I have been involved recently with a number of people who are, in one form or another, involved in ministry. Numerous discussions about the church, Christians, Christ, non-Christians, evangelism and sundry related issues. Recurrent in these conversations is the concept of evangelism. In most case, evangelism means “telling others about Christ,” at least in the minds of the Christians talking about it. However, in the course of listening to Christians talk about evangelism I have gained a fuller understanding of why many non-Christians are adamant in their desire to avoid the discussion of spirituality, religion, Christ, or anything even remotely related to the church. Although I am a Christian I am arriving at the notion that I would probably prefer to not be counted among the crowd that calls themselves evangelical Christians.
In a long series of comments on Dan Kimball’s blog in response to Dan’s posting about a t-shirt that Dan saw a young man wearing in an airport, many talk about tactics for maneuvering the conversation around to a discussion of God, Christ and Christianity. Some to the point of argumentative. The evangelical church seems to convey the idea that it is the responsibly of all evangelical Christians to always be looking for or manufacturing ways and opportunities to manipulate the topic of conversation around to a discussion of God, Christ, the Bible and, most importantly, salvation.
Listening to a recent podcast by Greg Laurie, pastor at Harvest in Riverside California, Pastor Laurie talked about the fact the many non-religious people opt to pray before holiday meals. When the moments come up, the non-religious in the crowd often look to those they know to be church goers to say the requisite prayer. Pastor Laurie explained that this is an opportunity to share the gospel with the crowd gathered there. He went on to give an example of a prayer one might use. Pastor Laurie instructed listeners in how to encapulate the story of Christ coming to earth, living a sinless life, being crucified and resurrected in the course of giving thanks for the meal. I am not at all sure that these methods and tactics are at all effective and I suspect that they may even be counter productive to the cause that those who use them are pursuing. And, in the case of the prayer that Pastor Laurie suggests, I would like to point out that prayer is suppose to be a discussion with God. What Pastor Laurie suggests is a monologue with those present in the guise of a conversation with God. This seems to me an attempt to delude both those present and God. Deceiving others is rude. Attempting to deceive God is the height of foolishness.
We have all met that individual who is constantly working a Bible verse into every conversation they participate in. Everything is “Praise the lord” to the point where you begin to wonder, are they really that excited about the Lord or is there some ulterior motive. While this is a rather extreme or exaggerated example I think the underlying notions permeate all such tactics. In the end, I think that the people we are most trying to influence are, at the very least, made to feel uncomfortable and, more often, offended by attempts to inject God into conversations. Dan Kimball and others have noted that people not involved with the church often say that they like Jesus but do not want any thing to do with the church. I am pretty sure that this is, at least in part, because of the almost militant evangelical nature that is so prominent in the Protestant denominations today.
1 Peter 3:15 provides the best template for Christian living in my opinion. To live one’s own life in accordance with the teachings of Christ so that, when asked one can provide an answer for the hope that is in them. My faith in Christ is my decision to believe in and pursue the precepts of the Bible. If we believe the Bible then God has given each individual the freedom to choose whether or not they will believe in Him. I do not believe that anyone can be dragged through the pearly gates, kicking and screaming. The decision to seek God, to investigate the spiritual side of life has to begin inside oneself. God respects the individual’s choice in seeking Him. I think many Christians would do well to also respect the choices of others.
When asked, I am glad to share my reasons for my beliefs. If you don’t agree, I will respect your opinion. I think it is disrespectful to denigrate another’s beliefs. I am entitled to my opinions about other religions. Tolerance means that I respect the fact that other people believe things that I do not necessarily agree with. Respect requires tolerance. I think the world could do with a lot more respect and tolerance.
Song: Take Five
Artist: The Dave Brubeck Quartet
[posted with ecto]
Technorati Tags: christian