Monday, August 31, 2009

So, Who's Really Crazy?

. . . from now on I will go to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6).

Was he confident or crazy? My first guess: crazy. He’d have to be. He was standing on the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont, clutching a big Bible to his chest and shouting a message from God at people who sat at the red light with their windows rolled up, not even looking in his direction.

My curiosity got the best of me. I rolled my window down just enough to allow me to hear his sermon, not enough to encourage him to walk over and get in the passenger seat. After all, he’s nuts – right?

I didn’t hear much of the sermon before the light turned green and I made my way down Piedmont with the rest of his congregation.

Confident or crazy? He might be crazy, a poor soul who should have never been released from whatever facility it was that could no longer keep him. That might be it.

But he looked confident. That corner was his pulpit and he stood there like a man called, a prophet who, like Jeremiah, had a “fire shut up in his bones.” And part of me admired his reckless preaching.

From time to time I too have the chance to preach in the Buckhead community. But I know better than to take my stand at the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont. No, I wait until Sunday morning. I don the appropriate garment for one rightly ordained to speak God’s words. I stand on a wooden box in a beautiful room and speak to those who willingly made the decision to come and sit in that room for an hour or so.

If the point of preaching is to spread the message about Jesus, it’s worth asking: who’s really crazy? The bizarre character on the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont, or the guy in a robe waiting for an audience on a weekend morning?

I love the way the story of Jesus is told when God’s people gather for worship each week. I’ll never abandon that practice. I also know that I’ll probably never take my post on a street corner. But if the message of Jesus won’t be widely shared by a man on a street corner or a man in a pulpit, what does that leave us?

The answer to that is simple. It leaves us you.

The most effective way for the story of Jesus to penetrate the city of Atlanta, or any city for that matter, is for people to take that story to the ordinary places where they live life every day.

When Paul went to Corinth he had more than a message. He had a strategy. His intent was to make a major impact on a major city. Corinth was a difficult place and getting a hearing for the story of Jesus was no easy task. But Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth, and after that time he left something there that had not existed when he arrived: a Christian community.

This week we’re going to be thinking about what it takes to live the Jesus life in a difficult place. Some of you spend every day in an environment where a Christian presence is not warmly received or highly regarded. How will you make a difference in your place? We need a strategy that doesn’t ask you to stand on your desk and read the Bible aloud. We also need a strategy that understands that gathering you in a big room with other Christians every week will have a limited impact on the city.

Wherever that place may be, you are a key piece of the strategy. “Do not be afraid. Do not be silent” (Acts 18: 9).

What’s your strategy for making an impact on your place today?

Lord Jesus, you gave us a great command when you told to love people and love God. You also gave us a great commission when you invited us to do those things in a world that is indifferent to God and difficult to love. As we try to be obedient today, give us the wisdom we need to know how make an impact on our place, our homes, our cities, our schools. Amen.

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