Going to Birmingham on the Way to Odessa Who’s Your One?
May 21st, 2019 / By: Juan Sanchez / comments
I plan to be in Birmingham for the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in June. Our president, J.D. Greear, has issued a call to place the “Gospel Above All.” Our convention theme calls us both to unity around the gospel in our relationships with one another and to priority with the gospel in our evangelism of the world. For me, though, the stop in Birmingham is just another stop on the way to Odessa for our 2019 SBTC annual meeting, Oct. 29-30. In Odessa, we will come together to celebrate another emphasis that J.D. Greear has announced—“Who’s Your One?”
Whether in Birmingham or Odessa, we live in a religiously pluralistic culture where many people believe that “all roads lead to heaven.” Consider all the unbelieving people in our lives who are misled by such empty hope and sentimental feelings. Each of us has at least one non-Christian whom we can pray for, plan to share the gospel with and call for a response to Christ. Who’s your one? That’s the question we want every member of every SBTC church to be asking themselves from now until Odessa. I understand that it’s intimidating to share the gospel in a religiously pluralistic culture. So, how may we go about it?
In a religiously pluralistic culture, no matter the response, keep sharing the gospel (Acts 17:16-17). No matter where the apostle Paul found himself, he kept sharing the gospel. His custom? To go to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. In Acts 17, Paul arrives in Athens, and after seeing so many idols, he was “provoked within him” because he was jealous for the glory of God (Acts 17:16). But rather than giving up and moving on, Paul shared the gospel as was his custom (Acts 17:17). This too is our mission. Our mission does not change based on the audience. Our mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ—his life, death, burial, resurrection and exaltation—to all peoples everywhere, regardless of their response.
You can be sure that in a religiously pluralistic culture we will be labeled as intolerant and hate-filled. Still, the only loving thing we can do is tell all peoples about Jesus and call them to repent and believe. This is our mission, regardless of how our hearers respond.
But realize that when you share the gospel in a religiously pluralistic culture, it will sound strange (Acts 17:18-21). As Paul shared the gospel, others heard about this “strange teaching” and wanted to hear more about it. We forget that our gospel sounds strange to this world (Acts 17:19-21). It sounds strange because only in Christianity does God himself act to save humanity. It sounds strange because Christianity argues for an exclusive path to God—Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Only those who come to the Father through Jesus have eternal life.
So, to make the gospel understandable in a religiously pluralistic culture we must do the hard work of both tearing down and building up (Acts 17:22-29). Paul used the Athenians’ own religious pluralism as a connecting point to share the gospel. They had an altar to an “unknown god” (Acts 17:23). So he presented Christ by tearing down the Athenians’ worldview, while at the same time building a Christian worldview from the ground up. Paul began with the doctrine of God (Acts 17:24-25), then moved to the doctrine of humanity (Acts 17:26-28). But he lands on the doctrine of final judgment (Acts 17:30-31).
You see, when sharing the gospel in a religiously pluralistic culture, you must get to Christ and call for a response (Acts 17:30-34). After the hard, slow work of tearing down their mistaken worldview and building up the Christian worldview, Paul proclaimed Jesus and called them to repent (Acts 17:30) because a day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the world, including them (Acts 17:31). How did they respond?
Some remained skeptical and likely rejected the gospel, but other remained curious and wanted to hear more (Acts 17:32). Some, though, believed (Acts 17:33-34). So, be encouraged! When sharing the gospel, whether in Birmingham or Odessa or anywhere in between, some will believe. Until Christ returns, then, let us keep praying for the lost, let us keep looking for opportunities, and let us keep sharing the gospel. Where shall we being? Well, the answer is a question we’ve been asking as a state convention: Who’s Your One?