I'm sure you've noticed our propensity to name drop. "I shook hands with the President!" "I sat next to Aaron Rogers on the plane." "Channing Tatum smiled at me!" Having close encounters with famous people makes us look good; it makes us look like important insiders. But name dropping only works if you have a close brush with somebody well-known. If you say, "Pastor Brian shook my hand." You ain't goin' nowhere! Why? Pastor Brian doesn't throw touchdown passes on television every Sunday while tens of thousands watch from their stadium seats and millions more watch from their couches. I don't possess that kind of social currency. Aaron Rogers does. That's why telling somebody you sat next to Aaron Rogers on an airplane looks and sounds better than telling somebody you sat next to some pastor named 'Brian'.
If your brushes with greatness and, even more, the company you keep says something about your importance, what does it say that the God who created Aaron Rogers knows you, loves you very much, and lives inside you? "Channing Tatum smiled at me!" Big deal! I just spent time conversing with the God who created Channing Tatum!
Having close encounters with "people of significance" is nothing compared to knowing and being loved by the God who created them.
I’ve been working my way through Rico Tice’s new book, Honest Evangelism. It’s been both encouraging and convicting. Rico is a pastor at a church in London and one of his primary responsibilities is evangelism. Yet he would be the first to admit evangelism doesn’t come easy for him. It doesn’t come easy for me either.
He writes this, “I want to be honest: if you tell non-Christians about Jesus, it will be painful.” That’s why I find evangelism difficult. I want to remain comfortable. Tice recounts a convicting story:
“A couple of years ago I visited Delhi Bible Institute in India. The students at this new college are being trained to take the message of Christ Jesus to areas where people have never heard it before. These guys keep a bag, ready packed, by the back door. That’s so that if people come in the front to kill them, they can grab it and run. I was talking to one of the staff there about the possibility of suffering and she said: ‘Of course there’ll be suffering. What do you expect?’ And the first graduate of Delhi Bible Institute got martyred within six weeks. He graduated, went up into the villages, preached about Christ, and got murdered. It wasn’t unexpected, and he did it anyway."
What I find inspiring about this story isn’t only that the students at Delhi Bible Institute face far worse threats than I do in evangelism; but that they seem to run towards the discomfort. They lean into the pain of evangelism. It’s like they’re proactively seeking it. They cause me to think: “How can I run towards discomfort today for the sake of communicating the gospel to someone who doesn’t know Jesus?"
Of course, the ultimate example of someone running towards discomfort, leaning into, and proactively seeking pain for the sake of evangelism is Jesus Christ himself. He left heaven, a perfect paradise with not the slightest bit of discomfort, came to earth and experienced this sin ravaged world. He then took my sin and its torturous consequences upon himself so that I could get what only he deserved: eternal life in the joyful presence of God. Therein lies our motivation to move towards discomfort for the cause of Christ. May God give us the courage to do so!
Over the years in pastoral ministry, I have been asked on countless occasions, “What do I do when I just don’t have a desire to read the Bible?” I understand the frustration. I’ve lived it. As a Christian, it feels unChristian to even be in that spot. You might think to yourself, “What’s wrong with me? If I’m a Christian, shouldn’t I always have a desire to read the Bible?” I hope the following will be an encouragement to you.
Don’t be surprised by a lack of desire to read the Bible. In fact, expect it.
One concluding thought: remember the Bible isn’t just a book. It’s a perfectly aligned extension of God himself. To read it, is to engage with the God who just gave you that last breath you breathed.