by Ann Sullivan
(Editor’s note: This is the 1st in a 10-part series on how our theology informs our evangelism.)
Here’s the really cool thing about God: He meets us where we’re at. I mean, He really meets us where we’re at. I’ve been around church people for as long as I can remember, and I’ve heard this many times. But it’s only now, after processing lots of life, that I’m beginning to realize how amazing this statement is.
We get dangerously comfortable with our own kind—our dress, our dialect, our dogma. We get used to how things should look or how people should come to Christ. But it’s a big world out there, and we all come to the table differently.
We’re born with different propensities and impacted by different environments, yet God breaks through all of it. Even for those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus or fully understood Him, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 1 and 2 that God breaks through both creation and conscience. He meets us where we’re at and reveals Himself to every seeking heart.
But what about the heart that is broken and has trouble hearing God? This is when I’m glad our relationship with Him is built on more than our emotions and that He speaks to our intellect as well. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses instructs the children of Israel to love the Lord their God with their hearts, souls, and strength. In Matthew 22, Jesus splits the atom even further when he adds that we are to love the Lord our God with our minds as well.
It was easy for me to embrace a loving creator because I grew up without divorce or dysfunction. If the human race is a giant metaphor God uses to communicate His love (that He is the Father who connects through the Son), then my dad was a great illustration. He loved and nurtured me. So the idea of a Heavenly Father I could trust just made sense.
My friend, on the other hand, found this picture troubling. She had an abusive alcoholic father, so the last thing she wanted was her dad, only bigger. Even now, 30 years later, the mere scent of alcohol can thrust her back to the nightmare.
Our evangelism needs to be informed by these differences. When I went through a period of depression later in life, my emotions became damaged goods. I suddenly grew weary of Christian platitudes and promises that now felt empty. I grew skeptical of altar calls and emotional conversions because while those things may work for some, I was learning how unreliable the emotions can be.
The Christian life I was discovering was different than that. It was deeper, grittier, and meant to be more resilient to life’s ups and downs. Our journey with God is meant for the long haul, and His love isn’t contingent upon a good or bad day. His truth speaks to our minds no matter how our hearts feel.
This is good news because even on our best days when we’re not facing illness, divorce, or bankruptcy, life can still be hard. And when a 30-second sound bite on Christian radio tells someone that all of his or her problems can be fixed by Jesus, as communicators of the gospel, we need to be ready when the person wonders what that really looks like. Because whether through heart or mind, God is ready to meet us where we’re at.
Ann Sullivan is an author, speaker, and freelance writer who works extensively in leadership with women’s groups across the country. She’s currently developing curriculum for her new book, Permission to Doubt (Kregel) to challenge and encourage people as they face a new generation of progressive ideas. Learn more at www.annsullivansimpletruths.com.