Beyond the Bubble

My freshman year of college at the University of Georgia brought a world unlike any other. I was living on my own for the first time in a high-rise dorm with 1,000 other UGA students and I came in wide-eyed and excited. My freshman year was spent like typical college freshmen: long hours in the dining halls, Cookout trips at 2 a.m. with my best friends, and ministry nights several times a week. My friends loved going to church gatherings; in fact, by the time the second semester rolled around, we were going to three or four different events Monday through Thursday. It was different from what I had experienced back home. Not better or worse; just unique. Each week normally involved a freshmen service on Monday, a worship night on Tuesday, another service on Wednesday night, and a house church led by two seniors on Thursday night. By the end of each night, we were exhausted and possibly a little burned out, but still curious for what more our university had to offer us. 

It sounds overwhelming, and it was, but we soaked it up like sponges. I do not think it would have been sustainable in the long run; but, for that second semester, it was right where we needed to be. Looking back on it all, it is obvious the Lord used freshman year for me to get to know Him and fall in love with Him. I did not know it at the time, but I was investing in something greater than any stock or bond; I was investing in my relationship with the Lord.  

In my eyes, the term “college” took on a whole new meaning. It was full of hope and determination, a place where the Lord was really moving and working in all our lives. After freshman year, I continued to stay involved in Wesley and became a freshman small group leader my sophomore and junior years of college. Most of my friends were those I had met my freshman year through the various Christian activities we attended. While it was fantastic to be surrounded by a community and close friends to build me up, encourage me in the Word, and hold me accountable, I could not help but feel that I was going to a very different UGA than most students.

Inside the Bubble

It felt as if there were two universities: one full of those seeking the Lord and one full of those there to have a good time. They are so separated that one does not even know the other exists. While the Christian community built each other up and created a community full of love, encouragement, and accountability, it was closed off to the rest of UGA. Regarding the term “closed off,” all the ministry events and small groups are open to everyone; it just ends up being the same groups of people that go to most of the events. I have seen how most (myself included) have sat with the same group of friends every Wednesday night since freshman year. We found our solid Christian friends in the first year of school and check! We can cross that to-do item off of the list!

While it is important to be grounded in strong Christian friendships and community, we were never meant to stay in the “bubble.” The community is an essential part of being a Christian and it encourages us in a way that could not be reached on our own, but believers can not stay in our comfort zones. We are called to leave the bubble every once in a while and serve those who do not know the Lord as we do. While this specific example only discussed one university, this aspect can be applied to almost every part of life. 

Beyond the Bubble

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two of his followers and He gives them instructions. It reads:

After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or scandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” – Luke 10:1-4

Jesus is urging us to get out of our comfort zone and serve those who are different from us. How is this done practically? 

1. We can not go alone. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two. Our community is built for a reason and it is biblical that we have each other to encourage and uplift us. 

2. James 3:18 says:

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:18

We should not force anything onto anyone; but instead, we should come from a heart of peace, patience, and kindness for others.

3. People should not become our projects. We were never called to analyze the “progress” of someone’s faith journey, but we are called to show up, serve, and know that the Lord is the real one behind the scenes working in their hearts. John 15:5 reminds us this when the Lord says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

We do not need to carry the burden of people’s salvation on our shoulders because it is not ours to bear. It is the Lord’s work that is doing the real change in people’s hearts. 

4. When our hearts are aligned with God’s purpose, the details will happen naturally. I used to get so nervous about bringing up what the pastor discussed in church that Sunday to my friends who didn’t attend church. I noticed that when I tried to force a point of the sermon into the conversation, it felt unnatural and awkward. But, when I asked for the Holy Spirit to guide me and entered every conversation with a desire for God’s will, conversations that discussed faith became more natural. 

Above all, one of the most important points to remember is that the Lord is the one behind all good things. No matter how hard we are praying for someone, the Lord is fighting for them so much more than we can imagine. It will become a joy and an honor to work alongside Him all for His glory. 

Episode 14// Why does the Equality Act matter?

Currently, the Equality Act is a hot topic as the chambers of Congress are reviewing and voting on whether to pass the bill. In this Q&A session, Anna Claire and Renee discuss why this Act is vital to Republicans and Democrats, and hope that through this, listeners can decide which parts of the bill they support, as well as finding a balance between acceptance and freedom to disagree. Although the Equality Act is being widely discussed now, different versions of the bill have been introduced several times in Congress and were even passed in the House of Representatives in 2019. However, the ruling of Bostock v. Clayton County in June of 2020, has changed many people’s perspectives on the Equality Act. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the protections guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, also extended to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. In February of 2021, the Equality Act was passed through the House of Representatives and is currently waiting to be voted on in the Senate, where the chance of a filibuster is highly likely. 

