(This blog is written by Alan Carlton)For the past 3 days, we have travelled north and south from Vijayawada on India’s SH 5. This is the major coast freeway for east India, much like I-5 in the western U.S. Both run the full length of the nation, carrying heavy traffic. The similarity stops there however, when it comes to actually travelling on each.
You know how I-5 is . . . straight, clean, well-maintained and well organized. You can make your trip in a minimum of time. Well maintained cars and trucks, most bearing only one occupant, isolated . . . alone and intent on only himself . . . or perhaps her music . . . perhaps something on the radio . . . perhaps his problems or his 401K performance . . . or perhaps just on reaching her destination as quickly as possible with little interruption. Alone. Isolated.
Travelling on India’s SH5 is an entirely different experience. The highway is obviously fairly old and not well maintained. Potholes are everywhere, and so is everything and everyone else. Small cars, motorcycles, bicycle rickshaws, tuk tuks (auto richshaws), trucks of all possible sizes and shapes, ox carts, busses from luxury to scrapyard candidates, people walking, water buffalo, cows, monkeys, camels, chickens crossing the road (who knows why?), goats, bicycles, tricycles . . . they are all here in a stop and race dance . . . a constantly evolving and interacting stream.
The highway is dirty with people all along it selling and making everything you can think of . . . peanuts, papayas, bananas, flower leis, LPG tanks, cement, golden statues by the hundreds, sugar cane, bread, toys . . . one like a little man whose belly button lights up as his body spins wildly when you pinch his legs together. He makes as much sense though as does the wild, surrounding rush of sensations, constantly assaulting your eyes, ears, nose and body.
No one is alone. People are walking in groups. Motorcycles carry 2 – 5 people, tuk-tuks many more. Trucks carry loads that look impossible . . . stacked higher than the highest overpass, but there are none of those, so it works. It is a dirty, confusing, somewhat scary onslaught with never ending blaring horns . . . each proclaiming “I’m here . . . watch out!” Horn size seems to go with vehicle size, from tweety motorcycle chirps and bicycle bells to booming big truck blasts. Each large truck says “Please Sound Horn Please” on its tailgate, so the noise . . . the interaction . . . is actively encouraged.
Everyone is constantly darting and pushing his way to the front of everybody else. Two lanes become 3, 4 or 5 . . . with at least ½ inch to spare on each side. They constantly interact with each other.
I-5 is like today’s American church – well organized, efficient, clean – and sterile. It is also similar to how we approach outreach from those churches . . . isolated from others, each on our own journey . . . mostly oblivious to the dying world around us.
For all its confusion and mess though, SH5 shows how we should approach reaching others God’s way . . . careening bravely among all those who are facing death without Christ . . . constantly touching them with our presence . . . proclaiming loudly with our horn their need for Christ . . . “Death is Near . . . Watch Out!” God’s plan is for us to “go into all the world”, making disciples. All people need Christ. We can’t reach them if we never leave our solitary, sterile comfort. Only when we enter the confusing maelstrom of all those lives around us . . . all of them . . . can we fulfill God’s command.
We must travel SH5, and not I-5. We must change the sterility of our American church and outreach practice. Come with me. It’s really scary at times, but it’s God’s way. SH5 is calling.
Matthew 28:8Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Think about what you can do to get more involved in the lives of people around you TODAY. Pray and ask God to give you opportunities to do so, and to make sure you are aware of them. Get out there where the action is and where the needs are! -Alan Carlton