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Are You a Crossover Christian?

Crossover Christians adopt attitudes and activities that help them cross over to our secular culture and choose to mingle with unbelievers.

Dave liked to try to bother Linda, his wife's best friend, by telling her off-colour jokes. Finally Linda developed a routine: she smiled at Dave so that he knew she accepted him, but she never laughed so that he understood she did not appreciate the joke. Then she countered with an appropriate one of her own, which she collected for such occasions. Meanwhile Linda prayed every day that her friend's husband would come to Christ.

Linda is what you might call a "crossover Christian" because non-believers feel comfortable around her. Even though she tries to do what she thinks is right, she bends over backward not to be self-righteous. In this instance she used a universal tool of relating to her non-believing friend—joking with him. The Apostle Paul illustrated the crossover principle by saying: "I have become all things to all men so that I might by all possible means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:20 NIV). Missionaries use this principle when they dress like nationals and use crossover strategies such as teaching English. We can adopt attitudes and activities that help us cross over to our secular culture as well.

Crossover Christians are those who, while attempting to mature in Christ, also deliberately mix with non-believers. In doing so, they do their best to be themselves, knowing that if they appear uncomfortable, they'll produce uncomfortable feelings in others.

Though holier than anyone, Jesus maintained that crossover profile. In fact, people said of Him, "'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Matthew 11:19 NIV). Much of His witnessing and even teaching occurred in the marketplace instead of the synagogue. Jesus mixed with all of society, permeating it instead of separating Himself from it. Christians who mix well with non-Christians are usually transparent about their sinful natures. Paul, after a dramatic conversion and several missionary journeys, admitted: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst" (1Timothy 1:15 NIV). Paul did not say, "I was the worst" but "I am the worst." He understood that he was a sinner saved by grace. Crossover Christians readily admit their faults—much to the relief of onlooking non-believers who think that Christianity is about looking perfect. They understand that it's important to take their faith seriously without entertaining grand illusions about their righteousness.

High school student John felt this conflict keenly as he cornered his Bible teacher and asked, "How can I witness to my friends when they know all the things I've done wrong?" The teacher surprised John by suggesting he tell his friends that yes, he did a lot of wrong things, but God is willing to save anyone who trusts in Him.

Jesus crossed over to all sorts of classes of people as well. He counted as friends the possibly crooked tax collector Matthew, the outcast leper Simon, the lofty Pharisee Nicodemus, the political zealot Simon and the rich Zacchaeus. He shocked His disciples by talking with people society shunned, such as the woman with the flow of blood and Bartimaeus the blind beggar (see Luke 8:43-48; Mark 10:46-52).

In His conversations with people, Jesus didn't shock easily. Jesus seems to have spoken calmly with the Samaritan woman at the well. He spoke with her of spiritual things, even though men did not customarily converse with women about these things—especially a woman with her past. Yet He brought up her twisted marital past with subtlety.

In the same way, Diana, now a woman of 30, recalls how many years earlier the new youth minister in town did not change his facial expression when she told them that she, a young unmarried girl of 16, had an 18-month-old daughter. "I expected him to look shocked, or at least quit talking to me. I became active in that youth group and found Christ."

Crossover Christians understand that some non-Christians feel very uncomfortable in religious surroundings. They look for crossover settings in which non-Christians feel comfortable. Instead of inviting them to church, they might invite them to a worship service held in a public auditorium or a Bible study in a home. Some Bible studies are specifically designed with a crossover flavour about them. They occur in a home or restaurant and deal with the basics of who Jesus is. They draw from one simple Bible passage. Invent your own crossover situation as Matthew did when he invited his friends to dinner to meet Jesus (see Luke 5:29).

Jeff, a new Christian, invited several of his old non-believing friends to dinner along with two Christian friends to mingle and give their testimonies. When Katherine invited her neighbours and several Christian friends for brunch, she asked them to share things they were grateful for.

Just as Jesus gained a hearing by meeting needs, we can meet needs to earn our right to be heard. One great need is to be respectful of how threatening it can feel to be around a bunch of Christians when you aren't one.

Jan Johnson is a retreat speaker and author of When the Soul Listens and Living a Purpose-Full Life. Her website is She can be reached at

Originally published in Testimony,July 2006.




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