The reason for dropping this analysis of centurions into the middle of a five-week series on outreach to people beyond ourselves is to say that there are folks out there in the world who are willing to hear and respond to a vibrant testimony of the truth of Christ and the Scriptures. They are an illustration of “other side of the tracks” sorts of people who were historically reached with the gospel. It has always been true that a majority of people are going to reject the gospel and any prospect of being accountable to God rather than themselves. But at the same time, many folks are open to hearing and even responding, even those who are very different than ourselves.
Who are the centurions in our world today?
People who are thoughtful and analytical – who seek something more that better defines real and true life
It really is true that this material world alone does not satisfy. If it did, not so many Hollywood people would take their own lives. Drugs would not be what they are today. So many relationships would not be broken. Many people are regularly thinking – albeit quietly to themselves – that there must be more to life than meets the pleasure sensors of material self.
People with a work of God going on in their lives – simply needing more definition
There are a lot of reasonably thoughtful people in the world. They know in their heart of hearts that God exists and they are responsible to him. And when they see the gospel truth alive in the life of a follower of Christ, they find it appealing and desirous to know and follow also.
We live in a time that is less biblically literate than a century ago, as basic teaching is less prominent in the broader culture and not as known to many people.
Often the evangelical church is stereo-typically characterized in wrong ways; and a loving, diverse community flies in the face of that wrongful depiction.
People who feel somewhat culturally estranged, being a bit different than the defining segment of the community around them
Many who have come to our area are leaving places where they may have been in the cultural majority, or at least in a highly-diverse culture as compared to Washington County today. I even experienced this 23 years ago when moving here from a different sort of place. This region is not always an easy place to break into and be accepted as a local until you’ve got some generations buried in the ground. So a genuinely warm church welcome and outreach can go a long way.
People who are culturally different than us and maybe not often in our natural paths of association
This is similar to the previous point, which spoke of feeling. This speaks of the natural ebb and flow of life in a community. The “tracks” may often make it such that we don’t cross paths without intentional energy and outreach.
People who are open to a loving, intentional outreach … one that communicates answers to the big questions of life
It is simply true that the gospel message embodied in the church community has the answers to the big questions of life, and we should also build the environment to welcome diverse people – be they mature Christians, new Christians, almost Christians, or seekers.
People who would enrich a diverse church community as growing disciples, and who could reach out to others beyond themselves
This is the look of a healthy church and an attractive faith family – doing what the world can’t figure out how to make happen. We can make it happen. And I believe it is the cutting edge of calling from God for his church family to intentionally function in this way in this generation.