Last week, I highlighted some specific scriptures showing that God’s plan for engaging our culture with the Gospel includes demonstrations of His power, which confirm His Word. Now I want us to examine another aspect of engaging our culture: our attitude toward the people we are attempting to reach with the message of the Gospel.
I previously presented this definition of the word engage: to attract or involve someone’s interest. Yet, that is not the only definition. Another meaning is “to enter into combat with.” I want us to understand that in our efforts to engage our culture with the Gospel, we need to always be mindful of the first definition while avoiding the second. Our fight is not with people. (I am not talking about condoning sin, enabling foolishness, or protecting oneself from harm. Those are all messages for another day. I am speaking of the spiritual battles we fight in fulfilling God’s mission and rescuing people from the snares of the devil.)
Ephesians 6:12 (New Living Translation)
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
When you think about engaging people immersed in our current culture, I want you to consider the following points which were sent to me by a good friend, Pastor Virgil Stokes.
- We must strive to engage the culture we live in without becoming a part of it. This means trying to understand the almost completely unbiblical mind of the world around us while maintaining a transcendent life as citizens of another world ourselves. It is the essence of “in the world, but not of the world,” and being “all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” It is difficult to win someone whom you disdain.
- Many of the people in media and academia, to put it mildly, don’t like us very much. Some even seem to loathe us. This attitude toward us creates their assumption that we hate them – and this assumption is disseminated among our population. Their minimal exposure to Bible Christianity has given them this impression. We are here to demonstrate the love of God to them and to inform them about who we are because of who He is. This means we need to talk with people without speaking in Christian code – we need to speak in terms they can grasp.
- The culture and its human representatives are not our enemy. The enemy is the enemy. People are both the tools of the enemy and the prize in our battle with him. Love the people, stick the Sword of the Spirit in the enemy, and recognize the purpose for which we have been left here on earth: to complete the ministry of reconciliation and destroy the works of the devil.
John 17:14-18 (The Message)
I gave them your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn’t join the world’s ways, Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy — consecrated — with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.
“As Christianity flourishes and grows around the world, we in the United States find ourselves in an almost entirely pagan environment. Whose fault is that?” – Pastor Virgil Stokes
James 5:7 tells us that God sees people as precious fruit. Whenever we stop seeing people as precious, we stop seeing them as valuable. When we fail to see the value in people, we no longer care what happens to them. In order to properly engage our culture with the Gospel, we must see the people for whom Jesus died as precious and valuable. Once we do this, then we can apply the final definition of engage: to move into position, so as to come into operation. We need to believe God for open doors of opportunity, then step through those doors so we can move into position to allow the Gospel to become operational in the lives of these precious and valuable people.