Counteracting Missional Cataracts as a Christian

by James Chambers

One day, God led me to a woman who was as precious as gold, but the whispers of this culture told her she was worth no more than the $45 tricks she would turn just to eat and have a place to live. I met Krystal at Rally’s burger stand 13 years ago by the Los Angeles airport.

She just finished a long work day and her pimp refused to come pick her up. Compassion filled me and my friends’ hearts and we invited her to eat dinner with us. We listened as she shared how her mom kicked her out of the house because she didn’t love her anymore, how her high school teachers told her she was too stupid so she dropped out, and why, in need of a way to live, she accepted this guy’s offer give her a job.

Not knowing how to share the gospel, I desperately asked God for help. I felt like God put this question in my heart: “Ask her if she knows I love her.”

So I said Krystal, “Do you know God loves you?”

And with unabashed skepticism she said, “Why? No one’s ever loved me!” I began to share my transformation story with her and so did my friends. After hearing the stories of how God had shown His love for us, she said, “Do you think He would love me the way He loves you?”

I responded, “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you!” A few moments later she prayed to make Jesus Lord of her life.

I watched as chains of darkness were broken off Krystal as her heart opened to receive love for the first time in years. The darkness that once blinded Krystal from God’s love was eliminated as light flooded her soul enabling her to see!

Up until this point, I would’ve said I was strong in my faith. I’d been baptized, I attended church and small groups three times a week, I was in a weekly discipleship meeting with my college pastor, and I even started leading Bible studies in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on my college campus.

Because I was so active in these Christian activities, the thought never would’ve crossed my mind that my spiritual vision was blurred in any way. However, after this night, I realized just how dull my spiritual vision had been.

Before meeting Krystal, I was suffering from what I like to call “missional cataracts.” Physically, a cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision. This can ultimately lead to blindness. Spiritually speaking, I was suffering from missional cataracts–my busyness in so many activities with fellow Christians blurred my ability to see the desperate needs of people who don’t know Jesus all around me.

And as I’ve trained thousands of believers to engage those who don’t know Jesus with the gospel, I’ve noticed missional cataracts is a chronic condition plaguing believers and is a great reason why the majority of churches in America have plateaued or are declining. As our schedules get more full with serving the needs of those already in Christ, we move ourselves out of the position to see those who don’t know Jesus and less open to the ways God could possibly use us to serve them.

How can you tell if you or those you disciple may be suffering from this chronic condition? Take this simple diagnostic. You might have missional cataracts if:

  • Intentionally building into a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus occurs less than once a
    month, while the rest of your free time is intentionally filled with activities with other Christians.
  • In listening to prayers, the end goal of the majority of the prayers is for the benefit of a person who is already a follower of Jesus, be it you or a fellow believer.
  • As you go about your daily activities in a month, you notice you’ve not intentionally initiated a conversation with someone new to sincerely get to know this person better.
  • If you’re a ministry leader, 90% or more of your ministry calendar is filled with serving Christians, while less than 10% is spent serving those who have yet to believe.

As you thought through this simple diagnostic, what did you notice about how well you are positioned to be aware of those who don’t know Jesus around you and serve them?

If your routine in being a follower of Jesus was anything like I described mine was before I met Krystal at Rally’s burger stand, you are probably unaware that your Christian routine is progressively blurring your ability to see the opportunities you have to welcome those who don’t know Jesus into the family of God.

God has placed in your path your neighbors, co-workers, baristas, or people who workout in your gym, but is there emotional space for them in your soul? You see, that night Krystal was not the only one who was healed of her spiritual blindness; I too was healed.

The Kingdom of God was unveiled before my eyes and I could finally see what being a disciple of Jesus was about–seeking and saving that which was lost!

Since that night, my Christian routine has taken a dramatic shift and I have aggressively focused on counteracting missional cataracts as often I see it developing.

What are some ways we can counteract cataracts? Here are three simple things that my wife and I do in our daily lives:

  • Pray – Ask God to open your eyes to SEE opportunities to SERVE those without Jesus around you.
  • Proximity – Do what you enjoy with those who are not yet followers of Jesus. I love to play basketball. Being in vocational ministry, I get offered to play ball with Christian guys all the time. Years ago, I made a decision to play in the parks or gyms where the gang members and drug dealers are in my community so I can
    befriend them and bring the gospel into their lives.
  • Planning – The 7-minute cushion: Add a 7-minute cushion between events. My wife noticed that we packed our schedules in a day so tight if God were to bring someone who didn’t know Jesus into our path who needed to be embraced, we’d be to busy to serve him or her for delaying other good things on our calendar. So now, when we go grocery shopping, workout, or take our boys to the library, we intentionally place a 7-minute cushion so that we can establish a rapport with new people we meet for the next time we see them in those same places we frequent.

Counteracting cataracts is not only possible, but it’s  FUN. When we actively position our lives to SEE and SERVE those around us, we stumble upon precious opportunities to meet people like Krystal and see them welcomed into God’s loving embrace. So today, pick an event in your day where you will practice the 7-minute cushion.

This week, find a new place to do what you love with someone who isn’t following Jesus yet…and for fun, take one of your disciples with you while you do it!

James Chambers is the director of A Faith that Overflows, which coaches pastors in developing Discipleship-Evangelism cultures so their churches grow primarily by conversion. His seminars have equipped thousands of ordinary believers around the world to more deeply abide in Christ and be confident in sharing Him with others. He received a M.A. in Evangelism & Leadership from the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. Connect at: info@afaiththatoverflows.com