How deeply embedded are you in the Christian subculture?

The Christian subculture? Yes, it does exist. I know Christians who have a certain way of talking. It’s not bad, but it smacks of … well, churchiness. Their vocabulary overflows with brother this, brother that … traveling mercies … pray over it … put out a fleece …

Sometimes when I travel to lead a conference, I land at the airport, pick up the rent car, and settle in for a drive to the conference site. If I’m by myself, I’ll often turn the radio on and hit the scan feature, trying to find something that doesn’t sound like the Aflac duck gargling. I can detect the Christian music station before I ever heard the words. Contemporary Christian music has a certain sound. It’s a genre all to itself that has nothing to do with the lyrics.

I am NOT disparaging the Christian subculture. I swim in it often. But I encounter many well-meaning believers who seem so immersed in it that they don’t know how to connect with … well, normal people.

Yet it’s when we get out in the real world—around real people who have no idea what an “unclaimed blessing” is or what’so funny about the phrase “the frozen chosen”—that we can make a difference.

We are called to go into the world. We need to break out of our holy huddles (another example of Christian-speak). We are to take the love of Christ to those on the outside.

The legacy of Samantha Smith reminds me of this. When the Cold War was in full swing, a young 11-year-old girl, Samantha Smith, wrote a letter to the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. She asked about the country of Russia, but the heart of her letter was about peace. Did he want peace with the United States?

Samantha Smith holds the letter she received from Yuri Andropov

To everyone’s surprise, Andropov answered the letter—personally. He said he wanted peace and invited Samantha to visit. She took him up on it. On July 7, 1983, Samantha began a two-week visit to the Soviet Union.

Critics saw this as a propaganda ploy by the Russians. Maybe it was. At least, Andropov hoped to dispel some fears Americans had about the Soviets. Others saw this as an opening in the door to better relations.

What captures my attention about this story is what Samantha said after touring Russia. She praised the Soviets and their country, but she said she would rather live in her own country.

Her story should be our story. It’s OK to live in our “country.” It’s certainly OK to prefer it over anything else! But from time to time, we need to leave our Christian circle with our Christian friends and our Christian music and our Christian romance novels and venture out into the world. Encounter people in their own culture. Build a relationship. In the end, we still go back to our own neighborhood, but in the process of venturing out, we just might interest people in visiting our world … meeting Jesus … getting a new life.

That makes it worth the trip.

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