I suggested that really all Philip does is allow God to take down barriers through him.
Martha Grace Reese and George Hunter III both know a lot about the ups and downs of congregations like ours and the barriers people face when trying to share Jesus in word and deed. As you read what’s below, simply see which stand out to you and ponder how God can lead people over, under, or through these barriers.
The first two sets of barriers are based on Hunter’s work. The third is based upon Reese’s.
Image Barriers – In the world beyond those who follow Christ, the church is perceived as irrelevant, boring, focused on the wrong things, greedy, cruel, only for the intellectually or emotionally weak, etc., etc.
Language Barriers – The church has its own slang for prayer, conversation, and interaction that people outside the church are expected to know without being taught it. This is unnecessarily alienating. People familiar with church life speak in this slang and assume everyone understands it.
Cultural Barriers – Hunter suggests that to reach non-Christian people, it is necessary for a church to become culturally reflective of its ‘mission field’ – whether that field is in Asia, Africa, or a certain part of the US. To not do so puts an undue burden on non-Christians and can also suggests that Jesus is uninterested in certain places, languages, musical types, and artistic traditions.
Gospel Barriers – It takes time to become a Christian and have life shaped by Jesus. God’s love freely offered through Christ is shockingly immense. And, Jesus is also demanding of those who call him “Lord”. One of the reasons for trying to reduce the barriers above is so that folks can wrestle with Jesus himself and the hard parts about following him.
Personal Barrier Types
Ignostics – Literally, people who know nothing. These are people who have no Christian memory. People long connected to church can find this hard to believe, but it is a growing part of American society.
Notionals – People who assume that simply because they were born in a certain place (the USA) or at a certain time (the 1950s) they are Christians in thought, word, and deed by those factors alone. Or, they at least have a sufficient notion of who Jesus is and what following Jesus is about.
Nominals – People who may have certain patterns of Christian life, but the implications of the good news and following Jesus go over their heads or are kept at arm’s length. This can be a trap for people who have considered themselves Christians for a long time.
Potential Barriers to a Growing Faith Quiz
Do you say yes to any of the following statements?
1. I’m living a faith that doesn’t make me buckle my seatbelt when I reach for my Bible.
2. I’m living without Christ guiding me through the meetings, conversations, and choices of my day.
3. I don’t feel a deep sense of repentance (seeking to turn life around in certain ways) or of forgiveness (seeking to let go of pain, blame, and shame).
4. I am seldom aware of God’s Spirit leading me.
If you answer yes to any of these, please ask God to help you find resources – friends, books, and/or communities to help you overcome the barriers you are facing and take the next step into a richer faith life.