Paul spends the first three chapters of Colossians instructing them on a number of things. When you read Colossians one of the things that jumps out is that these people are immersed in a world of competing philosophies. Paul constantly warns them that Christ is sufficient and that the philosophies of this world stand in opposition to the message of Christ. After reading Colossians 1-3 it might be easy to think that Christians and the church would be better off to just shut the doors and hide inside in order to insulate ourselves from all false teaching that floats around in the world masquerading and truth that leads to various types of salvation.
I believe that as Paul wrapped up his letter to the Colossians he realized that the pendulum often swings too far and that he needed to make sure that they were hearing a balanced approach in how to interact with the world that didn’t insulate them from the world while still helping them understand what was true and what was false. Here are some of his final instructions in the letter,
“2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (4:2-5)
Paul’s final instructions have to do with how they are to STILL interact with the world. Paul didn’t have a policy of avoidance but of active engagement with people who needed Jesus and he wants us to do the same. So yes, beware of false teaching but don’t become so fearful of the world that you remove your saltiness from a world that is decaying and needs the preserving element the church is present in the world to provide.
I find your post interesting because I think I have noticed a change in how conservative evangelical churches now approach evangelism. No longer are they inviting “everyone” to visit their worship services, simply because they fear they cannot control keeping those out who may not “understand repentance”, concerned that the “unrepentant” could be a corrupting influence. The emphasis is more on individual teaching, hoping to have the person “converted” or “changed” before she or he actually become a part of the assembly and Bible classes.
John, I haven’t seen this at least in the conservative sector. The saved are still being encouraged to get the lost into the assembly for saving.