Cities can be the oddest places. They’re this amalgam of every type of creature under the sun converging in one spot for every conceivable activity under the sun. I was reminded of this after speaking at a church’s women’s retreat a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles. After the weekend, I headed back to the city for a few meetings, one of them in Santa Monica. (Please keep in mind that nearly 100 percent of my travels entail meetings not in places on the ocean.) I had the day to walk the beach, the pier, and Third Street Promenade, and let me tell you, Santa Monica has some characters. Some real dramatic folk.
Some of them were in costumes for unbeknownst reasons in the middle of the day. Two roller bladers almost took me off this earth while blazing by me at cheetah speed. One weathered and long-bearded gentleman held a sign that said, “Need money for pot.” He was apparently running low. The people stretching on the beach intrigued me, especially the ones who got into particularly interesting positions showcasing their flexibility or soul liberation or things I don’t think they should be showcasing. Of course, there were also the businessmen and women, the shoppers, the tourists, the celebrities I never laid eyes on despite my stealthy efforts, and people like me who were simply looking for a place to get frozen yogurt with fresh mango. Upon further thought, I may have been the only person looking for this.
Sharing the Gospel is Personal
Over the past few years I’ve been so stirred for the gospel’s good news to get to the ends of the earth. Places like the Amazon and Moldova are two of those passions for me. But oh how the ends of this earth include the house next door, the Hollywood gated communities, sky-scraping offices we work in, theatre districts, boardwalks, five-star hotels, low-income housing, and everything in between. To be honest with you, this presents a challenge for me; I often feel more at ease sharing the gospel with a hostel of orphans or a remote village in far away lands than I do with a city executive, actress, intellectual, or, for that matter, any one of the beach stretchers. Maybe this is because all these city people are in a sense my people. And ministering to your own people has a way of getting awfully personal.
When I share about my relationship with Jesus in the community I wake up in every morning, I’m opening the package of the gospel in front of the people I live alongside. This is an entirely vulnerable experience. Some think the gospel package is too narrow, others find it offensive or woefully irrelevant. A few really hate what’s inside. Most, regardless of how they feel about what’s in the box, at least want to know if your life resembles its contents. Maybe this is why Paul puts such an emphasis on the steadfast characteristic of sincerity.
I don’t get to drop the news of Jesus off on someone’s doorstep and then dash away from the questions and criticisms that people in the city are educated enough to fire at me. And I’m not even talking about the inquiries delivered out of spite. Rather it’s questions born from the genuine wounds of kindhearted unbelievers: Why didn’t my child get healed when I prayed? How come Christians are so judgmental? The church really hurt me as a kid. Why would God have allowed my abuse? Why is Jesus the only way? Can’t we all just believe what we want and love one another?
Sharing the Gospel is Challenging
You can see how tempting it is—as the Sunday School song goes—to hide your light under a bushel. Because when you talk about Jesus in the context of the place you live, people start watching you with those interrogating cat-eyes. They want to get to the bottom of all this God-talk. To see if your faith rings true. When hardship befalls our neighbors they want to know what our prayers can do for them. When trials befall us they want to see how we’ll walk through the valley. We often wonder, will I say the right thing? Have the right answer? What if I don’t explain the gospel well?
And then there are the many who are drawn to the life-changing grace of Jesus! Those just dying—some literally—for someone to show up in their lostness as a minister of reconciliation, an ambassador for Jesus. They’ll rip into the box with vigor, paper sailing everywhere, like they’ve been waiting for this good news delivery all their lives. But you know what this means? Hands-on discipleship time. So you still don’t get to leave the package and run.
Do you see how personal all this is? How sharing the gospel in your community will crawl into every crevice of your life and faith?
This is precisely what I’ve loved and found challenging in studying 2 Corinthians. Paul and his co-laborers served in Corinth, in the complications of a wealthy, artistic, athletic, and commercial society. The sway of political power was real, and the pull of wealth Herculean. Social status was central to one’s worth and intellectualism relentlessly took Paul’s spiritual wisdom to task. Every inch of the gospel gets tried and tested in a city like Corinth, just as it does in our cities today (the same can be true in rural and quieter communities, as well). The good news, you ask? God has made you competent for the adventure wherever you live. In your place of community. Where all the people are.â€‹