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The growing racial tension in the world today is very concerning. At least that is what a diverse group of pastors and Christian leaders in Springfield Ohio believe and have been meeting together to address. They call the group Simunye, which in the Zulu language means “we are one” and are hosting a public gathering on January 19th featuring Dr. Charles Ware. Ware is the co-author with Ken Ham on the book “One Race One Blood”. This is your opportunity to celebrate Christian unity and learn more about what you can do to increase peace and harmony locally.
Member Eli Williams stated, “because there is so much hate in the world, the group’s official mission is to stimulate local churches toward biblically healthy multiethnic relationships”. Their purpose is to glorify God by loving all peoples and encouraging others to do the same. “We envision churches modeling God’s vision for peace, oneness, and biblical unity” agreed Earnest Brown and Bobby Hile, senior pastors of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and Southgate Church respectively.
Celebrate Simunye! will be held at Southgate Church 2111 S. Center Blvd. in Springfield, Ohio on Saturday, January 19th from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. Admission is free and will include selections from a multi-church choir, the premiere of Simunye’s introductory video and an inspirational message from Dr. Charles Ware from Indianapolis, Indiana who serves as a consultant on racial reconciliation and leadership. Dr. Ware is president emeritus of Crossroads Bible College, which is dedicated to training Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world for Christ.
I have lost 35 pounds since Memorial Day, thanks in large part to Nutrisystem.
I don’t normally start conversations that way…or blog posts, for that matter. I don’t want to brag on myself or make a big deal of it, and honestly, taking any sort of credit for losing weight I shouldn’t have gained to begin with seems a little backward to me!
Still, the conversation topic has come up again and again without me bringing it up, especially since returning from my sabbatical in August. Do you know why? My Nutrisystem diet (well, that plus making a conscious attempt to not eat ice cream on every day that ends with ‘Y’ :) has made a difference in my life. A big difference. A noticeable difference. A visible difference.
Because of that, people ask me. “Have you been losing weight?” It’s funny, since that’s one of those questions that no one wants to ask, ever. Something about the fact that bringing it up A. implies that the person needed to lose weight previously and B. goes out on a limb to test one’s powers of observation. Let’s face it - if you asked “Hey, have you been losing weight?” and I were to reply with “I’m actually up 7.4 pounds this week, but thanks for asking!”, the conversation derails rather quickly.
Still, people have continued to ask THE question, no matter its potential awkwardness, most likely because the difference is so profound that they’re confident in the answer. And, of course, when asked, I’m happy to share that, yes, I have in fact been losing weight. Yes, it does make me feel better. For instance, I enjoy being able to tie my shoes without having to sit down. (Although, I don’t enjoy the cost of buying a new wardrobe so my clothes won’t fall off…but I did bring this problem on myself and have no room to complain!) Anyway, moving right along…
What’s the immediate follow-up question? “So, how have you been doing it?”** People want to know the secret, the strategy, or the system. Why? Yes, they want to be excited for me in my positive life change, but there also usually seems to be a little voice in the back of someone’s head that says “Hey, if he found something that worked for him, maybe I could give it a try!”, right?
I don’t quite remember: Is “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s UPS box full of frozen food” in the Ten Commandments or not?
**[If you’re really curious for the answer to the ‘how’ question, I could go on and on explaining that Nutrisystem provided a way for me to eat food I don’t hate and do a better job with portion size and all that. However, that really has nothing to do with the purpose of this blog, which is NOT a paid advertisement for my weight loss plan…]
Here’s the thing, though: It’s been so much easier for me to talk about Nutrisystem over the last month than it has been for me to share my faith. It’s much more comfortable for me to discuss calories than to bring up Christ. It’s far less nervewracking to talk about my new favorite lunch than it is to share about my new favorite Bible passage.
And I find that very convicting. I’m not at all trying to cheapen the most important message in the world by saying “Let’s go tell stories about our ‘Jesus diet,’” but I do want to try and live each day in a way that I’m looking for intentional gospel conversations, and I know I fall short on a regular basis.
What would it look like if I was really comfortable sharing about the faith that has made such a difference in my eternal life, just as often or as easily as the weight loss model that has made a difference in my physical life? If the stakes of the Great Commission are life-or-death high (and I believe they are), how can I be content to live a day or a week where no one really even knows if I’m a Christian or not?
Or, an even more challenging question: What would it take for my walk with Christ to impact my speech, my actions, my attitude in such a way that people can’t help but ask me what the reason is because the difference between a follower of Christ and the world around him is so stark and pronounced? Is it possible as a living, breathing temple of God (what Matt preached about Sunday) to represent my Savior in such a way that people are begging me for ‘the secret ingredient?’ (Spoiler: Yes, it is.)
If God is really working in Springfield, Ohio in September 2018 - and I firmly believe that He is - people are going to notice. They’re going to have questions. And I want to be “always prepared to give an answer”, as 1 Peter 3:15 says. Take time to read that verse.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
My life should be a series of conversations where I get to (with gentleness and respect) give a reason for the hope that is in me. And Peter assumes that people are going to ask!
When Peter wrote 1 Peter 3:15, it didn’t come out of left field. This disciple had struggled with boldness for Christ earlier in his life (remember the rooster?), but he kept growing and changing. Check out the Peter we see described in Acts 4:
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Can my friends, neighbors, and social media connections tell that I have been with Jesus?
Is my gospel change as obvious as my Nutrisystem change?
Am I following Christ in such a way that people can’t help but ask me about the greatest story ever told?
I hope I get to find out. Pray with me that I will.
(Now where’s that turbo probiotic milkshake?)
P.S. If you’re reading this and you don’t know the greatest story ever told, check out this video. And then shoot me a note on social media at @CBCSpringfield. Let’s talk about it!