Monday, September 25, 2006

Jesus died and after one...two...three days was raised again!



on friday afternoon my good buddy and fellow SS slave dave invited me to attend a boston church planting collaborative meeting on Saturday morning. although i am usually hesitant to attend such gatherings, i decided that it might be good for my Spirit to share my current struggles with life and ministry, listen to the stories of others and enjoy a little mutual encouragement.

so after our weekly s & s guy’s breakfast i jumped in the car with dave and his buddy danny and we wound our way down to the big bad city. although we had a bit of difficulty locating the
emmanuel gospel center in the south end (which is pathetic. because city on a hill used to meet around the corner) we eventually found the building, miraculously found free parking behind the egc and eagerly entered the building.

unfortunately, as soon as we sat down in the conference room i knew we were screwed. for sitting there before us, in all it’s gaudy glory, was an oversized
evangecube.

we should have bolted right then and there, but, out of respect for ralph kee and the leaders of the egc, we didn’t. and so we were subjected to a two and a half hour seminar that provided us with a pedantic, step by step tutorial on the evangecube (did you know that Jesus died for our sins? have you heard that accepting the cross of Christ is the only way that you’ll ever make it to the seventh nebula of the ing galaxy where God dwells?), wooed us with the amazing numbers of people who have been "converted" after some white bread southern baptist from salado, texas unfolded God’s plan right before there very eyes and challenged to partner with E3 partners as they support indigenous pastors…by providing them with a cartons of the evangecube and training them how to unfold God’s glory by manipulating the magic box right before the unsaved millions’ very eyes.

i cannot emphasize enough how much i loathe the evangecube.

i cannot help but wonder whether we should count "conversions" when the only true metric we have for salvation is whether we "persevere unto the end."

i wholly agree with my friend who derided the presentation as "the exaltation of cube in the temple of revivalism."

i cannot help but wonder why we evangelicals are so eager to profess that Jesus is the Christ, but so hesitant to reorder our lives around and accompany others along the way of the Lord.

i cannot help but hope that i, alongside the people of God, can begin to pursue Christ’s mission and incarnate God’s Kingdom with the same intense passion that old line evangelicals sought conversions.

i’m thankful for the fifteen minutes i had to connect with my brothers and sisters in Christ after the presentation. i’m constantly amazed by how many intriguing, provocative people have chosen to incarnate Christ’s compassion, proclaim the gospel and pursue the Kingdom in the boston area.

16 comments:

Dave said...

i cannot think of two guys i would have rather have sat through that presentation with. what a throw back, to my old Word of Life Bible Institute days, the days of door-to-door "canvasing", decisions & re-dedications, and ultimately to the fundamentalist past of america.

it was a grueling 2.5 hours, in which i was swimming in my own depravity, wallowing in pride & disgust for such a heinous method of "evangelism". but dude, God be glorified that we were able to hang and meet a few key people after, which made the whole time worthwhile.

i also appreciated the discussion that followed, albeit brief, but useful nonetheless. Danny had asked a question to the presenter regarding his take on revivalism (a-la Charles Finney) and his view if it was positive, negative, or neutral historically speaking. what a tremendous question considering that this guy was making comments with regards to evangelism & "churchplanting" in countries like Romania & Brazil to the tune of "we were able to do more in 8 days with the evangicube with one American through and a translator, then these nationals were able to do in 8 years." absolute BS.

DAO said...

Jeff,
an honest and insightful post, and the same to you D. May God break our hearts and lead us to greener pastures!
Nice meeting you Jeff and look forward to more, next time, around a cold brew and a good Avo cigar!
yea,
danny

Anonymous said...

To quote the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, your modern world confuses and frightens me.

g13 said...

not to worry unfrozen caveman lawyer! that's why we have the evangecube: to show you how simple the gospel can be.

and if the evangecube doesn't work i'll use the gospel glove or, the even more creepily named, five finger exercise to introduce you to Jesus.

james said...

Have to say that being the first recipient of your text message from the evangecube seminar was quite priceless.

Dude, seriously, you have one of the best presentations of the evangecube I have ever seen. :)

g13 said...

thanks dr. j. someday, that evangecube presentation you mentioned might just make it onto youtube. without such a video i'm afraid that scores of individuals like unfrozen caveman lawyer might just burn in hell.

