Engagement, not extraction

Tim Schmoyer has an article discussing how a Christian should approach online gaming as a potential mission field. His suggestion is not to form a Christian group, but instead to join an existing group and be a Christian in it.

This is precisely the opposite of some of the extractional thinking we’re seeing. The church down the road advertises on their web site that soon they’ll be offering a “24/7 Christian Experience”. You’ll be able to work out, eat, do homework, play basketball and video games, apparently without ever meeting a non-Christian! I’m not at all sure this is what Jesus had in mind.

I know what you’re thinking! I’m the pot calling the kettle black because I homeschool! Let me explain the difference. The primary (and overwhelming) reason for us to homeschool is to spend more time with our children. Sure, there are other reasons too, but our goal is build our relationships with our children. We anticipate that the end result will be children who are properly prepared to engage with the world, not to find ways to avoid it. The kinds of relationships one can build at the gym, on the basketball court, at a cafe or the library are the very ones I believe Jesus wants us to cultivate, once we are equipped.

I spent several formative years associating mostly with like-minded believers, both at work and play. This helped me develop some (I hope) “Jesus lenses” through which I can view life around me. It prepared me for spending the rest of my life engaging the world, not running from it.

Of course, my Jesus lenses occasionally get fogged up, so I’m counting on my brothers and sisters to keep me honest.

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4 thoughts on “Engagement, not extraction”

  1. After being a ‘closet-christian’ for 20 yrs, I am praying I have the HS guided strength and words to engage non-christians now. I am keeping my eyes open to opportunities to share with those at work especially.

    But I also have been worried recently that I would slide back into the old person, a christian cocoon. I have 3 different small groups, church twice a week when NC is on, christian radio and almost 100% christian friends that I socialize with. It is safe and comforting to surround yourself with believers and there are good reasons to do that. But like you mention, there is a caution to consider.

    We must not lose sight of those who need to see what we have and share it with them. I hope I never hide my ‘Light’.

  2. Just this last week I’ve been reminded of the danger that cowboysfan rightly brings up. Hanging around non-Christians, especially in social contexts, puts us in a position of temptation that is unique.

    But we can’t be salt and light otherwise, can we? Does a meal that’s already salty need more salt? Does a bright room need to be brighter still? Are rhetorical questions tedious?

    Monasteries and convents were not a part of the early church (though there were such communities in place, I don’t think the NT mentions them). Even the recent mission focus at SWCC touches on this. While it’s beyond admirable, when it targets other countries and parts of the city that we enter and then exit in more ways than one, it can happen w/o touching the people right next door.

    Beyond the good done for the initial targets of a mission (orphans, homeless, etc.,) is the impact on people in the culture who can see something good taking place, something they may want to know more about. I think that’s a true salt and light function of missions.

  3. I’m a youth pastor and I often remind my students that they can either be the influencers or the influencees. Hanging out with unsaved people is encouraged, but don’t do it with a timid attitude like, “Oh man, I have to be so careful I don’t sin or give in to their influence.” The fact is, they’re not intentionally trying to influence you, so don’t assume the role of an influencee. Hang out with unsaved friends to intentionally influence them for Christ. Either you can follow the crowd or the crowd can follow you. Remaining confined to our little sub-culture of Christian friends doesn’t do the world any good at all.

  4. Here’s a question I’d like to hear some comment on, especially from Tim, or from others with Youth experience: Is every kid a leader? Can every kid be influential? Are there some kids who need to be protected from influence more than others? (And these qualifications might apply to adults just as well.)

    What do you think of influence being kind of like the sun- some people can be out in it all day with no problem, others are in trouble after just a few minutes. Precautions vary, then, depending on the individual being exposed to it.

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