Don't Settle As A Closet Christian

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This is an article of mine that was published in the 
February 22, 2010 edition of Today's Pentecostal Evangel.
The message is still heavy on my heart.

Don't Settle As A Closet Christian By Brittany Garrett 

Seven years ago a friend invited me to a youth service and my life forever changed. Since then, God has given me a passion for the local church, and I love it. But sometimes too much of a good thing can sidetrack a person. I am a perfect example of that. For five years I was so involved at my church I lost touch with the hurting world around me. 

I thought I was set serving in the church for many years, but within that time my contact with specific individuals who didn't know Christ began to dwindle. I was working full time and volunteering well over that, but since it was ministry I didn't question the work. It was easy to get caught up in the act of the service and miss the people I was serving. I saw the work that needed to be done, but I forgot about the needs of the heart. I had come to a comfortable place where I was ministering to a body of people corporately, but not to any individual personally. I realized what needed to be added was a view for the "one" person. 

Have you ever felt as if you had lost sight of the "one" person? I can't help but think of Zacchaeus, the little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. In the middle of a huge crowd Jesus saw the man who may have seemed unnoticeable. I wanted to be like that, to see a Zacchaeus in my day. But truthfully, this hasn't been the case. I knew that I had to do something, or I was afraid I never would. 

The day came to make a change. I wanted to get back in touch with a Zacchaeus, with a "one." So I packed my bags, traveled 1,300 miles for a job at a resort near Yellowstone National Park. I was so afraid because I knew I had forgotten how to interact with people who were not followers of Christ. 

My greatest fear was that I would not be able to form relationships with co-workers I would be spending time with each day. Would I act self-righteous? Or be too passive about my faith? 

The thing I learned right away was that living life as a follower of Christ is about loving people first and finding common ground with them. It's about putting others before yourself and serving just like I had learned by serving in my church. 

I spent every night of last summer surrounded by people who were living for the things of this world and with different philosophies from my own. The three friends I spent most of my time with fit this lifestyle. There were a handful of Muslims I talked to consistently about religion. The guy who cooked in the kitchen was a vocal atheist, and the wranglers I sat next to at lunch were devoted Mormons. These realities of mine may seem extreme and may not be your immediate world, but they are our world. 

So how did this melting pot of worldviews play out? I lived out my life surrendered to Christ, and I prayed daily for guidance. I also didn't change who I was or how I acted in an attempt to somehow fit in. 

Those perhaps are the most important lessons I learned: Pray often, serve others and be myself. People in the world want authenticity in their lives and easily recognize a fake. We are not called to fit in, but to stand out. Matthew 5:16 says, "I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand--shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives" (The Message). 

I can't tell you how many times I was asked why I didn't drink alcohol. Or how little things like wiping up a bottle of spilt beer or making a birthday card for a co-worker or putting up other's plates made such an impact. I couldn't believe people noticed! When people see a person serving others, they pay attention because the world is not accustomed to this. 

Step outside of yourself and be a light on the hilltop. Sure, it's easy to get into a comfortable place. We get into the habit of doing the right things, but many times we fail to do the loving things. We cannot fail as Christians to reach out to the "one" person. That "one" person could make a huge impact that you may never know of this side of heaven, but eternity will echo. 

Remember Zacchaeus, the one little man? Church historian Clement suggests that Zacchaeus eventually became a pastor and very influential in the Early Church. 

Don't settle as a closet Christian; go make disciples. Serve in your local church, but also serve your neighbor. This world needs you!