Degrees of separation (from Jesus)

1. Kate Winslet was in Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio
2. Leonardo DiCaprio was in Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks
3. Tom Hanks was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon

You’re probably familiar with the game “Six Degrees of Separation (Kevin Bacon),” where one player picks an actor, and the other players list a string of co-stars and supporting actors that connect that actor to Kevin Bacon. Apparently, Kevin Bacon is the center of the film universe. If you’ve never tried it, you should. If you’re lazy, or if you don’t want to admit to watching rated-R movies, there’s a Bacon Calculator to do it for you at the “Oracle of Bacon.”

Lately I’ve been reminded of the Kevin Bacon game a lot. I spent the last week talking with missionaries from around Western Europe, and I was encouraged to hear their stories. I really had no idea what some of them were doing in their places of service (and in more than one case, I had never even heard of their place of service). Anyway, one thing that struck me about nearly every story I heard was how they related the great spiritual need they they found every day. It seemed like everyone I spoke with felt the need to tell me how lost their people group or city really was.

For example:
“We’re working with university students in Salamanca. There are one hundred and fifty thousand students there, and the city is less than point-five percent evangelized.”

“Our team is working with Cambodians in Dusseldorf, and they are the largest UPG in the world.”

It’s not just the numbers. As if work in a city of five million was somehow more important than work in a village of thirty thousand. Ok, so maybe it is the numbers that bother me. But I’ve written enough about how I don’t think we should let numbers determine our strategy. My question now is about degrees of “lostness.” Are some people more lost than others? What is it that makes missionaries measure their importance by the perceived challenge of “reaching” a bigger, “loster” people group?

Is a historically “Christian” people group closer to Jesus than a Muslim one? Maybe we should measure lostness by distance from the land where Jesus Himself walked (as the crow flies). Should we consider the ones that sin more to be further from salvation? Maybe the less civilized? I guess that biblically, we could argue that the richer nations have a harder time entering the Kingdom…

So now we’re back to the Kevin Bacon game: Are there degrees of separation from God? Are some people more lost than others? I get that some people are more spiritually minded than others, and that some are nearer than others to that point of belief that comes with a relationship with the Creator. And of course, God uses encounters with believers to draw people to Himself. But if a person or people group is separated from God, aren’t they still only one step away from Him? I believe that people are only separated by one degree from God. After all, it isn’t us that bridge the gap between them and Him. Forget Kevin Bacon, Jesus is the relational center of the universe.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.