 

The Equality Act is founded on the 1964 Civil Rights Act which stipulates all people shall not face discrimination or segregation on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Equality Act would include adding the phrase, “sexual orinetation or gender identity” after the word “sex”. Democrats argue that anyone in the LGBTQ+ community should have equal rights as heterosexual and cisgender people. By passing the Equality Act, discrimination in places such as resturaunts, senior centers, stores, health care facilities, and government office would be ilegal. Forms of discrimination include denial of entry, unequal or unfair treatment, harassment, and violence.

 

On the other side, the Republican party disagrees with legally making preferred sexual orientation the same as biological sex. Republicans argue sexual orientation should not be protected by the law, because it conflicts the right to freedom of religion. If the Equality Act is passed, doctors will be forced to perform gender transformation surgeries, even if it is against their religion. It would also require public and private schools to teach students about the LGBTQ+ community. This has led to concerns about citizens being held to a law that requires them to go against their religion. 

 

Though the Equality Act can appear daunting and complex, it is important to let listeners decide which aspects of the Act they agree and disagree with. Tune into Episode 14 on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts to hear the whole conversation. If you’re a fan, please rate the podcast, and leave a review!

 

More resources to further understand the Equality Act:

 

“The Equality Act: How Could Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Laws Affect You?” by Heritage Foundation (Conservative)

https://www.heritage.org/gender/heritage-explains/the-equality-act 

 

“Commentary: The Equality Act and how it could affect churches, religious organizations” by John Litzler (Conservative) 

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/other-opinions/commentary-the-equality-act-and-how-it-could-affect-churches-religious-organizations/

 

“The Equality Act” by Human Rights Campaign (Progressive)

https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-equality-act 

 

Video: “The Federal Fairness for All Act” by AND Campaign

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW0rPHHoZLM 

 

“The End of Women’s Sports” by Selina Soule

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BuV-s1SYLk 

 

The Great Commission: Our Greatest Mission

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. –
Matthew 28: 19-20

The Lord answers prayers in the most curious ways as was recently shown me as I found myself having a philosophical debate with a stranger at two in the morning.

After making a small comment about God, this stranger told me that he was agnostic, if not atheist, and I could imagine the Lord laughing at me up in heaven. This was what I had been praying for, so I took full advantage of my new friend’s openness and asked as many questions as I could think.

My intentions with my research and this conversation as a whole were to grasp a deeper understanding of agnostic and atheist beliefs, so that I could be prepared to minister to a non-believer in the future or help somebody else do the same.

As Christians, we are called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt.28:19-20). It is the epitome of the instructions the Lord gave to us and our primary duty while on earth. However, too often we confine ourselves to make disciples of our own nation, limiting ourselves to the small circle of Christianity with which we are familiar. While this is certainly not the case for all believers, it has become a consistent issue among far too many, including myself.

Growing up in the Bible Belt of the south, attending a Christian school, and visiting church biweekly, I have always been surrounded by like-minded believers. My exposure to those who openly refuse the Gospel, or who are unaware of Christ, has been limited at best and is practically non-existent. While I have always seen this as a blessing, a fortress sheltering me from the corruption of a godless world, the Lord has recently opened my eyes and shown me that my shelter is less of a shade tree and more of a storm cellar, keeping me ignorant of the world around me and leaving me with a heavy question. How can I introduce people to God if I only discuss Him with those who are already familiar with the gospel?

The honest answer to this question is that there is no answer. I cannot speak Truth to non-believers by speaking truth to my small circle of believers because my circle will only continue to dwindle. However, I have recently learned that the more willing to listen, I become the more willing I am to speak about God becomes. He has recently presented me with countless opportunities to examine the philosophies of non-believers to prepare myself to minister in the future.

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. – 1 Peter 3:15

It is for this reason that I jumped head first into research about atheism, looking to understand all outlets of unbelief.

The most consistent issue with Christian faith that I have come across in my readings is the idea of a Christian superiority complex that is rooted in pride. I discovered several reddit threads saying that Christianity was selfish and looked down on non-believers. There were comments such as the issue with Christianity is “claiming humility while bragging that you’re in telepathic communication with the creator of the universe” or saying that Christians thank God when tragedy strikes someone else because, as a result, they escape it themselves (Reddit).

