I have become a strong believer in the necessity for Christians to be willing to leave behind nearly everything that we have known so we can implant ourselves more fully within the context of the non-Christian culture which surrounds us. Often, as ‘churched’ Christians we really have little ability to truly differentiate that which is cultural and that which is genuinely Kingdom related. Whilst we remain firmly ensconced in our churches or Christian meetings, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, watching Christian movies and the like we often have little idea where non-believers are at, what they are thinking and what they truly believe. Most of what we know about them has come second hand to us.
In my desire to reach out to people in the gay scene, I can read lots of Christian literature about gay people, their political agenda, their problems etc and yet still have no real idea as to what really is going on for them. Likewise, whilst I remain in my Christian cocoon, it is easy to assume that the difficulties gay people might have with much of what I do and believe, is simply because of their lack of desire to submit to Jesus. I might actually find out in relationship and genuine conversation that some of the things that they do find difficult or offensive Jesus also would have found difficult and offensive. As outsiders they may well have a perspective that I need to hear and their eyes may well be open to blindness in me that I have simply accepted because it has been with me as long as I can remember and affirmed by all the others who share the same blindness.
Often hanging out in a non-Christian context with non-Christian people has forced me to constantly examine what I believe and why. I also have to truly ask whether certain things are indeed helpful in conveying the heart of God revealed in Christ or not. And whilst I might really appreciate listening to sermons on the end-times (I don’t), or discussing the deeper points of systematic theology do people in the gay scene or various other scenes spend their time wondering whether Barack Obama is indeed the anti-Christ or if Calvinism makes more sense than Armenianism. And whilst Jesus may indeed be an answer to questions that people are not asking, I certainly don’t want to be trying to answer questions that people are not asking.
I also find myself much more aware of the sort of language and words I use. Not only do I think about whether a word would be understood by people in the gay scene, but then I think as to whether such words need to be used even with other Christians. I want to be able to communicate as much as possible with language and concepts that are understood by all, believers and non-believers alike. Paul indicates similar regarding speaking in tongues in meetings and the need for interpretation or as he would suggest it is more preferable to prophesy that all can understand and respond.
Andrew Marin in his book, “Love is an Orientation” writes of a similar ministry to mine. “When I first started the Marin Foundation I realised that I could go to Christian churches, organisations and universities all day long, but if what I was saying had no impact with gays and lesbians, everything would be pointless. So then I stayed right in the middle of the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender) community.” Andrew writes that after two years of spending time in this community “When it finally became broadly known that I was an evangelical Christian, people didn’t reject me but rather started seeking me out with questions about God.”
Over the last few years as I have spent time seeking to share and walk with, love and listen to people outside my church context, I have come to realise how hungry many Australians are for God. They may think church is irrelevant and they may not always appreciate the Christian perspective, but given time and genuine relationship many people eventually open up concerning their search for something deeper than the narcissistic materialism on offer. Of course, most won’t come to a church to ask their questions and offer their thoughts, but if Christians make time to get to know them in a context where they are comfortable, it generally doesn’t take too much love, effort and listening for most to start opening up and asking more. I am almost sure that there is a biblical basis for this. Oh yes, come to think of it Jesus did leave heaven and spent time with sinners on earth, developing a reputation for being a friend of people in the wrong crowd.