“In the corporate psychology of every city, there is a threshold of non-ignorability.” – Ray Ortlund
It was in a breakout session a few years back at a conference when I heard Ray Ortlund say those words.
The threshold of non-ignorability is an invisible line, in the cultural atmosphere of any given place. Most things (sub-cultures, groups, movements, passions, etc.) live and operate below that line. They fly under the collective radar of the city. They are important, no doubt. They are just very important to a specific group of people or a rather small amount of people.
In my hometown of Waco, TX, the Baylor Bears are no longer ignorable. They were extremely easy to ignore my entire childhood. You can like them. You can hate them. You can be indifferent. But you simply cannot ignore Baylor in Waco today. They currently live above the line of non-ignorability.
What is impossible to ignore in your city?
It’s impossible to ignore country music in Nashville or hipsters in Austin. Or food trucks in Austin. Or naked people in Austin. Austin’s weird.
It’s impossible to ignore the Razorbacks in Arkansas or the Pacific in southern California.
In the South, it’s impossible to ignore college football, sweet tea and religion.
It doesn’t matter if you like college football or not, it’s everywhere here in the fall, on every TV in every restaurant in town.
Last week I overheard a woman in a local restaurant ask why everyone drank sweet tea down here. The waitress was baffled at why this woman, clearly not from ’round here, would ask such a ludicrous question.
There’s also religion everywhere. Religion is impossible to ignore in my town with a church on every corner and most major world religions represented.
But sometimes I wonder if Jesus is impossible to ignore in my city.
I am not one of these “relationship-not-religion” people. I understand what that movement is trying to accomplish but I think they unintentionally drag through the mud valuable traditions and the foundation of faith built by 2,000 years of committed Christians.
However, a genuine need exists to separate genuine faith from rote religious activity.
This is my biggest prayer for my city – that Jesus would rise above the threshold of non-ignorability so that every person living here notices all the evidence of Jesus in our city.
They won’t all follow him, but that’s nothing new. “And some were convinced by what he [Paul] said, but others disbelieved.” (Acts 28:24). My hope is they simply can’t ignore him because of the collective work of the churches here and more importantly, the collective life change and joy on display in the lives of my city’s Christians.
True life change will make Jesus impossible to ignore in our city.
The New Testament book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome. He gathered the local Jewish leaders together and shared his experiences with them. Paul was respected by them and they asked him to tell them about Jesus and this new movement of his followers causing a stir across the empire.
While they did not know much about Christianity, they knew one thing, it ellicted a response.
“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” – Acts 28:22
Christianity has been spoken against since its inception. It could be argued today that the biggest fear of many Christians in America is being spoken against. Yet historically, Christianity has grown the most when it has been pushed to the margins, away from the majority, away from the center of public acceptance.
Maybe Jesus is ignorable in my city because I am.
Maybe Jesus is ignorable in your city because you are.
Are people speaking against you as a direct result of the way in which you live out your faith?
Are you taking risks for the kingdom of God that seem foolish in the kingdom of this world?
Are you radically generous in a way that makes non-Christians scratch their heads in confusion?
Or are we simply living life exactly like people who don’t believe but we just wake up earlier on Sunday?