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Speaker after speaker brought incredible messages of progressive change, hope, responsibility, and growth for the church. But one presentation in particular was probably the greatest shocker – both because of the message and the messenger. Speaking on the topic of how the church can and should engage culture was an award-winning MC, author, and pastor-rapper named Trip Lee. One word pretty much sums it up: PHENOMENAL! Maybe I’m guilty of pre-judging him on the basis of appearance and occupation but I wasn’t expecting him to bless me the way he did. The way he spoke about being faithful to God in public and on purpose convicted my heart and left me with a new-found respect for his untraditional ministry. Rather than recite exactly what Trip said during his presentation, I want to leave you with a broader appreciation of his message and how it fit into the entire day’s discussion.

The church, as an organization and a body of believers, exists in a world that is rapidly changing. So the larger theme of the conference was “what’s next for the church and its leaders” as we strive to lift up Christ and honor the Commission He gave us. While some spoke on leadership, others spoke on service, and justice. Trip spoke on engaging the culture. Not running away from it. Not hiding from it. But embracing it as our sphere of influence.

God has called us to be a light to the world – but lights are only necessary and effective when positioned in dark places. So then, if we must rebuke our fears and reservations so as to let God position us in the “darkness”, how can we light it up?? How can we be a faithful follower of God and a true representation of His character in our small sphere of influence? How can we “shine [our] light before men, that they may see [our] good deeds and praise [our] Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)?

1. Spend more time with Jesus. Jesus tells us that He is “the light of the World” (John 8:12), so if we are to be a witness of this Light, we must first encounter Him for ourselves. Through more diligent prayer and study of God’s Word, we will come to know Jesus and “become transformed into His likeness” (2 Cor. 3:18).

2. Pray for the baptism of the Spirit. Except our flesh and sinful nature be crucified and we are reborn with God’s Spirit, we can never be a reflection of His character. Once filled with the Spirit, our lives will bring forth good fruit; others will see us display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

That’s just the prep work, though. That’s what needs to be done before we ever encounter anyone. So often, unfortunately, we skip these crucial, foundational preparations and try to live through our own efforts. This is why our witness for Christ becomes inconsistent, ineffective, and tainted by sin.

3. Give your best effort. Whether at work or at school, your colleagues and classmates should see you giving your absolute best to whatever you do (Col. 3:23). You shouldn’t be the one “cutting corners”, complaining about the work, showing up late, putting down others, etc. Mark 7:37 tells us that Jesus overwhelmed the people with amazement, so much so that they declared “He has done everything well”. If we are to be a witness of this awesome God, then we must also give our very best effort to everything we do.

4. Win the respect of outsiders. 1 Thess. 4:11-12. No one will want to listen to you talk about your God if they do not respect you. In fact, you would do more harm to the name of Christ than good if you claimed to follow Him and yet lived like everyone else. If in our daily lives we work, speak, and treat others in a way that honors God, those who have not yet accepted Him will come to respect us and be more inquisitive about what/who makes us different.

5. Don’t be motivated by acceptance. It’s only natural that we desire to be liked by others. But if acceptance is our goal then we will surely be led into compromise. John 1:5 tells us that Jesus (the Light) “shines in darkness, yet the darkness has not understood it.” We, too, must be prepared for people not to understand or accept us – but we are called to respond with love and patience, just as He did.

Of course sharing the gospel and speaking the name of Christ is essential to our Great Commission. However, the foundation of a Godly character must be laid first. This is the challenge the Holy Spirit impressed upon me and the challenge I now extend to you.

The text says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.” Actions speak louder than words. So light up your home with love. Light up your workplace with integrity. Light up your neighborhood with kindness. Light up your sphere of influence with good works!

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