Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist by Gary Ellis

I’m not an atheist, but – normally speaking – I like them!

Now, that might be a radical example for someone, like myself, who is a Christian.  Although I guess I need to be clear about my definition of Christianity.  I believe Christianity (or a Christian) isn’t authentic unless there’s a modeling of an increasingly accurate representation of Christ.  In other words, unless the person – or group of persons – that claim the title is purposeful in re-presenting Jesus in integrity and power.  Otherwise the individual is not truly Christian and the group is nothing more than another religious system.  I also believe that’s a growing process.  A process to which that person – or persons – are intentionally nurturing their relationship with Jesus and the world in which they live.

I have the ability at my office to make my own coffee.  However, I’ve often gotten out of my chair, into my car, and driven several blocks – or miles – to get a ‘cup-o-joe’ from one of my favorite shops.  Why?  Because I love interacting with “the world.”  I’ve found many times I really like the coffee Baristas that sell me their brew.  Not to mention, other folks I often encounter along the way.

Does that make me an evangelist by calling?  I really don’t think so (at least as far as a title is concerned).  Whether everyone would agree or not, I think it means that the Lord is manifesting His heart within me….and I’m letting Him.

I believe many – too many – folks of the Fold (Christianity) are looking at people around them (inside and outside of their belief system) with eyes to see what they disagree with.  

Instead, it’s my heart and intention to look for what I can agree with.  In fact, better yet…I will often, consciously, ask Jesus to let me see each person through His eyes.

I don’t initially look at people with profiling eyes.  I’m not determining (on purpose) to see their fashion or their foibles.  How they are different from me or the same as me.  In turn, I’m not scoping them out with my “are they headed for hell and need saving” meter.

Now, let me make myself very clear here.  I do believe there’s a hell to shun and a heaven to gain.  I do believe that hell exists in terrible forms – on earth – in this age.  And, I believe there is a place of horrific separation from God in the ages to come.  I don’t believe an individual can get in or out according to their own personal choice or preference.

But…

I also don’t believe a Christ Follower has the right set of eyes if they are looking at a person with the thought, “I have to somehow witness to them to get them to accept the right instructional information so they won’t have to go to hell and suffer forever.”  I first look at people…as people.  Not impersonal statistics or evangelistic projects.  I am conscious of God’s love for them and their need to know that love.

Maybe you, my reader, are different than me.  But, I grew up on a diet of Christianity that had a lot of damnation doctrine without much humanity other than the fact that we should feel guilty if we weren’t consciously “witnessing” to save people from hell’s flames.

Again…I repeat…I believe in a very real place of torment because it’s separated from the life and love of God.  But, I don’t care much for the guilt motivation that makes up a great deal of religion…even evangelical Christianity.  Re-presenting Jesus in integrity, love, and power, is – for me – the prime directive of the Good News Gospel.  Connecting people to the Kingdom of God on earth as well as in the ages to come is at the heart of my passion.

I look at each person I meet with the attitude and action of love that only God can give. <Which at times presents me with the option of self sacrifice…like Jesus demonstrated>  You see, if we are “re-presenting” Jesus, we need to study Him through His example.  We also need to make it our mission to experience relationship with Him – and our neighbor – in an ever increasing measure.

So, in interacting with you, I don’t care whether you are an atheist, gay, up and out, down and out, or tattoo-filled. <in fact if I like your “ink,” I’ll probably tell you so>.  I will see you as a person.  A person that God loves deeply and radically.

I guess my main point in this blog post is to express my personal thoughts on authentic expansion of the Kingdom of God…as I see it. 🙂

Gary


 

  • Rooten5246

    love this Pastor thank you for posting.  🙂

  • Jason Cooksey

    Very insight post Pastor Ellis! My pastor has been teaching on evangelism and the same ideas he’s been sharing are the same ideas you are sharing!

  • Andy

    Love it Gary. this is my heart for ‘evangelism’, or day to day interaction, too. Free of condemnation and filled with Christ’s love

  • Laura

    I just want to say that I really sensed the heart of Jesus, as Vindicator and Friend in this post.
    ~L