To truly dedicate your children to God, you need to prepare them to share their faith with others. Too often though, Christians seem to believe sharing their faith merely means showing up to well choreographed worship services. If we are feeling particularly evangelistic, we may invite a friend to join us. Churches are sometimes places where we are worshipping with people just like us. People perhaps unwilling to show any vulnerability in fear of appearing somehow unworthy of being there.
In The Briarpatch Gospel, Shayne Wheeler gives a view of Christianity which we need to share with our older children. In this book, we read the stories of some people who have been involved in some of the more “visible” sins often viewed as almost unforgivable by many Christians. Wheeler encourages us to realize we are all equally sinners and God has called us to something more than just evangelizing our friends.
Shayne does a wonderful job of helping us understand the stories of the people living in the world around us. People who, because of what they have seen of Christianity, feel God has no place for them. Walking the line of not endorsing the sin, but really showing people God’s love, Wheeler encourages Christians to enter the briarpatch. The briarpatch of real people living sinful lives who are never offered the Gospel. The Christian world has often labeled these people as somehow “unsaveable” and moved on to evangelize people who look more like we think a Christian should look.
In the world of the briarpatch gospel, Christians show God’s love to everyone they encounter, not just those whom they believe will “fit into” their whitewashed Christian world. They are willing to venture into the briarpatch and minister to the people who are often marginalized in our churches. He points over and over again to the example of Jesus, who didn’t spend all of his time at the Temple, but much of it with the marginalized people of that time – tax collectors, prostitutes and other “sinners” (In reality, everyone but Jesus who was alive at the time was a sinner!).
Wheeler never asks us to compromise the Bible calling to repent of the sin in our lives or not to expect others who are Christians to do the same. Rather he points out the hypocrisy of rejecting entire groups of people because of their sin, while refusing to address some of the sins in our own lives. He correctly points out, that in the eyes of God, all sin needs to be confronted in our lives. Our sins are not somehow “better” because we “only”gossip or lie. We are not allowed to pick and choose with whom we share the gospel message. Our calling is to share with everyone God places in our path.
My only concerns about the book were the lack of underscoring the important of baptism in the one spot where he actually went into some detail of a conversion and his slightly fuzzy explanation of heaven on the last page. His main purpose though, was not to teach us how to convert someone nor was it meant to be an examination of Heaven. The point of the book is to help open our eyes and see the people around us for who they really are and not just by the labels they have been given. Christians are called to enter the briarpatch of the world we inhabit and show everyone the way out of the briarpatch to God, forgiveness and redemption.
What better gift, than to give our children the gift God wanted them to have? I believe God wants us to raise our children to see all of the people in the world, not just those we have hand-picked as somehow more worthy of salvation than others. This generation of young people is being called by the world to minister to the marginalized of society. Many in the world are seeing the pain and hurt and know it isn’t right. Ironically we are losing many of our young people because the Church is overlooking these very same people. And the saddest part of all, is we are losing our young people because we aren’t entering the briarpatch God asked us to enter. The Church has something to offer a secular charity can never give the hurting people in the world. A chance at forgiveness, redemption and God’s love. We can share this wonderful gift with them while we serve their felt needs.
We need to show our children how to minister to people and share the Gospel with every person they meet. We need to teach them how to enter the briarpatch. Reading this book with your teen is a great way to begin. Once you have read the book and discussed it with your teen, I encourage you to find some people in the briarpatch. Enter with your teen and see if you can’t serve them together and then share God’s words with those you have served.
This book was given to be for free by Tyndale in exchange for a review. I am painfully honest though, and have shared any concerns I may have. I am keeping this book on my shelves as a reminder to look beyond the surface and see the hurting person beneath. The book is scheduled to be released next month.