We’re in a series trying to overcome apathy, specifically apathy toward the world. We’ve seen that’s not God’s heart and we need to move toward a broken world.
I was in a Zoom meeting this week with Hope Partners and Kirk Nowery. One of the guys on the board is a pastor who just got back from India. He opened up the meeting sharing his recent experience in India. He said it’s funny how distance distracts and leads to apathy. But proximity creates passion. Action takes the place of apathy.
We’re learning in 1 Peter and in Colossians what it means to move toward the world. We want to get past apathy, it’s going to take movement and reengagement with the world.
Colossians taught us we need to be steadfast in prayer.
We’re called to pray. And then we have this double action, a verb of motion and a preposition of motion moving toward the world. This is the movement of our life as believers.
Distance is going to create apathy and distraction. But proximity is going to create passion and action.
I read something in a book that said, “Prepositions before propositions.” Prepositions, moving towards people, is more important than what you say. You have to be in, around, with…Jesus said he would be with us until the end of the age.
Practically, that means you’re praying on a regular basis throughout the day. I’m asking God for one or two conversations with people I don’t know. Most of the time I have to initiate, but other times others do.
Leonard Sweet says that prayer is a reminder to you like a calendar notification that you have an appointment with God that day to meet with someone. The address of that appointment is the next person you meet.
On Thursday, I ended up being at the office longer than I planned. When the day gets too long, I don’t know if I’m going to the gym, I’ll have to fight traffic all the way home. But, earlier in the day I sent a text to a guy I connected with recently, but hadn’t seen.
When the day was ending, I thought maybe I would just go to the gym anyway. It’s crowded, and I spot him and he spots me. He was in the middle of training somebody, so I had to be slick in how I approached. We got to connect and he said, what about that lunch? We set a time and place this week.
But if I didn’t go, if the preposition wasn’t there, then the proposition doesn’t mean anything. I don’t have to open doors or knock them down. I just need to be there. When that happens, apathy starts to dissipate. You want apathy to dissipate, move towards somebody.
One author said, “Too often believers have understood themselves as taking God into a godless world rather than following God into a world where God is already redemptively present.”
The reason you pray is so that he opens doors ahead of you. A lot of time, God has the doors open, he’s just waiting for you to move.
You’re not forging any trails. He’s with you in the moments. Let him do his thing.
If we were to map this out, we have three things the text has been saying to us. You’re going to pray, move toward the world, and speak.
Rosaria Butterfield says it’s violence to not move towards people with Jesus. We have answers the world doesn’t have, so it’s a hostile apathy not to move toward people.
Another author said that it’s dishonest to show every part of my life except the part that’s changed my life the most.
You want to get over apathy? You’ll have to decide a few things. If you don’t know any lost people, get a hobby. You have to have some place to go.
In my situation, I was working out in a garage during covid. I love my garage gym. It’s so easy, but I don’t have any contact with people. One of the things that got me out of the garage was moving towards people in the world.
Some of you have already moved towards people and you have a spot, but you need a new approach.
Most of us are worried about what we’re going to say in certain moments and we never even get there. If you find yourself finally getting there and wondering what you’re going to say, that’s where we’re going now.
Look at Colossians 4.
All the yellow highlights here are verbal actions. The pink is how you do it.
You are going to have to know some stuff for when you get there. You have to learn a few things, but not a whole lot. This is how you reengage. You start having conversations with people and treat them as human. That’s why Paul has this phrase at the end that you have to know how to answer each one.
This is an important phrase. When you get away from culture, you categorize them in groups and dehumanize them into one single characteristic that robs people of their dignity and destiny. We’re complex humans. There are so many levels of who we are. We exclude people from certain states or social groups.
We just had people move in next to us from California and they’re pretty cool people, believe it or not.
When you’re dealing with individual human beings, you realize you are more like me than I thought.
One author said you “re-humanize” people when you move towards them individually.
Most humans tend to live on autopilot. Most people haven’t thought incredibly deeply about serious things in life. They’ve picked up certain things along the way, but if you poke a few holes in it, you realize they haven’t thought through it all. That’s most of us.
Let them go ahead and rant and rave. You’ll find the spot eventually where they haven’t thought about it that much. It’s the burden of human existence where we all think about the biggest issues of life, but we don’t think that deeply about it, because it’s so painful. We operate on autopilot and hope we don’t have to think about it.
Whatever ranting and raving you’re doing, there’s something more underneath it.
If you’ve given your life to Christ, you’ve probably thought more about the deeper issues in life than most people. You’ve thought through some of the top questions most humans have, but haven’t thought through deeply.
A few people have delved deeply into a few things, but not for the most part.
You have some initial conversations you’ll have. You get to know people and look for common ground. I usually find something to praise somebody for or ask them about. That’s how I start conversations, and then people just go.
The first duty of love is to just listen. When body language happens, and stories get told, connections are made and I build on those.
