I was culling through old emails and came across a message I sent to a couple of friends back in January. Remembering the nature of the email, I chose the link and re-read an article in the London Times by atheist journalist Matthew Parris. Read the article here http://bit.ly/K4j9E.
Parris' comments should send aftershocks of awareness through us as believers. For an atheist to recognize the influence of the gospel taking place on the African continent is amazing. Read this excerpt from Parris' article:
"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."
Yes, this guy is an atheist.
Missiologists often use the term "lift" when speaking of the gospel's impact on a culture. Missiologists have observed that when the gospel begins spreading through a community, the community eventually begins to experience "lift". Life gets better. Living conditions improve. Morality and ethics begin an upward climb. In essence, because the gospel means "good news", this good news draws out the best from Christ's followers. Parris has observed this link too. More than education, health, government (or non-government) programs, the gospel itself improves life on this planet for saved and unsaved alike. Lift is not immediate and it's not easy, but the influence of the gospel on society is remarkably noticeable, even to a skeptic. Another excerpt from Parris' article:
"Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open."
There is a missional parallel to this mission work. Throughout Parris' article, the countenance and attitude of Christians has a tremendous impact on the society… and on Parris! As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity for incredible impact in our society, but we must remember that society will not come to us. African Christians do not huddle in monastaries, they live their faith in the secular arena where it can be seen, heard… and felt. It is dangerous to be a Christian in many parts of Africa. But African Christians are salt and light in their communities, and lost people are taking notice. Followers of Christ in America could learn from the example of our African brothers and move beyond our pews and stained glass, and live our faith in front of the people and broken glass in our society.
We don't have to wait for a vote, or a Great Commission Resurgence, or an approving nod from our pastor to spread gospel light in our neighborhoods. The spiritual movement of God in America we are praying for starts with you and me. Our little group of believers we gather with in a home or in a Sunday School class are an essential ingredient for bringing the gospel "lift" to our communities. You and I can not control what happens in board rooms, but we can help direct the focus and efforts of our small communities and ourselves to be ambassadors of Christ that shine in the community as well as the church.
The atheists are watching…