2014–Time for a Respectful Compelling Christian Voice

In 2013 too many Christians and conservatives have asserted their views with well-meaning but hostile, combative rhetoric. I've engaged in some myself as I observe my Christian heritage slipping away. But I'm praying that in 2014 new Christian voices will be characterized by a more respectful, compelling style that invites engagement, even when we disagree. Will a different communication style woo desperate people to Christ in the long run?

      I believe it will. I'm not advocating that we abandon our principles. In fact, I believe we need to stop trying to be so relevant and begin living a lifestyle that looks radically different from our neighbors. But that lifestyle doesn't include separating ourselves from people who are different from us or taking up a "culture warrior" stance. Jesus didn't do that. Those tactics have backfired, leaving us even more isolated from people who desperately need Jesus but don't know anyone who actually reflects what He's like.

        I like the approach taken by Luis Palau and his son Kevin in one of the most anti-Christian cities in the US, Portland, Oregon. They went to Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a large American city, and asked," How can we serve for the good of the city–no strings attached?" The mayor identified five areas: homelessness, hunger and poverty, health and wellness, public schools, and the environment. Portland's Christian community united and formed an organization called Season of Service. In the first year, 450 church members and 28,000 others enlisted in the cause. They established free medical clinics, created a mentoring program for homeless families, and adopted public schools. Church leaders are now included in serious discussions concerning the future of the city.

         The national media has noticed and written about this unusual partnership. An editorial in USA Today praised the project as a "stereotype-busting sub-plot…the most intriguing of all being the way the Season of Service has thrust the area's Evangelicals into partnership with the city's most liberal leaders." The people of Portland are seeing another side of Christians–not the typical caricatures presented in films and newscasts. Which personifications have ultimately resulted in more people opening their minds and hearts to the idea that God might be real and Jesus might be the Savior they are looking for?

        I need to learn more about how to communicate well with people who don't share my faith. That's my new year's resolution. What about you? If you'd like to join me, here are a few ways to get started.

•    Read The Next Christians, Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World by Gabe Lyons.

•    Then gather a group of folk to listen to the accompanying videos and discuss what you hear. You probably won't agree with everything but that will give you an opportunity to practice respectful compelling rhetoric. (You're also welcome to join a similar discussion in our Journey Class at Irving Bible Church, The Alcove, 10:45 am, beginning on January 5.)

•    Like the Compelling Love Documentary page, listen to the trailer, and learn from others. I heard about this resource from Dr. Gary Barnes, DTS professor and my colleague. This Non-Profit Organization states that their purpose is to help us learn to connect with others even when their beliefs, values, and practices deeply differ, distress, and even offend us.

Jesus' final words before He went to the cross were these: My prayer is not for them alone (His prayer for His first disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (That's us), that they may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21). Let's stop bickering among ourselves and with non-Christians and retrain our tongues to speak with respectful, compelling words accompanied by powerful acts of service, both more likely to woo the world to Christ.  

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.


  • SonShine

    Thanks for this

    Sue, what a great blog with resources for us to use. I have been wondering how and what to do this new year and this has been my springboard! Thanks!


  • rjkhugh



    I am in complete agreement with your comments regarding resptfulness in communication. There has definitely been too much self righteous banter, and not enough God honoring solutions. I do, however, disagree with a need to understand or interpret the Gospels differently, as the author, Gabe Lyons writes. To do so we are, as I see it, becoming our own God. In recent years there has definitely been a wolf in sheeps clothing enter the church, and many known authors/ pastors have fallen victim, and are leading many astray from the inerrant Word of God. Discernment is the key.

    • Anonymous


      Appreciate your thoughts. I will have to do more reading by Gabe Lyons. From what I've read so far, I don't see him moving away from orthodoxy but instead arguing for a change in methods in light of the massive issues that are upon us due to the technological advances that are making profound changes in so many cultures worldwide. (Changing methods but not the message is our challenge–and too many Christians struggle to know the difference.) In his book The Next Christian he advises Christains to stop trying to look like the world but to live out our faith like Jesus did–loving and serving people but living with a dramatically Christian distinctive. I don't see him moving toward those who would weaken our Christology or biblical Trinitarian foundations. Our challenge is to stay on the road of orthodoxy. On one side is the ditch of cultural accomodation and a new age type of thinking (sounds like you are refering to that heresy), and we certainly need to be on guard not to fall into that ditch. But the ditch on the other side of the road is holding onto our practices which really are more trandition that orthodoxy. I'll keep reading to see if Lyons is moving that way. Staying our of both ditches is challenging. Thanks.