No Offense, but ...

Anytime I hear that phrase, I know I’m about to have the opportunity to be offended or, I just was! That little phrase only gets the person who said it off the hook and puts the responsibility all on the listener.

Face it: WE DON’T WANT TO OFFEND ANYONE OR BE OFFENDED... or, at least, we shouldn't.

Christians are often viewed as people who are easily offended. They are offended by the language people use, their lifestyles choices, and the values they proclaim.

In response, those who do not follow Jesus have often defined themselves by what they are not offended by.

The result is a world divided into the offended and the not offended.

But the gospel is not about being offended. It is about being compelled to action.

Not the kind of action that leads to protests and boycotts. The kind of action that leads to restoration and renewal.

With this in mind, please allow me to share with you “how to present Christ in our intellectual, socially advance, culturally relevant world.” Open your Bible app to Acts 17!

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. Acts 17:16

Paul visits the most intellectually advanced city in the world. And, yet, with all of their knowledge, his heart breaks and spirit is compelled because of all of the things that they choose to worship!

Q: How do we maximize the opportunity and minimize the offense?

A1: Know & Love those you’re called to reach

So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. v. 22-23a

First and foremost Paul understood to whom he was speaking. It’s so important to know your audience. While the content of the message must never vary, if you are preaching to Kenyan farmers you will approach the gospel one way, and if you are speaking to wall street financiers, you will approach it another way. How you approach your audience depends upon who they are, and you know that by observation. And, the Holy Spirit knows them too - inside/out - He will give creative insight and bring Scriptures (you have studied) to the surface as needed.

Paul was in Athens, he was among philosophers, educated people who thought they knew more than they did, he knew them to be religious and that's where he began.

A2: Appeal to the Heart

He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there. v. 17

If you study Paul's missionary methods, you'll find that in nearly every city Paul preached, the first place he went was to the Jews. Why? Because, remember, Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. Jesus is the Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. Paul went to a place where he could find common ground. He preached to the Jews and to the God-fearing gentiles. He began with people who had a similar world view as he did. But then he took it to the market place, where those lost and, perhaps, clueless would be, and he dialogued with them. That's literally what the scripture says, he carried on a dialogue with them.

He listened to their questions, and he responded with God's answers.

There’s usually someone in the crowd, workplace, school or other setting that has a background in ‘God stuff’ - grew up going to Sunday School, have a grandma that preaches at them or prays for them, etc.

Look people in the eyes, with compassion, and you’ll see openings...

Remember: sharing the gospel is more than merely telling others what you know and believe, it is also taking the time to listen and answer their questions. Paul did both, but he did so from a position of understanding.

Pause, right now, and pray for “your world” — those in your community, schools, neighborhood. Have you taken the time to understand? Listen? Learn? Respect? Have you earned the right to be heard?

Allow the Holy Spirit to begin working IN you and preparing you for a greater purpose & influence with those in your “world.”

— take some time with this and then, when you’re ready read part 2 to this post.