Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Six Degrees of Jesus

In the business of the Christmas season, I'll be reposting some of my favorite posts and scaling back my original content. Reading Multiply by Francis Chan and gearing up for a Multiply Movement study in the New Year, I'm going to select posts on evangelism this week and Christmas next. This particular post was first published in September 2009.

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You’ve probably heard of and likely played the six degrees of Kevin Bacon where the theory goes, you can link any actor to Kevin Bacon in six moves or less. For example try Marilyn Monroe. She was in Some Like it Hot with Jack Lemmon. Jack Lemmon was with Kevin Pollack in Grumpy Old Men. Kevin Pollack was with Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects and Kevin Spacey was in 21 with Laurence Fishburne who was with Kevin Bacon in Mystic River. Fun, isn't it?

This is based on the theory of the Six Degrees of Separation that holds we’re all separated by everyone else in this world by six people or less. With 8 billion people living on Earth, that seems daunting and may not be practical considering those living in poverty in the Third World. But on the surface, it is a sound theory. Throw in Facebook, Twitter, and the like you might even be able to reduce those six degrees to only three.

Now, apply this theory to the spread of the Gospel and you can easily see how the Early Church was able to spread throughout the entire known world within a generation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Today, we can apply this theory to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-21 (go and make disciples of all nations) and we can have hope that “the gospel... be preached to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)

Looking at it numerically, compare a minister who is the only one preaching the Gospel in his church and converts a person a day through his preaching with a disciple of Jesus who only converts one person a year. But that person then goes on and converts one person and so on. Maybe you've seen these numbers before. After ten years, the minister has brought 3650 people to Christ while the church that started with one has only grown to 1024. But after twenty years, the first church has grown to 7300 and the second has over 500,000 disciples! Within a generation (say, 30 years) this second church will have converted a billion people.

Now consider the six degrees theory and there’s no reason to not believe that the Gospel cannot be preached to the entire world in our generation. When you pass a stranger on the street, you don’t know who might be connected to him or her within these six degrees. For example he may be within six degrees of a former president (2 or 4 depending on whether you’re considering friends or acquaintances), a movie star (3), a Playboy Playmate (2), a TV star (4), a rock star (4), John F. Kennedy (5) and a former major league baseball player (2). That’s celebrity, but looking at your average joes, this person could also be within six degrees of a kidnap victim (1), a missing person (3), a victim of a school shooting (3), a cancer victim (1), a cancer survivor (2), a victim of spousal abuse (1), a murderer (2), a gunshot victim (1), and a gang member (2). Spiritually, this person could be within six degrees of a minister (1, obviously), a Christian author (1), a Christian recording artist (2), a foreign missionary (1), a renowned Biblical historian (3), and a Christian apologist (3).

If you haven’t guessed, in the numbers I’m talking about myself. I don’t run these out to boast. In fact, I’m pretty convicted because I know for a fact that my Christian influence does not reach as far as most of who I describe above.

Think about your sphere of influence. You never know who you may be linked to. More importantly, you never know who that stranger in the checkout line may be linked to. What's stopping the Gospel from being spread? Our closed mouths. I rant and rave on this blog that a lack of authentic Christianity hurts the Gospel message and I strive to call us higher to a public authentic Christian life. But it doesn't matter how we live if our mouths are still closed.

Despite the unlimited reach of the internet, this blog isn't enough either. Besides the overall lack of traffic, I'm not necessarily sharing the Gospel with anyone. This blog isn't geared towards unbelievers, but believers. Yet I rely on this blog as an evangelistic crutch. It’s one thing to put these thoughts to paper (or computer screen) but it’s a whole other to share my faith with a stranger, a neighbor, or a co-worker. So this blog is a cop-out for not sharing my own faith. But I’m convicted to change.

How though? I recently heard a series at Living On The Edge titled "Going Public With Your Faith". Unfortunately by the time I got around to writing this post, those lessons are no longer archived but you can get the lesson on CD or MP3 by going here.  Some practical advice: write out and practice reciting a short five-minute testimony. Sharing our faith is more than an invite to church, it's sharing what God has done in our lives. Next, memorize the basic scriptures on salvation. John 3:16 is an easy one, but overused. Revelation 3:20 sounds good, but is out of context and doesn't apply to non-believers. Romans 3:23 is key for our need of a savior. But if you really want to cut right to it, why not turn to the first sermon ever preached? Everything anyone needs to know is right there.

My church follows a similar outline: establish the Bible as the trustworthy, reliable word of God, define what a disciple of Jesus is versus what the world defines as a Christian, define sin and its consequences and then define grace through Jesus, describe the sacrifice of Jesus and our redemption, and finally what our response should be to the Gospel: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:37-39)

You can trim that down and share it with someone in one sitting. Who knows what that seed may produce and who knows who may hear the same message six connections away?

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