PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE
For those who are seeking to build bridges and relationships in their community there is often a temptation to remain quiet and uncontroversial. We don't want risk losing a relationship or needlessly offending. This often means we wind up never really saying anything of consequence. But one of the things I have learned in my time hanging out with my friends outside of the church (and in particular in the cigar shop) is the importance of maintaining an honest, public faith.
Part Four: Maintain a Public Faith
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for by it I have been rescued and can offer rescue to those who are perishing. To keep my faith private, to not freely live as a Christian before the eyes of the people in my community, is not only dishonest, but damaging to others.
I have already argued for the need to make friends, not projects. To listen before speaking. Yet, we must speak. I'll offer two simple pieces of advice here for those stepping into third places to build relationships with people outside of the church: pray freely and speak freely.
One of the things that is now common to see at our cigar shop is for people to stop and pray right where they are. Whether it is two Christians praying together after a meeting, or one person praying over another in need, people are praying in this place. I imagine this wan't as common a year ago, but now we often see heads bowed are prayers lifted up while others are milling about, talking, laughing, and smoking.
One evening one of our worship leaders was in an intense conversation with a non-Christian. She was overwhelmed with some family issues. After listening for a while he asked if he could pray for her. And there is was. Faith in public. Kindness directed toward a new friend, and God sought for his grace. She was grateful for it. If you are uncomfortable praying in public I have a hard time imagining you will feel free to share the gospel in public.
No third place needs (another) loud-mouthed, hyper-opinionated, person who believes the cultural mandate to exercise dominion over the world includes dominating every conversation. But where conversation is welcome we should speak. We are where we are, wherever we are, by the plan of God to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. And as followers of Jesus we should feel the freedom to tell others of him, his work, and his offer of free grace to sinners in need.
Not every conversation will be or should be about Jesus. But when we have the opportunity to share what we believe, what God is teaching us, or doing in our lives, we should jump at the chance. If we remain silent on what should be most important to us we communicate that it either isn't that important, or isn't relevant to those around us.
A public faith doesn't have to be untethered zeal that knocks people over without warning. But it should be seen, heard, and felt by those around us. If you are hiding your faith for fear of offending you cannot bear witness to the God who saved you, nor can you fully love your neighbors.