I’m naturally a visual person, which means I tend to think in pictures. As I was thinking about the way the Church typically approaches outreach and evangelism, it struck me as, well, backward. And the picture of a funnel came to mind. Based on what I understand about Jesus’ ministry and the way the modern human functions relationally, I drew the “amazing” picture you see above. It depicts the way I think the Church ought to engage those in need of Jesus.
John 14:6 lays out the exclusivity of Jesus’ claim as Savior, for He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” If we take Jesus as His word, He is the truth. As we read throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit again and again as the guide to truth, which is found in Jesus. The Holy Spirit does what we cannot; He convicts and corrects on the deepest spiritual level, drawing people to Christ. While our words and actions may be effective, the conviction of the the Holy Spirit is a far greater motivator.
The description of the early Church is that of love, self-sacrifice, community, and fellowship as they grew in the truth of Christ. When we read Acts 2 and the description of the early Church, it isn’t their claim on truth that led to more being added to their number every day. Love was the wide-open access point. They sought to know Jesus (i.e. truth) through the Scriptures, the teachings of the apostles, and prayer in the context of the loving fellowship of the Church.
Somewhere, somehow, the funnel got flipped upside down. Instead of casting a wide net of love, the evangelical Church too often seeks to love only those who pass a “truth” test. Pass the test and your reward is love and acceptance; fail it, and you find yourself on the outside looking in. When Jesus went to Levi’s house and ate with all the “sinners,” He led with love so that they would have an opportunity to find truth. Had Jesus done it the other way, He’d be eating by Himself!
Hopefully, our churches are funnels of love, wherein all people are being drawn ever closer to the truth and life found in Christ. For those of us who have been in this process for any length of time, we know it can be challenging and even painful as the Holy Spirit points out our need for continued repentance and surrender. And it’s a different experience for each of us, so we ought not look across the funnel at others and condemn their journey to Jesus because it looks different than ours. Instead, we should rejoice that we’re on this journey toward Christlikeness together. Remember, the disciples had unfettered access to Jesus for three years and still struggled to get things right!
Love first and always. Trust the Holy Spirit to move in the lives of those seeking truth as you love, encourage, and guide them toward Jesus. When speaking, do so from deep humility and grace, because we are the recipients of much grace. If your convictions are rock-solid, use them to build bridges, rather than barriers. Learn to listen to the stories of others and learn from their stories. This is the beauty of the Church, that we have been loved into the Kingdom and are being guided into truth, not so that we can guard the door, but so we can help others find Jesus, too.