Bursting the Christian Bubble

Scott Bane

14 June 2007

scottpettinglion.jpgI read something not long ago that I instantly bristled over. “Most Christians are so far out of touch with the world around them that they know little of its fears, problems, concerns, or issues” (Conspiracy of Kindness. 2003, p. 233). I know those words are true. For nearly 10-years I existed in an entirely Christian bubble. When I left high school to attend “preacher school,” I left all my non-Christians friends behind.

Time and circumstances separated all of us. Then, even though I started my career in ministry in the same town as all my “old friends,” I made literally no effort to reconnect with them. If I am honest, I have to admit that I even avoided the few I did know where to find. Four years of Christians-only college almost six years of working on a church staff and hanging out exclusively with church people = completely out of touch with the pains of the world around me.

I was in graduate school when, for the first time since high school, I had genuine relationships with people who think and believe differently than I do. In fact, this is where I met my first, real atheist. My mind was blown to hear this very intelligent, very articulate, very biblically based deconstruction of every doctrine I hold dear. Did you realize that the majority of authentic atheists derive their belief, or lack thereof, from the Bible? I didn’t! What is my point? I had put myself so out of touch with a person who thinks this way that I had no frame of reference and no right to offer input into her life.

Let me put it another way: My Christian bubble had crippled me and put the life changing power of Jesus that abides within me absolutely out of reach to this person in dire need of an authentic God-encounter. I am not saying God could not reach her, but he couldn’t use me. Sure, I knew how to argue with her. I learned that in college. I knew how to cop an “I’m better than you” attitude with her. I learned that from years of church experience, but how do you actually reach a person like this? How do I take the shackles off the Holy Spirit, who lives within me, and who desires to heal hurts and bridge the gaps that have driven people from the Lord?

In asking God these questions, the verse that lodged in my mind was Galatians 6:1. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (NKJV). This verse is communicating that my level of usefulness in helping people relates directly to my ability to approach those people with a spirit of gentleness. The words “spirit of gentleness” are critical here. Gentleness is among the fruit of the Spirit. It is not a human quality.

Jesus says in Matthew 11, “learn from me, for I am gentle.” The sting of the quote above about being out of touch with the issues of the world around me is conviction. One of the first observations you can make about Jesus is that he surrounded himself, constantly, by people that did not yet know the Father.

I have come to appreciate the need to resist the Christian bubble. I cannot allow myself to cloister in Christians-only communities and therefore grow out of touch of the people around me. Repenting is the start of that resistance, but breaking the Christian bubble and forcing myself to see, hear and understand people that make me uncomfortable is really, what it takes to resist.

There is another powerful quote at the end of Conspiracy of Kindness. “An atmosphere of anointing, freshness, and vitality comes upon believers when they spend time with non-Christians.” Is it possible that
some of the frustrations you are facing right now could be overwhelmed and answered by breaking your Christian bubble?

I heard a great definition for “mercy” not long ago. Mercy is the willingness to understand all the circumstances that make a person think and behave the way they do. I have been guilty of observing a person’s actions and forming a judgment about the person. That is a lazy excuse to avoid the hard work of listening, understanding and attempting to forge a relationship.

Consider three introductory things that can break the bubble and open our hearts to a merciful, rather than judgmental, attitude toward people who do not yet know the Jesus.

1. Watch a wider variety of movies. A big part of the construction of a Christian bubble has to do with an extensive “do not watch” list of movies. The problem is that a great way to learn the way people think and why is by watching the lives of these broken, fallen, flawed and fictitious
characters. If you are uncomfortable being seen at “those kinds” of movies, get DVDs and watch them on your own.

2. Listen to a wider variety of music. Most of us are not very good at articulating our internal passions and feelings. You can learn a great deal about the inside of people by listening to the music that they relate to. We usually fall in love with songs that put words to our own thoughts, more musical variety means a window into more souls.

3. Volunteer in community service outside of church. We limit the variety of people we encounter when our only expression of service is within a church. A small amount of Internet searching about your community will uncover many service opportunities in nonprofit organizations focused on issues like the environment, treatment of animals, health care, education, social services and more.

Of course, it will not be instantly easy, and of course, we will find ourselves surrounded by people who rub us the wrong way. Enduring that mild suffering paves the way to rich, diverse relationships with people that need to know Jesus the way we know him. That is what we want, isn’t it?

Scott Bane is a pastor and teacher at CoastlandTampa in Tampa, Florida.

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