We can’t ‘reach people with the word’ or ‘build a life-transforming bible study or faith community’ by targeting people who are consciously seeking God and His word. Why not? Because divine encounter always, ALWAYS happens when we’re not looking for it. Not ONE of the people Jesus called as disciples were looking for him and finally found him. He went looking for and found them. That’s why he said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit…” (Jn 15:16) Conviction and conversion happen in the moment of divine surprise, when God pops up and into our daily lives totally out of the blue.
When people who are fighting their way through life ask the existential question (how do I fix my life?) the gospel response (the word) is always a divine surprise! An unexpected message, often from an unlikely source. It’s something they’ve never seriously considered or heard (even quite that way) before.
I’m looking for the seats at Just the Word to be filled by people who were ‘taken by surprise! Divine surprise!’ Because as soon as people make up their minds what they’re looking for and form an inner picture of it, what they choose to satisfy that desire is almost certainly not going to measure up to the idea of it. The idea is just that, idealized and perfect. The reality is almost always less than that.
RELIGION is built on and by people looking for church and A CHURCH. Jesus’ church is built on and by people not looking for church (or A CHURCH). And Just the Word will be built on and by people taken by divine surprise.