June 30th 2011
“You should dumb down your message, they aren’t smart enough for that”
I get that every time I’m about to step out on stage or give a bible study, it’s like a bad penny, it just keeps turning up and it’s a lie from the devil.
I lead bible study at Christ’s Body today, I’m an intern there and for those of you who don’t know it’s a day shelter for the homeless. They come to get food, clothes, a liaison for Social Services, a shower and do some laundry. It’s located in the Capital Hill district of Denver Colorado, on the corner of Lincoln and 8th Avenue. We serve 80 to 100 guys a day by the grace of God.
Now this is the first time I’ve encountered or worked with homeless men and women. So naturally I have had to deal with some stigma’s that had developed over the years of small town life and Law and Order re-runs. One of these preconceived notions is that they are not educated in any way, one of the lessons I’ve learned recently is that they are very educated.
I taught on Colossians 1:15-20 today, if you’ve read it you know that it is very heavy theologically and Christologically. Paul uses big words to explain big concepts in a way that we, as broken human beings, can understand it. So as I sat in the hallway finishing up my duties with the showers with my bible next to me the thought once again crossed my mind “You need to dumb this down, they won’t get it” by now I’ve learned to ignore it.
You can’t water down your message and if you do and you’re not real then they will be able to see right through it. The homeless understand the need for living water, they understand that they have each other and God and when your passion is fake then you will lose the room altogether. What I found by not watering down my message was this; the homeless possibly understand the gospel, or are more passionate about the gospel then me or my friends who are much more theologically inclined then I am.
On more than one occasion they would begin expanding on a point in a way I hadn’t thought to expand on it. Common knowledge about Jesus and the cross to us becomes a tender morsel of knowledge for them to share to each other. Theological concepts that we take for granted they talk about like it’s a new revelation that they have just come up with. They speak passionately when they speak and it will move you to tears as you realize what Jesus means when he says “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will inherent the kingdom” Matthew 5.
What if, as Christians, we had the same enthusiasm about the gospel, about the word? What if we took Social Gospel and lived it with the same enthusiasm as Billy Graham? Or, what if we found a nice balance of the two and were as passionate as the guy who at the end of the table today who could have led the study himself? Would the world see us as apathetic, rule making, ignorant hypocrites? Or would they see people who were passionate about the word and because they knew what it said lived it out. What if we took Jesus seriously when he says “Love me” and comes to us as a grimy, uncared for homeless man or a stressed out single mother. Would the world be radically changed by our desire to see it radically changed, and with the word as our sword and us living out the great commission passionately the world would be radically changed.
The next time I do bible study or preach at Christ’s Body I know I will think “Maybe I should dumb this down” but I also know that Christ will take over and I will be a vessel and I will be given the ability to preach the gospel I am doing my best to live out. And next time the homeless man at the end of the table starts going on and on about the son and the messiah and the word of God I am going to let him keep on going and say amen because he has a passion that right now I can only pray for.