We need to regularly ask God to burst our Christian bubbles.
People talk about the “Westminster bubble”. It means politicians and journalists are living in their own world of Westminster, out of touch with the mood of the rest of the country. Similarly, mainstream media (based in big cities, employing people of a very particular demographic) gets criticised for living in a bubble; it doesn’t grasp how disaffected much of the population is with the narrow range of views explored by journalists.
But we all live in bubbles, Christians included. It’s suggested that the maximum number of people we can know properly is 150. It’s very hard to have our finger on the pulse of every one. The world is so much bigger than any of us realise.
We inhabit such a tiny bubble. As a minister, this is particularly true of me. I read newspapers like Evangelicals Now, which has an estimated readership of 10,000?! I catch myself thinking events like Word Alive and the Keswick Convention are big with 15,000 attendees. We think the Gospel Coalition website is influential with its 3 million hits per month. But 3 million hits is a drop in the bucket compared to the followings “godmen” have on Indian TV. Ramdev – who I’m guessing most people reading this have never heard of – is more powerful than most Western celebrities. Muslim speakers like Zakir Naik, Shabir Ally, and Mufti Menk have larger followings than Desiring God or Ligonier. Children are watching vloggers, I’ve never heard of.
Social media can distort our impression of what’s going on in our corner of the world. But the “mood” on Twitter doesn’t necessarily reflect the “mood” on Twitch, nor the “mood” on the street. Instagrammers won’t match the mindset of the Twitterati. And plenty of people don’t flaunt their real views online anyway.
Similarly, geography and language contribute to bubbles. We were blessed to be visited by a missionary yesterday, who showed us a photo of Chinese Christian couple, with three children. Both the husband and wife had been arrested quite recently and interrogated separately. Thankfully they were released without charges. But that bursts my bubble. Here are ordinary Christians actually experiencing arrest and police intimidation in a way that no one in the UK has experienced for centuries.
The trouble with Christian bubbles is that our views don’t get challenged or provoked. Instead, they grow flabby and presumptuous. We get sloppy in our thinking and aren’t forced to speak accurately. We develop distorted understandings of the Bible and of ourselves. In a bubble, a “micro-aggression” can feel unrealistically big. Discontentment at our circumstances can grow. We can have a false view of “success”. In a bubble, we can end up talking only to ourselves, preaching to the choir, speaking the “language of Zion”.
There aren’t quick and easy answers. But it’s one of the benefits of leafleting and street evangelism. Try handing a leaflet about church to a commuter in rush hour; that bursts my bubble! There’s the person who doesn’t even acknowledge you; they look through you with their stony-faced stare! There are the others who look at you as if you’re from another planet. There are the smilers and cheerful, who are “too busy”.
However happy we may or may not feel in our Christian bubble, a lot of people out there are still on the broad road that leads to destruction. Jesus Christ hasn’t come to rule over a Christian bubble, but over heaven and earth. It would be a good prayer to start praying: “Lord, please burst the bubble I live in, so that I see this world more accurately”.