Would you accept more hostility toward the gospel if it meant more openness to the gospel?
A friend in Scotland recently told me that the hostility his very secular country is exhibiting toward Christianity is being countered by a flood of genuine interest in the gospel. “It’s never been so hostile here,” he said. “But never more open either.”
So there’s the question. Would you trade some comfort for some conversation? Would you swap some ease for more evangelism?
Future Is Speaking
Scotland is about 10 years ahead of places such as Australia and the United States in terms of secularism, so in a sense that’s the future speaking to us today. The hostility is coming; we’ve seen that already. A few are experiencing it even now.
There’s a positive glee among some, especially political elites—a sense of schadenfreude (pleasure derived from another’s misfortune)—when Christianity takes a battering. There’s a feeling that we’ve had things our way for too long, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
And have you seen the anti-Christian vitriol on social media? I have plenty of believing friends who are laying low, hoping for a time when the hostility settles down and an openness to the gospel returns.
Yet here’s the thing: Openness has returned, and it might be because of the hostility, not in spite of it.
Evangelists, churches, and student groups on campuses are reporting an upsurge in gospel interest from people searching for something, anything, that might provide a sense of purpose in a world. And there’s something exciting about that. And something we should have picked up on earlier—if we’d had our theological antennae up, and if we’d stopped being so busy trying to make ourselves comfortable.
Which Would You Pick?
The right to choose just about anything has never been so readily available, and yet it’s not working for many people. They’re pulling the levers, pushing the buttons, and coming up with record levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
The reason seems clear. The goal or telos of choice in the West has been reduced to the right to choose. Period. And choice as a goal cannot bear any existential weight. What to choose, now that you have unfettered choice, seems almost beyond people. Meaning and purpose are largely absent, and choice-as-the-end-game collapses the weight of reality.
Work is a keen example. Millennials are struggling to find meaning in their work, at least enough meaning to sustain them throughout life. In fact, Australian author Simon Kuestenmacher attributes much of the blame to the decline of religion: “We must stop our obsession with happiness and satisfaction in the here and now,” he writes.
Yet if the here and now is all we’ve got when we suck religion and the transcendent out of the equation, what’s next? The here and now was supposed to provide a strong enough platform to build meaning and purpose. But it’s not. Our Christian faith tells us we shouldn’t be surprised.
This brings me back to the original observation by my Scottish friend: Never more hostile, but never more open.
Would you be willing to put up with a bit more pushback if it meant more gospel fruit?
Would you be willing to put up with a bit more pushback if it meant more gospel fruit? We complain about how little gospel fruit we see, yet tend to balk when we hear a solution like that. If the heat gets turned up a bit, and we see an increase in the number of people willing to give us a hearing, would we be willing to pay that cost? After all, it’s a mere trifle compared to the hostility our brothers and sisters are experiencing around the world.
I’ve met several non-Christians who are baffled by how “chill” and settled the Christians they meet actually are, in contrast to their expectations. And that’s not just older believers; it’s also young arts students, who seem the least likely cohort. These unbelievers find this humility attractive.
So which would you pick? Less hostility but less openness, or more hostility and more openness? Of course, no hostility and total openness would be fantastic. But you don’t find that anywhere in the Bible or in ministry—not if you’re being faithful. So the question remains: Are you willing to suffer for more gospel opportunities?