Yesterday while sitting in a coffeehouse that I go to often in Elizabethtown, I was reading the 1st Chapter of Mark and I came to these words, which are a reference to John the Baptist, "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." I began to think of my seminary studies in which I learned that when a King was going to be coming to a town they would set to work repairing the road for his arrival. They would fill in the holes, straighten out the rough sections, and do what we would call roadwork. They would prepare for the King's coming.
I began to think about our situation in our world in which the church and the term Christian have a horrible reputation. In the book UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons the top 6 things that people think about when asked about Christians and the church are: They are Hypocritical, Antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, judgemental, and that Christians are too concerned with converting people. All of us see that we definitely have some work to do in order to make a straight path. We have a lot of roadwork to do. We need to fill in the potholes, straightened out the areas which are crooked, and make the road more conducive to traveling.
How can we make straight paths when the culture believes that Christians are the 6 thing listed above? Here are some thoughts about how we can make straight paths. We need to engage the culture through service, love, and on their terms. We need to listen before we speak. We need to serve and bless people not because of any agenda other than the agenda of loving, blessing and serving them. Straightening the paths will take time and the road won't be straight right away but I believe if we begin living out the kingdom first, than it will be straightened. It will take a great deal amount of time, patience, trust and faith.
I was also talking with some leaders yesterday and we talked about starting with the kingdom and you'll end up with a church, but if you start with a church you might never build the kingdom. So connecting these two thoughts...if we seek to make straight paths we must first and foremost be about the work of the kingdom and not confuse it with the church. Can the church do the work of the kingdom..of course. Does it always...no. So let's work on building the kingdom first, straighten out the roads, and I believe the church will take care of itself.