Here are 6 ways we try to engage the culture and change the world, but guarantee that we’ll lose our neighbor in the process.
1. Aggressive Facebook posting.
We’re passionate about politics, or maybe we like to defend the rights of the unborn. So we take to Facebook and we let everyone know it.
When we beat the same drum over and over again, and it's polemical speech—typically, we sound like a clanging gong to people and they just shut us off. The mute or unfollow button is applied to us, and we’ve lost any chance of reaching our neighbor.
2. Obsessing over national politics at the expense of our local community.
Jesus is not an American. He never was an American, and frankly, he doesn’t care as much as we think he does about American politics.
Jesus cares just as much for our political climate as he does for Nigeria, Korea, Russia, or Germany. Identity politics is harmful to the mission of the church. A Christian can be a Democrat or a Republican (or third party), and there are both good and bad reasons for joining either party.
Most of the time, the best way to make this known is by tangible involvement in the local community—across as many levels as you are humanly able. Win our neighbors there, or lose them in a sweeping national conversation that has become overly polarized.
3. Evangelizing on social media.
Posting on social media to convert others is another way to lose our neighbor. Sharing endless Christianized memes and quotes from our favorite celebrity preacher are not substitutes for doing actual evangelism—or cultivating genuine relationships with other not like-minded people.
Most of the time, nobody is seeing them anyway except those who already agree with us. The Facebook algorithms, and hide or unfollow feature will make sure of that.
Facebook evangelism is not real evangelism. We’re usually not talking to anybody but ourselves.
4. Dropping the name of Jesus into work conversations when we weren’t asked.
Ignoring real, normal, and human conversation in order to fulfill some sort of ministry obligation that actually undermines the message we’re trying to preach is a great way to lose your neighbor and never change anything.
It's also awkward, and confusing. Better to give a reason for the hope that is in us, when someone knows us enough and knows that we care enough about them to ask. This takes a level of trust and intimacy that I think, many of us are unwilling to give.
Do you have genuine relationships with other people, such that others can ask you hard questions? Or are you always talking to your own tribe?
5. Speaking out against cultural vice, but never acknowledging cultural virtue.
When we always rally against common sins, however noble and good, we send off a certain tone to our neighbors. (And it's not #allthegoodfeels.) We’re known as the Christian who is against everything and is for nothing.
We’re quick to identify the problem, but we offer no tangible solution. That’s not a good thing, and may hinder our gospel witness.
If we’re known primarily for what we’re against, no one will ever hear the gospel message of all that we’re for.
6. Forgetting that we have a neighbor.
The culture out there doesn’t exist. “Culture” is a difficult word to describe. We are always part of the very culture that we’re trying to define and criticize.
It’s better to speak to those whom we know in specific ways, and actually minister to real people than to talk to a reflection of our own image on the internet.
We have real neighbors right in front of us, and next to us, and across the street from us. Start there, remember your neighbor. That's a person whom God wants you to love.
Paul wisely urges us to "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time" (Colossians 4:5). If we lose our neighbor because of any of the foolish reasons listed above, then we are not really loving our neighbor, are we? Shame on us for walking foolishly toward others and making the worst use of the time.
May the Lord grow us in our love for people over our love for causes.