Today’s post is the latest in a series of guest posts centered around my church’s annual theme of “Healthy Hearts”. This month’s contributor is Caleb Borchers. His full bio is at the bottom of the post, but here’s a brief intro…
I met Caleb in classes at Harding School of Theology. At the time Caleb and Fran were considering church planting in New Zealand so we had a love of the southern hemisphere in common. I also discovered that Caleb was a bigger rugby fan than I was, but more importantly he loved God above all. I have great respect for Caleb and Fran’s commitment to serve God in New England, an area many churches dismiss as “unreceptive” to the Gospel. The post below gives a great insight into the heart required to share faith when you find yourself in the minority.
“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of”
Have you ever bought a new product of some kind and been smitten with it? Do you find yourself showing off that new cell phone a little too much? Or do you find yourself wearing that same new shirt at every social event you attend? Would your friends say that you just will not shut up about your new minivan? Sometimes we just get excited about the latest, coolest toy that we have purchased.
I will confess that I am often guilty of this sort of enthusiasm when it comes to my technological love: Macs. I’m generally enthralled with all things Apple. My MacBook has served me well for four years now, and I hope to get a few more years out of it. I have an iPhone and find it enables a lot of my ministry, particularly when I am on the road. My wife has an iPad she received as a Christmas Gift a few years back. I like to steal it. And if you give me the opportunity, I will tell you why I think these products are superior to other electronics. In my more cynical moments I will tell you why your computer freezes and is riddled with viruses, and mine never is. I’ll tell you why my tech runs faster and smoother than yours. Generally, I’ll be completely obnoxious.
The truth is, when our hearts are full of excitement and joy they naturally overflow in our words and actions. Jesus made this clear in a discussion he had with the teachers of the law. In Matthew 12:34 he says “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” or as some of us remember from the KJV, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Many of us have something on the tip of our tongues. I’ve discussed the latest consumer products, but maybe it’s the new TV show you love or book you’ve read. Maybe it’s the new baby you’ve had. Maybe it’s the political issue you think you should champion. Whatever it is, many of us have something that we are quick to speak about.
What does it say when the Good News isn’t close to the tip of our tongues? After all, it isn’t called the “Good News” for nothing. The Gospel should be this life altering message that shakes our foundations every morning. It should change our core and fill our hearts with hope. Yet the church spends millions of dollars and hours every year trying to get us educated enough or excited enough to share our faith. Many (most?) of us have so little experience in telling others about God’s work in the world. Even those of us who are capable evangelists tend to share a curriculum or tract more than the overflowing of our hearts.
My point here is not to create guilt. For far too much of my life I was caught in these cycles of guilt and guilt appeasement when it came to evangelism. I’d read a passage or hear a sermon about sharing faith and feel terrible that I hadn’t done so. So I’d try to find some sort of program or activity or class about the topic. At this point I’d feel the guilt subside. I mean, I took a class, what more do you want me to do? And so I would return to regular life and not think about it again until another conscience pricking moment. I am suspicious that I am not alone in this experience. Is this a helpful way for us to go about dealing with Jesus call to us in the Great Commission? I don’t think so.
Instead, I think we have to really look at heart transformation. We don’t have an evangelism problem in the church today, we have a heart problem. If the Good News was the “abundance of our hearts” it would also be on our tongues. Here are a couple of ways I think this problem manifests itself and ways to deal with those problems:
- We don’t really feel saved from anything. In his great book on evangelism “Just Walk Across the Room”, Bill Hybels suggests that everyone should have a simple before and after story of their life. This is who I was before Christ, and after Christ I am now this way. God has transformed my life. Hybels, who grew up in church, recognizes this activity is hard for those that grew up in church. That doesn’t make it any less necessary. We believe that everyone, even people that grew up around religion, have to convert. They have to put on Christ at baptism. And that baptism means something. What does it mean for you? How was your life changed? What has God given you by extending his grace? Can you formulate a simple explanation of how God has transformed you since you came to him in baptism? If we cannot put this into words, what can we really offer to others?
- We assume others are too lost. That isn’t a terribly biblical way to talk about things, is it? But we do it all the time. We do not talk to a co-worker or neighbor or fellow parent because “they wouldn’t be interested.” “They would never come to church.” “They would never study the Bible.” We have two problems here. The first is that we are saying “no” for someone else. How do we know unless we ask? Why are we an authority on how someone else thinks? The second one is the subtle arrogance we display in these comments. In effect we say, “I’m a good/smart/righteous/humble/etc enough person that I will listen to God’s call, but my neighbor is too pagan/evil/stupid/arrogant/etc to take up faith.”
A far more theologically accurate thought is, “If God could save me, surely he could save my neighbor!” If we, like Paul, accept that we are amongst the chief of sinners, then no one should be considered too far gone for God to reach.
- Our faith is of minimal importance to our life. The joy of knowing God is choked out by the joy or pain we have in our latest home improvement project or relationship or financial issue or whatever else is going on. We just have no space in our hearts for God. This is where spiritual disciplines like prayer and Scripture reading are important. They help clear out the space in our hearts, eliminating the junk.
A foundational text for our ministry in Rhode Island is the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. In that parable Jesus deals with some of these issues. The original guests did not understand the value of their invitation. Their hearts were too full of other things like their marriages or fields. In the end, the table is full of people that no one would expect to see at the table. God’s messengers are told not to overlook anyone, they do not stop themselves from inviting anyone. The master simply must have his table full, and will continue to search high and low for people to come, sit, and feast.
Much of our family’s life and ministry, for several years now, has been focused on how to share faith with those who do not yet believe. This great responsibility has no silver bullets. I cannot give you a book that will fix all of your problems and struggles in evangelism. Every situation is different. What we have learned is that the core element in our culture is that non-believers have to see Christians living out an excited, committed, authentic faith. On our part, that means living with a transformed heart. It means seeking God, asking him to mold us. It means submitting to him in prayer and the Word. A heart that knows what God has done appreciates his grace and Good News cannot help but overflow into the words on our lips.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
Caleb Borchers is the lead church planter at The Feast, a new Church of Christ in Providence RI. Caleb, his wife Fran, and his two daughters have been in Rhode Island for three years now, completing an apprenticeship with the Blackstone Valley Church of Christ in Cumberland before moving into Providence to plant a church. The main focus of the Borchers’ apprenticeship and ministry has been how to communicate the good news of Jesus to 21st century people with little or no exposure to Christianity.
Caleb grew up in Detroit MI. He has a BA from Harding University and an MDiv from the Harding School of Theology. Caleb is a big sports fan and has been a contributor on several rugby and sports blogs. The Feast is part of the Kairos Church Planting network, a group of men and women striving to plant new churches, in new places, for new people. You can bless Kairos’ work to reach new people by joining the Kairos Prayer Network at www.kairosprayer.org.