Being raised in the Christian mindset, I am unable to respond objectively to these comments, so I asked this agnostic stranger for his opinion on my findings. This friend told me that the pride issue goes both ways, and is not necessarily tied to Christianity itself, but rather religion as a whole. He said that Christian pride is less of an “I am better than you” mindset and more along the lines of “I feel bad for you because you do not share my faith”.

This approach not only emphasizes the separation of religious and non-religious individuals, but actually encourages the segregation by belittling the non-believer into a place where they are even less willing to explore faith. On the other end of the spectrum, the non-believers are suffering from a pride issue as well. My agnostic friend presented it to me in this way: when you do not believe in a higher power, you are the highest power in your own life. Therefore, when it is illuminated that there is a greater being, it is like saying that you, the non-believer, are lesser. Since no one enjoys being demoted, this is a hard pill to swallow. Furthermore, the entirety of their belief system would be changed, and the foundation they had paved for themselves would crumble under the weight of faith. This is enough to make a person want to reject the Gospel, especially partnered with the idea that their actions may be in direct opposition to what is right according to the Word.

Due to these factors, effectively communicating among mixed beliefs becomes even more difficult. To confess an unwanted opinion to any individual of any belief, the ideas must be introduced delicately, with gentleness and respect, as 1 Peter says, especially when the belief carries as heavy a significance as eternal salvation. From my research, I have deduced three fatal flaws in the process of sharing our faith.

Pride Corrupts Perception

The first is the idea of pride: being prideful and believing in self-righteousness directly translates to looking down on someone in disagreement. Going into any conversation with preconceived ideas of another person’s character based on their beliefs is a sure-fire way to deteriorate the discussion before it even begins. Instead, what we must do is pray and ask God that we are gentle and considerate in our words, and we must also establish a level of respect as the base layer of the relationship.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:6

For example, if you were to meet an agnostic believer and wanted to commit to a conversation about the Lord, it would be appropriate to first acknowledge to yourself that you are not God and cannot change the hearts of men. What you can do, however, is be His voice for a moment and speak His unbiased truth, evading incorporating your own. After all, Christ died for all people, not just those who believe; God loves His children even if they do not love Him in return. Furthermore, it is easy for pride to cloud our judgment and make us question why an individual would be hesitant to accept faith at all. We often assume they are either ignorant of the Truth and will convert by purely hearing the good news, or that they have evil in their hearts and therefore refuse the Gospel. Having these initial thoughts of ignorance or corruption further fuel religious pride and make it that much more difficult to effectively communicate God’s word.

Forced Faith is not True Belief

The second flaw is that of forcing one’s spirituality onto someone else. Real, unfiltered faith is a personal and intimate concept. It cannot be transferred by force, but rather accepted by diligence and thorough teachings. I do confess that sometimes repetition can be effective in bringing an individual into a church, but when presenting the idea of faith to someone who is unfamiliar, hounding only turns them off more. Rather, we ought to lay out the facts and theology of Christ and pray that the individual comes to accept faith in their own time. The key to this process is to find common ground with the non-believer to ignite a spark that can lead to a flame of faith. This is easier said than done and may seem virtually impossible because as Christians we are taught that our identity is in Christ as we die to Him.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Since we find our identity in God, how are we supposed to find commonalities with the godless? This is where personal preference comes in: yes, we are part of the body of Christ, but God did make us all unique from each other with different gifts and tastes. Despite the fundamental differences in spirit, there are surface level agreements that can be shared. Plus, going a step further, there may be a common agreement in believing in good and evil, even if the non-believer does not state it to be of, or not of, God. Once we find common ground, we can convey our opposing views in a manner that communicates safety and comfort.

There is No Cookie-Cutter Christian

The third issue with miscommunicated disciple-making is the divide between religion and spirituality because they are often confined into a single thought despite being radically different. Speaking to my agnostic friend about church, I discovered that he has learned by example. So what happens when the portrayed examples show the worst part of the church? The idea that you have to verbally confess your sins to a priest or the thought of a checklist of Christian values to mark off, cannot embody the grandiosity to faith itself. This idea of tasks to gain glory is not limited to Christianity, and in fact, is actually excluded by Christianity alone. Christianity is the only religion in which you are born into grace, and do not have to earn your position, as Philippians 3:20 quotes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. However, the Word is often taken out of context, and creates the illusion of moral high ground. Since the Church is made up of people and people are sinners, it is easy for corruption to enter into a place of sanctity and discourage true peace among opposition. Therefore, it would be easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the Bible to view salvation as something that is granted to the “most holy” or most godlike people.

