite what they may think. Trust Jesus when he says that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Be willing messengers for God and don’t immediately disqualify yourself by default.
A default reaction may the take the form of inviting people to come to your church for the sake of inviting people to come to your church. The invitation can give the impression that all a person needs to do is go to church to be right with God. It can become an act of self-righteousness rather than an invitation to hear the Truth. Since more people today are refraining from coming to church to attend a worship service, it is becoming more imperative for Christians to provide reasons for the hope that they have in Christ.
Praise and Proclaim trains Christians to verbally proclaim the gospel. Part of the training includes an opportunity to put their training into action. This includes going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel to strangers. We refrain from immediately asking people, “Do you have a church home?” I find it interesting that people today seem to be easily offended by that question. They will often tell you to leave them alone and close the door. When we ask the same question to “cultural Christians,” many will say “yes” then tell you to leave them alone and close the door. If they stay at the door, Christians may be tempted to quiz them by asking the name of their pastor or priest. If they don’t know the answer, you may have successful exposed them as an inactive member. But what have you accomplished? After catching them in a lie, are they going to be more likely to listen to what you have to say about Jesus? Are they going to be more willing to seriously consider an invitation to come to your church?
Perhaps there may be better ways to engage “cultural Christians”.
I suggest utilizing an approach that is loving and respectful. Many cultural Christians are not averse to attending church, they just don’t believe that attending church is relevant in their lives right now. Since they may respect the Bible, don’t be afraid to use the Bible. There is a good chance that the person may have belonged to a church that didn’t clearly teach the Truth. They probably do not have a firm understanding about the Bible concepts of justification or redemption.
Look for starting points to begin a conversation. Help them along on a journey to rediscover what the Bible really says. In a loving and respectful manner, you can ask, “What is the standard to be right with God? How good do you have to be to be good enough to earn heaven? Who does God say are the people who will be going to hell? Listen carefully and patiently. Remember these are starting points to help a person learn about Jesus and what he has done. The point is not to corner or embarrass them.
Evangelism is far more about God than about our self. There is power in the words we share when we talk about Christ and what he has already done for us. God does not call us to prepare to win arguments, but to win souls through his Word. And sometimes, all it takes is a face from a church to start a conversation and initiate a journey for a lost soul to come back to Christ.
Many cultural Christians are deciding not to go to church for the sake of going to church. They are wanting to know why going to church is important before accepting an invitation. Many want to hear from Christians why faith is important to them instead of listening to a sermon. With so much information contrary to the message of Christ, they are wanting to know why faith matters from people they can trust. Cultural Christians are reachable. Trust that there are some who are waiting to hear what believers have to say.
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