Thursday, September 01, 2005
In N Out
Evangelism in our culture has become very oriented around labels. We size people up to see what label we stick on them so we can talk to them through the filter of their label. When we begin to witness to someone we usually decipher which religion they are practicing, for example, not because we’re genuinely interested in their life or beliefs but because we need to know so we can tell them why they’re wrong and we are right. So witnessing, ultimately, becomes about us being right, them being wrong, and our ability to articulate it to them. Some people are masters at this technique.
A youth pastor friend of mine once bragged to me that he was meeting the Mormons (the Mormon missionaries) once a week. In their weekly meetings each group had an agenda. My friend’s agenda was simple, prove them wrong. I imagine the Mormons had a similar agenda. Neither party was genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the other. My youth pastor friend later boasted that the Mormons stopped meeting him because they didn’t like him, I failed to see how this was a positive thing.
Another way we size people up is by their conduct. If someone is a partier we will address the evils of partying. Alcohol is bad, drugs are bad, sex is bad.
I have another friend who says he’s sick of watching his friends “throw their lives away” on drugs and sex. He’s involved in the new Christian club on my alma matre’s campus. I agree with, I’m sick of it too I constantly see people living in futility finding instant gratification. My hope for them is to find the best and fullest gratification, that they would find the great kind of life I profess but rarely live out. I disagree with the method my friend presumes. His choice is to separate himself from “them” to be “set apart” (a disgustingly misinterpreted phrase). The plan he shares with the new Christian club is to invite speakers once a month and give alter calls on the stage at lunch. They also are going to “reach out” and individually walk out to students and witness to them. I imagine the conversations will revolve around why people should become Christians and leave their life of sin, you know the kind of conversation every high school student wants to spend their lunch in. Of course coming around to why we’re right and their wrong. They have already invited me to speak at their stage at lunch. I don’t imagine my message would fit their mold. It seems to me the idea of “reaching out” being presented ends with a slap in the face.
Why do we have to size people up?
Why do we need an agenda?
I was thinking the other day about a quote from Rob Bell, “love with an agenda isn’t love is it?” I think sometimes love can become an agenda in itself too. We love to love. We love because we know we should. What if we became people who love without obligation or agenda? What if we were people who love instead of people who have to love? What if we left behind all our agendas?
I often say Christians need to be witness before they can witness. Think about the word witness. Where do we find this word in the world? In a court room. A witness is someone who is intimate with the given situation or occurrence. It’s someone whose seen it been a part of it. Christians need to be a part of it before they go out and talk about it. I find that most of the people who go out witnessing with an agenda to get people saved are the most bigoted people in the world I couldn’t spend ten minutes with many of them. Are they witnesses? Is that the life God calls us to? If it is I’d rather steer clear of God. Thank God that’s not the kind of life He wants for us. We need to practice what we preach and preach the truth. The truth is it’s not about being right or wrong. In the end we’re all wrong about something. It’s really about embarking on a journey not joining a club.
If we are people who love then we will actually take interest in people, their lives, their hobbies, their beliefs. We can listen without always showing them how wrong they are and how right we are. They’re people with value and God is in love with them exactly how they are, shouldn’t we? If we really want to follow Jesus and be like Him shouldn’t we stop and think when we’re doing something, anything, what if Jesus did this? What if God did this? What if God’s only concern was for us to be right about stuff (or be wrong and Him be right)? What if God was just waiting for His turn to speak and didn’t really care about what we were saying? What if God only loved Christians, would there be any?
It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance isn’t it? Why don’t we lead with kindness?
The word evangelism just leaves a funny taste in my mouth. I know it shouldn’t but it does. Because it’s become, in many circles, something perverse. It’s become all about labels and agendas. People need to know that Jesus’ way is the best and fullest way to live. His way is filled with beauty and love. Show people that way. Live it!
Defend your faith by being the most healthy and full and most intimately involved person you can be. Be you, the you God created. St. Francis once said “preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” And sure, Talk about it. I love talking about Jesus but realize that it’s not about who is in and who is out. I often say Christians need to be witnessed to too. People need relationships and people who care about them on every place on the road. I have places inside me that are as good as dead and I need life brought to them. I’m just like the rest of the world, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Baptists, Cults, Satanists, Pagans, even soccer moms. I need healing. I need love.