have a friend from Denmark.  He is a Christian and is currently engaged in theological
studies in preparation for full time ministry.

Not too many years ago he was in the United States visiting family.  His father-in-law
wanted to acquaint him with varying facets of western culture, so he decided to take him
to a Southeastern Conference college football game.

After attending the game with a hundred thousand other people, he shared his reflections
with me.  Expressing himself in animated fashion, he declared:

              “Do people even realize what they are doing? SEC football is like a Roman
coliseum! People are giving their time, their money, and their devotion to a
football team!  Do people in the Bible Belt not realize this is worship?”
 

I was taken back as I sensed a gentle brush of conviction from the Holy Spirit.

And then . . . I paused . . . and thought . . .

Sometimes we need someone from outside our culture to help us see clearly what’s taking
place in our own culture.

Whether we like admitting it or not, we live in an echo chamber in the West; and often
what is reinforced around us seems presumptively normal.

We are enlightened. We are educated. We are successful. We are comfortable.

There is a dark side that comes with prosperity: spiritual blindness. Blindness to what
we’ve become. Blindness to how far we have fallen.

It has happened before.  Do we not think it can happen again?

                                                         Revelation 3:14-22

My wife and I enjoy vacations in the mountains, particularly when there are good hiking
trails.

Recently, while hiking in the Appalachians, I struck up a conversation with three Hindu
PhD students from India.  They were enrolled at Georgia Tech.

As we shared in conversation, we eventually began talking about Jesus and the claims He
made in Scripture.  As we shared in respectful dialog, one of the students asked me this
question:

“Why is it that that the lifestyles of Christians in your country are no different from those
who do not claim to be Christian in your country?”

And then . . . I paused . . . and thought . . .

Sometimes it takes people from outside our culture to help us see clearly what’s taking
place in our own culture.

A number of years ago I developed a new section of my library consisting of missionary
biographies. Many of the biographies are of Methodist missionaries from a hundred years
ago.  I marvel at the number who paid a high price for taking the gospel to the continent
of Africa. Most of those missionaries proclaimed a clear and compelling gospel message
rooted in classical Christianity. Many made great sacrifices. Some were even martyred.

So when I heard an African Christian on the floor of the United Methodist General
Conference say to the North American delegates, “The gospel you proclaimed to us one
hundred years ago is not the same gospel you are proclaiming to us today,” I thought of
the missionaries that reinforced what he was saying. I thought of three PhD candidates
from India.  I thought of my friend from Denmark.

Sometimes we need someone from outside our culture to help us see the tragedy that has
taken place in our own culture.

Paul Lawler is the Lead-Pastor of Christ Church UMC.  He and his wife, MJ, have four
children and one daughter-in-law.  In addition to serving as a pastor, Paul and his
brother, Dallas area businessman, Patrick Lawler, founded two Patricia B. Hammonds
Homes for orphans at high risk for human trafficking in Thailand. The homes are
operated through the international ministry of the 
Compassionate Hope Foundation.
Paul also serves on the boards of
The Wellhouse, New Water Farms, and the East Lake
Initiative
. He often tweets Kingdom thoughts at @plawler111