I suppose this could be as generic or specific as one could want it to be. I say that because I have a specific topic in mind because of a specific scriptural example, but the principle could be applied to other areas. I’m teaching Acts 13:4-12 this weekend. Having done some reading on the history of Cyprus some interesting things come to light as to Barnabas’ and Saul’s ministry there, specifically in Paphos. Basically they walked into porn central and apparently came out unscathed. Well, all but John Mark. It’s an interesting example of being in the world but not of it.
It’s important to keep in mind verses 1-3. The Spirit Himself specifically set these two guys apart. They fasted and prayed. They got their armor on. They got ready to go into hostile territory with the message of peace. Paphos was the home of the temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sex. There were “priestesses” who “served” in the temple for those who wanted to worship. In fact, every maiden had to “serve” in the temple before she could marry. It was said that those who were ugly would wait as long as four years before they were chosen to serve and be free to marry. There was a giant statue at the temple, but not of a person, of a phallus.
This is where Barnabas and Saul were sent.
They didn’t retreat. They didn’t say, “We can’t go there, don’t you know what goes on there? We might be tempted or sin in our hearts by feeling lust.” They prayed, fasted, and got ready before going in, and this after they were called. Where am I going with this? Lemme tell ya.
We tell people to put on the full armor of God, that our warfare is not against flesh and blood. We tell people to be in the world but not of it. We tell people to go ye into all the world. But what tends to happen is that we retreat into our comfort zones and rarely engage the world where it is. We do this in the name of holiness, not wanting to be defiled by the things of the world. That’s a good desire, but it’s lousy evangelism. Why do we do this? Do we really trust our armor? We say “go” but do we really mean it?
This is why admire people like those at xxxchurch.com. As I understand their story, they heard the call to reach out to those in the porn industry and to those who struggle with pornography. They go to national porn conventions, buy a booth, set up shop, give out thousands of Bibles and witness to these people who are deceived and trapped in that industry. And they see results. Is that kind of thing for everyone? Absolutely not. It is for those who are called and those who are equipped and prepared for that work.
When I was at the Univ. of Wash., the third quarter of my first year and the first quarter of my second year I worked at a sorority. You know who lives in a sorority right? College chicks. Usually pretty hot ones. But I didn’t just work there, I lived there. I was a “house boy.” In fact, four of us lived there full time. It was during this time in my life that I really had a vision and a passion for God. I was closer to Him than I ever had been before. Earlier in my life I really struggled with porn. Now I’m living in a house of college women. And you know what? While I was living there I experienced no lust. None. One time, in the laundry room, I walked in on a girl wearing not much more than a t-shirt, if she was wearing anything more than that at all (after all, she was doing laundry). Honest to goodness, I walked in, she tried to hide behind her laundry basket, and I said, “Oh, it’s ok, I have a sister.” Naive, I know, but I meant it! Not only was lust not an issue at that time, I had a heart for these girls. I saw them drunk and slutty all the time. I felt sad for them. I tried to witness to some of them. I didn’t see any immediate result but I got them thinking. My armor was working. I was in a place with tremendous temptation, the last place most Christian college guys should be, yet the Lord was with me and protected me.
So, what do you think of ministries like xxchurch? What do you think of people who say they have a ministry to those caught up in (blank) lifestyle? Do we write them off and say, “God would never call someone to a place like that with all that sin.” Do we judge them as carnal and “of the flesh” trying to get their jollies under a spiritual sounding umbrella? Or do we consider the possibility that, like Barney and Saul, they have been called and equipped to go there and preach the gospel?
I’ll end with a nugget from Tom Stipe. He said, “What kind of people become believers? Non-believers. Non-believers are the only kind of people who become believers.” Duh. Shockingly simple, but true. Why didn’t I think of that? Are we so busy trying to keep the believers we have happy, or trying to attract other believers, that we forget about the people we are supposed to be reconciling to God? Have I been doing that? If so, I need to stop being a man pleaser and become a God pleaser. That’s not to say we should tell people in our churches, “Forget you, I’m going after these guys.” Rather, we ought to say, “God is calling us to make disciples. Care to join me?”