Aristotle said the reward of listening is wisdom. The more you hear them talk, the more you’ll know how to communicate on a deep level with a person.
One guy in the gym was the most intimidating guy I have ever seen. He was sitting next to me in the gym and I was eyeing him. I reached into his line of view and stuck my hand out. He pulled his headphones out, and we talked for 15 minutes and I only said about three words. He was showing me pics on his phone. Now we have a connection and I know what to ask.
One day, Gail was on a weight machine, I introduced the guy, and she just said, “Wow.” We had a great conversation and scheduled a lunch.
I’ve got about 15 people I’ve encountered at different places, I’ve memorized their names, and every single person has been willing to talk.
I want to show care, interest, respect, and character.
If it does come up that you believe in God, you don’t want the person to be shocked.
In conversation with this guy, he told me a lot about his life, and he told me that he’s bored. That set off alarms for me. I know a place. It’ll come up some day.
When it does come up, you want them to be able to say, I didn’t think that way about Christians.
Don’t feel the need to prove anything, and don’t overreact to what you hear. Don’t be judgmental or look judgmental.
Don’t be pushy or hurried. Let God open the door when it happens.
Make sacrifices. It’ll take time. You’ll have to go out of your way. You’ll have to listen and it won’t be reciprocated. Most people I’ve had conversations with know nothing about me.
Our staff is talking about this recently. Jill Bream shared something important.
Christmas night, Dave and I went back to Pennsylvania. I was really tired, and Dave got bumped to first class and let me have it. I thought I was going to have a restful time. Immediately, I had this lady who started ranting about how she hated family and I wanted Dave to come back and take my first class seat. I just wanted a good meal and a good night’s sleep. Then she offered to show me some dogs she raises. She said, “This is Satan, this is Devil’s Angel, this is Lucifer.” I’m listening to all this and the Captain comes on and says we’ll be arriving in 30 minutes. I realized, I am so rusty at this and haven’t done it in a long time. I told God, I don’t know what to say to this lady. I ended up saying we all have a God-shaped hole and a few other things. But I realized, I have really gotten rusty with this whole thing.
In January, I was on a plane again and half the plane was full. The flight attendant told me I could move somewhere with more room, but right when I’m about to move, this lady next to me says, “I hate my life.” So I listened to her. I told her that Jesus loves her, and she started crying. God gave me a do-over.
All of us would have wanted that other seat, but if God opens a door he closes that seat.
You don’t know what you’re going to hear. It takes sacrifice and it’s a little bit messy.
Some conversations you have a lot of time, sometimes
Leonard Sweet calls short conversations with a little seed a “small save.” You’re just depositing the message at the door.
Our student ministry has grown 40% on Wednesday nights. A good portion of these kids are not believers, but they’re coming consistently. So, there’s a pretty significant amount of disruption. They don’t know how to be in church, they aren’t listening or participating as well. Everyone is being retrained and things look different as a result. It’s uncomfortable for the ones who know what to expect each week. But the student ministry has been praying for years for these kids to come. We’re trying to learn how to love these kids more. It requires a lot of sacrifice.
This is a great opportunity for parents to talk to your kids about it and have patience. These kids aren’t just popping in and disappearing. They’re coming.
Something we’re all worried about is whether questions come up we can’t answer. What about science, is the Bible true…we need to have an answer. But you don’t have to be a theologian or physicist to answer those questions.
When any kind of question comes up, I just listen and nod along. I’m going to express understand, “I agree, that’s a hard issue.”
You can feel like your job is to answer people’s questions, or to question people’s answers. Know how to poke holes in what they believe without ever having to prove anything.
When people are ranting, I’ll ask them to explain their thoughts or ask, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”
Jesus was asked 183 questions, he only answered 3.
He gave 307 questions back.
Book: How to Win the West Again. Tim Keller says to question people’s answers.
I’m going to question, “Are you really confident that is probably correct?” “Does that answer give you peace?” “Do you ever wonder what happens if you’re wrong?”
Most of the big questions, nobody has 100% confidence in. Even the most adamant, angry, confident person.
“Do you ever wish there was a better answer than the one you’re giving?”
Then just listen. Because there are a number of things in life they want to be true, but their answers aren’t going to give it to them.
Here are some question I might ask:
- “Where do you put your ultimate faith and confidence in?” Everyone has faith in something.
- If it’s evolution or atheism, I’ll ask, “How does that square with your deepest longings?” Things like meaning and love and justice and forgiveness and “forever.” Why do we have a longing for eternity?
- If someone is saying, there can’t be a god with all the evil in the world, I’ll ask “How do you deal with evil if there is no God?” “Why does it feel like there should be somebody to blame?”
- Somebody says, science is everything. Ask, “What do you do with the things science can’t answer?”
- They say the Bible isn’t true. Ask, “What do you look to as a source for guidance?”
I want to take into account the inner longings they have. Have an answer about Christianity that doesn’t dehumanize you.
Next week we’ll talk about some of the answers you should give back to those questions.