Christian faith is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on a cross to save us from paying the price of our sins. Religion is a way to categorize that faith and to make it fit certain preferences. For example, I grew up in the Church of Christ and there was never an instrument played in the church; however, I am now Baptist and love to worship with a guitar. This does not mean that I changed my core beliefs or that one of these denominations is wrong. Religion is important and church is vital, but real belief must be at the center of it all. We must truly commit to God Himself rather than how we think we ought to praise to Him. The idea of religion can be overwhelming and exclusive to non-believers, which is the opposite of how God calls us to be.

While the barriers between faith and disbelief cast a daunting shadow on disciple making, we are not left hopeless and we can still press on to share the good news among all nations. The Great Commission is our greatest mission. We must take action, bearing in mind that true faith takes practice and patience because our relationship with the Lord is a real relationship and will suffer if it is not tended to. Atheists are not in communication with the Lord, so they neglect their relationship and it consequently suffers. As said in James 2:3, “You do not have because you do not ask God”, we must keep this verse on our hearts as we attempt to do the work of God and bring others to Him. Using prayer and Scripture, fervently working on our own faith, we will be successful in our missions to go and make disciples of all nations.

Works cited
“r/Atheism.” Reddit, www.reddit.com/r/atheism/.
Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2005.

Praying Together During Inauguration Week

We all thought 2021 would hold promise for better days after a year marked by fear and aggression, but it has already failed to be the “hope” for which the world longs. After a couple of jaw-dropping weeks, Inauguration Day is upon us. Sadly, the 2020 election left even Christians, our families, and our churches more divided than ever before. Even for those whose preferred candidate won, many Christians can look back and acknowledge great distraction and misplaced loyalty. Going forward, let us turn away from our sin that causes us to place winning over loving our brothers and sisters. One thing I am noticing is that watching or reading news updates makes me long for Heaven even more, so I know that the current political climate opens an opportunity to share the real hope of Christ. In order to display our hope in Jesus, and not the false hope in this world, let us pray together and allow God to soften and reset our hardened hearts with reminders of His authority, love, and trustworthiness.

Scripture holds counsel for every situation! The instructions for believers in Ephesians 6:10-18 remind us 1) who our enemy is, 2) where our strength lies, and 3) why prayer is essential to church unity.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesian 6:10-18

Father, it seems your people can never see eye to eye on issues in the public sphere. Help us unite around what is most important and true– your name and your mighty power. My flesh desires to be right and to win, and even my best intentions to stand up for righteousness and condemn evil can be twisted, resulting in seeing my brothers and sisters as enemies or less-than-human. Condemnation, division, and violence is not what you want, but it fits perfectly into “the devil’s schemes.” I plead that we would keep our eyes on the real battle, which is not of this world.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:13-17

You, Lord Jesus, provide all I need to engage in the spiritual battle happening around me. You know the pain and evil that this world holds. You lived here and felt every emotion and challenge I feel, yet you responded without sin. Instill in me your Word and help me stay tethered to it. You have declared me righteous through your Son’s blood. Teach me to daily accept your gift of salvation and live in freedom rather than condemnation. Fit me for opportunities to serve, love, and tell of your goodness, moved by the urgency of your gospel. Secure my faith, may it become the shield in which I trust rather than the false refuge of a political party or social movement. Help me identify flaming arrows disguised as distractions. With the helmet of salvation mark me as uniquely yours because at the moment you saved me, I was born again into your family (2 Corinthians 5:17). Teach me how to use the sword of the Spirit by revealing to me specific pieces of Scripture that contradict what the world is telling me.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18

Keep me close to you in prayer. Motivate me to establish rhythms of prayer that replace rhythms of turning to social media for answers. In you I find true peace, perspective, and purpose. Unify the Church around what matters most: our faith in you. Then move us to pray and work on behalf of brothers and sisters. Keep me alert not only to the needs of people within my country, but especially brothers and sisters around the world, who you know are suffering persecution. Thank you for softening my heart towards others through your love, even those with whom I disagree. May I have a selfless posture of prayer rather than a defensive stance of pride.

When the fallen world acts, well, fallen, we as Christians can step into the raging unseen battle through prayer. Only a relationship with Christ can transform us into people who are overflowing with hope and respect for others. The stark contrast between popular behavior and the example of Jesus, offers an opportunity for believers to stand out, so let us start with prayer and practice following Christ’s radical example during this inauguration week.