Living in “The Bubble”
Many call it “The Bubble.” It’s where followers of Christ can find themselves living without even realizing it. Cloistered in a Christian subculture, life can get so busy you find yourself with little time to give to any relationships, let alone to friendships with people yet to embrace Jesus. Work, family, church, and if we can find time, leisure activities can fill our schedules to overflowing. This means we have few natural interactions with people yet to know Christ.
Many years ago, I was attending seminary and working as an apartment manager. I was spending lots of time studying and I was involved in church activities. A pastor friend, who worked with men in the community, invited me to go out to lunch with a group of men, some of whom were not yet followers of Christ. At this lunch, I watched believers engage in conversation with their friends about the things that mattered to them. They talked about cars, sports, finances, and their work. As I sat there, a disturbing thought erupted in my mind— I have absolutely nothing to add to this conversation. Being immersed in Scripture and hanging out with other believers in a seminary setting had brought me to the point of having little to add to a dialogue with the very people I longed to help.
Is it possible you have found yourself in a similar situation? A full life with many activities squeezing out friendships with the people in need of Jesus? So immersed in Christian community that you’ve forgotten Paul’s vision of 1 Corinthians 9?
There he describes a life that chooses to enter the world (as Jesus did) to become like them that they may know Christ:
“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Depth of Relationship
Another roadblock to making disciples is that many of us have not developed deep friendships with those yet to know Christ.
Several years ago, Pam and I began asking ourselves if we were on “the top five list” of any people that did not yet know Christ. Were there any not-yet-believing people who would consider us among the first they would call in a time of crisis? We were dismayed to realize that, beyond a few extended family members, we could think of none who counted us as close friends.
Followers of Jesus are often connected to people who are not following Christ, but without real friendships, we will have no recourse but to limit our efforts to premature gospel presentations and inviting people we hardly know to events. The gospel flows most naturally through genuine friendships.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus directs our attention to the kind of influence kingdom citizens are meant to have in the world: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-15 NIV). Salt is a preservative and light is a vanquisher of darkness. Both permeate the environments they are meant to influence. This describes the influence God intends for us as we live among those without the hope of the Gospel. The gospel of Jesus is best experienced up close and personal. As we move intentionally to develop meaningful friendships with those yet to know Christ, they will get close enough to see, experience, and hear the good news of Jesus.
Our identity as sent ones means that we overcome these roadblocks. If we want to be used by God to bring the good news of Christ to our world, we will become enegaged friends with those we seek to reach.