Many years ago I prayed this prayer: “Lord give me your eyes to see the world.” The answer to this prayer has brought both great joy and intense sorrow on many occasions.
The Wesleyan Church is over 100 years old in Barbados. I was there recently to preach at several of our Churches and to meet with pastors on this spectacular island. It is a crowded island only 16 miles long with over a quarter of a million residents plus hundreds of thousands of tourists year round. Land Space is at a premium as the luxury hotels have “gobbled” up the prime real estate.
I was staying at a simple yet well-furnished guesthouse owned by one of the church members. The guesthouse was the kind of housing that appealed to the young adventurer from all over the world. Needless to say, breakfast conversation was vibrant! I met two women from Greece who were in their 20s (whose names I’ll change to Arbona and Eleni for this article.) They were bemoaning their long trip from Greece to Barbados on their holiday. We discussed the airports they had troubles in as well as a few things about Greece (one of the benefits of all my travels are these easy conversation starters). Arbona was originally from Albania and since I had been there several times during hostile times more trust and conversation was gained.
I had come to Barbados for the Wesleyans. Arbona and Eleni came to Barbados for the beach, the clubs and to meet men. They then asked about my purpose. So I began to carefully describe about God, Jesus, then the church. They were clueless about what church was like. They only knew a little bit about the famous Orthodox Church buildings in both Greece and Albania.
In a recent Pew Poll the fastest growing group of people in the Western World were not Catholics or Protestants, Muslims or Buddhists. The fastest growing religious affiliation in the Western world is “Nones.” The Nones believe in God someplace but have no affiliation with any type of religion. They do value the experience of spirituality, but have no spiritual place to call home. Arbona and Eleni are each one of the Nones. Like most in this group, they need us to share the spirit-filled experience we have in our faith long before we push the tradition, reasons, or even scripture of our faith on them.
Arbona and Eleni left for the beach and I left for the Wesleyans. The next morning they slept in as they had been out to the clubs much of the night and picked up some men. But they were curious as to how my day had gone. Of course it was quite a bit different than their day! I talked about the great people I had met, and talked a bit about prayer and how God answers them. They were immediately drawn in by this experience of answered prayer. Arbona began to talk about some of her life which was difficult and wondered if perhaps God could have been present in her life during that time. She wondered aloud if he could be present now.
I was headed out to church the next day. With a huge smile on her face, Arbona said, “Oh, are you going to go and talk about your gods today?” (notice the plural)
With a bit of a pause at the plural, I said, “Yes, I suppose I am.”
She approved, saying: “That is so good.”
I had to trust the prevenient grace of our God for Arbona and Eleni. But it also broke my heart as I see them and "the Nones" with God’s eyes. My last morning there I could discern that they had had some rugged nights with the men they had picked up. They were leaving as I was, and going on to something else. God allowed my new friendship with these ladies to give me a new glimpse of the vast harvest of Nones all around us, lost like sheep without a shepherd. All while we Wesleyans talk about our missional priority of "Authentic Christian Leaders" we must be willing to befriend those far from God in authentic relationships, to open our eyes to those who might mark "None" on their religious affiliation.
Dear God… our Lord! Keep we Wesleyan people focused on building relationships with the Nones… loving the Nones… and reaching the Nones. They have nothing without you, as we would. But with you, everything is possible for the Nones!