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By Dan Baumgartner on
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Oct 04 in Musings
Jesus is the answer!  Yes!  But it is increasingly important for followers of Jesus to reflect on this: What is the question?  The culture we live in today is not the same as it was 100 years ago. Or 50. Or 25. Or 10. There is  a certain resistance to faith- and particularly to faith in Christ.  Some days it seems as though holding absolutely any belief is okay, as long as it is not believing in Jesus. Additionally, people in our culture often resist anything that feels cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all messages. We have done such a good job of affirming the utter uniqueness of every person and their opinions that “what is true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” is a standard response. Objective truth- or Truth- is scoffed at. It’s every person for themselves.
This context reminds me that we need to think carefully about how we proclaim the gospel. We need to pay attention to the questions that people are wrestling with, sometimes even helping them form those questions, before we propose an answer. Having a formula that speaks to the questions people were asking in 1950 may not be an effective way to share the gospel in 2018.
On Monday I biked through an industrial area near the LA River trail.  I noticed two identical signs facing opposite directions on the street winding past some decrepit warehouses. The signs said “Tracks Out of Service.”  I’ve seen similar signs before. It refers to places where there are old railroad tracks no longer being used. It’s a heads up to automobile drivers that they don’t have to worry about watching for trains.  The thing that caught my eye on Monday was...there were no railroad tracks anywhere in sight. Nowhere.  I circled back on my bike to take another pass- nope. No tracks anywhere, in service or out of service. Not within blocks. Maybe there had been a crossing long ago, but not today. No hint of it. So the signs were informing people about something that no longer existed. Totally irrelevant.
Jesus is the answer!  Always.  But knowing what question is being asked will give us a hint of how to connect the gospel.  For example, if someone does not believe in heaven or hell then telling them that accepting Jesus means they won’t go to hell is pretty irrelevant. It may be true, but it won’t be heard.  If another person struggles with why God allows evil and suffering in the world, then sharing about how happy a relationship with Jesus makes you feel might not be the best place to start a conversation about faith.
If knowing the questions pertinent to a person is an integral part of evangelism (sharing the good news) in our world today, how do we learn what those question are? The best way I know is to ask. We need to be careful listeners. If your conversation partner is consumed with politics, maybe noting that Jesus is neither Republican or Democrat is a good entre to further conversation. If your friend is lonely, then Jesus’ promises of always being with us are very relevant. In the end, all roads of conversation will eventually lead to the cross, the clearest expression of God’s deep love. But there might be a lot of questions to get through on the way there. Jesus is the answer! Yes. What’s the question?
See you soon,       
         Pastor Dan

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