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"Connecting God’s Word to Our World"
by Tom Goodman
October 5, 2006

Our job at Hillcrest is to connect the word God spoke to the world God loves.  The longer we’re church leaders, the easier it gets to understand the word God spoke and the harder it gets to connect it to the world God loves.  Bill Hybels addresses this in his article, “Speaking to the Secular Mind” . . . .

Driving home from church one day, I pulled behind a guy on his Harley-Davidson.  I noticed a bumper sticker on the rear fender of his motorcycle, so I pulled closer.  It read: [EXPLETIVE] GUILT.
After the shock wore off, I was struck by how different his world was from the one I'd just left, and even from the world a generation ago.  In my day, we felt guilty, I thought.  Now, it's not only "I don't feel guilty," but "[Expletive] guilt."
There was a time when your word was a guarantee, when marriage was permanent, when ethics were assumed.  Not so very long ago, heaven and hell were unquestioned, and caring for the poor was an obvious part of what it meant to be a decent person.  Conspicuous consumption was frowned upon because it was conspicuous.  The label self-centered was to be avoided at all costs, because it said something horrendous about your character.
Today, all of that has changed.  Not only is it different, but people can hardly remember what the former days were like.
Many churches, however, still operate with the understanding that non-Christians are going to come through the doors, feel pretty much at home, understand the sovereignty of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and in one morning make a complete transition from a secular worldview.
If we're going to speak with integrity to secular men and women, we need to work through two critical areas.
The first is to understand the way they think.  If we're serious about reaching the non-Christian, most of us are going to have to take some giant steps.  Find authentic interest areas—tennis, golf, jogging, sailing, mechanical work, whatever—and pursue these in a totally secular realm.  Instead of joining a church league softball team, why not join a park district team?  Instead of working out in the church gym, shoot baskets at the YMCA.  On vacation, don't go to a Bible conference but to some state park where the guy in the next campsite is going to bring over his six-pack and sit at your picnic table.
The second prerequisite to effective preaching to non-Christians is that we like them.  Listen closely to sermons on the radio or television, and often you'll hear remarks about "those worldly secular people."  Unintentionally, these speakers distance themselves from the non-Christian listener; it's us against them.  I find myself wondering whether these preachers are convinced that lost people matter to God.  It's not a merciful, "Let's tell them we love them," but a ticked off "They're going to get what's coming to them."  These preachers forfeit their opportunity to speak to non-Christians because the unchurched person immediately senses, They don't like me.
Hybels continues the article by offering practical suggestions for connecting with the world we’re supposed to reach.  Since his article is aimed at those of us who preach, most of the suggestions apply to the pulpit: choose creative topics and titles that will catch the attention of those who need to discover God; be sure to explain why the Bible encourages certain actions and prohibits others; and along with the admonitions be sure to offer warmth, acceptance, a little humor, and encouragement.

All of us who lead Hillcrest have the job of connecting the gospel to those who need it.  But since I carry the lion’s share of that work as the pastor, pray for me!  Understand that everything I do in the pulpit—from the topics I choose to the illustrations I use to the way I explain things—I do it all to connect the word God spoke to the world God loves.  Invite your world to life!  Bring them with you to the Sunday morning studies at 9:30 and 10:45!  And read the rest of Hybels’ article when you get a chance.  Good stuff!


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