Mike said...

how... how does it take 2.5 hours to demonstrate to someone how to use the cube? is there some way to screw it up? if you don't use it right will people only be partially converted and become unitarians?

if it takes that long to teach someone to use it maybe they need to further truncate the gospel.

Rick said...

welcome to the Hell that was my life in Boston, having to sit through crap like that at SBC meetings.

Shawn and I sat through a 2 hour lecture on "selling Christ" I will never recover from. Thank God I had games on my old palm pilot. Shawn had to actually listen to the guy.

I do feel for you my friend.

bryan.bergmann@e3resources.org said...

Hey Man, I work for e3 Resoruces, the creators of the EvangeCube...I love your honesty. Eye opening actually - thank you.

bryan.bergmann@e3resources.org said...

Just read what Dave had to say as well and would like to hear more about why what the guy who was evangelizing in Brazil had to say was B.S.?? It's nothing I take personal, I'm just curious.

Mike said...

bryan,

i don't presume to speak for g13. but my take on it is that one of the reasons i fled from christianity (other than my sinful nature) until i was an adult was stuff like the cube.

it seemed to me that a religion that could be summed up on a die was too trite and simplistic and com modified to have any real meaning.

nothing of value can be put onto a die and not loose its power and beauty.

that stuff always made me vomit when the youth pastor would come to our school and whip out the newest gimmick.

now that i am "in" it still makes me vomit. only now i wonder if we (cubists and me) are talking about the same religion.

i assume you all over at e3 are sincere. but come on. do you really think you can reduce something as profound as the life and work and death of christ and the broken yet still glorious state of humankind down to a die?

my friends who are not citizens of the kingdom point to that as an example of why they think my religion is a joke.

i will give you this - you are brave for jumping in on this discussion.

Dave said...

Thanks for asking that question Brian. There is more than one reason why I think such a statement is BS. Now, let me say at the outset that our presenter had the best of intentions in sharing his thoughts and experiences about the evangecube ministry. I in no way think that he was lying to us or trying to minipulate statistics to convince us to use the evangecube. When I say it is BS, I mean that I severely disagree with his assessment. I believe that God is BIG-time holy and sovereign and that he will use whatever he wants to accomplish his purposes. I do not doubt that he can use a tool like the evangecube to present the gospel, and through the gospel change lives. But, my friend asked the question after the presentation about when does he not use the evangecube. I thought his answer was telling, because he went right to tracts, making the comment that they have a tract that explains the very same points.

(Begin Sidebar) I was involved in a few different open air evangelism ministries for a few years, so I can resonate with wanting to use tools like rope tricks, pressed pennies with the 10 commandments, optical illusions, paint boards, and different kinds of tracts to help break the ice with people and tell the Gospel story. I can respect the people who are doing cold-turkey evangelism out of a desire for God to spread his glory in the gospel to sinners far and wide. However, I think there are some fundamental biblical-theological and cultural questions that must be asked to adjust these types of evangelistic methods:

Why did Jesus incarnate to die and what did his death/resurrection accomplish?

Why doesn't God write the Gospel in the sky for everyone to read/hear in their own language, or why doesn't he physically appear in the form of a cloud the way he did to Israel so everyone could see/hear? Why don't we just send/drop bibles, tracts, and books into countries who need to hear the Gospel?

How do we determine what "success" is in evangelism? Is it numbers of "decisions", numbers of people sent, numbers of churches planted? Was Jesus a successful "evangelist"?

What barriers are preventing people from being exposed to the Gospel in the world? Is it language, technique, politics, or christians there not sharing it?

Out of what culture/country/time in history are these kind of evangelistic tools being created?

The answers to these questions are too long to post here.
(End Sidebar)

The short answer to the question is that I think that kind of comment magnifies the "Cube" and it's accompanying technique and belittles the testimony of the people of God that live in those communities. By implication, that statement is saying that these people were not smart enough or advanced enough technologically to reach people for Christ with the same quantity and efficiency as those with the Cube, and we have numberical proof. I mean honestly, are we to respond, "Yes God, thank you for the Cube, why didn't you create it sooner".

The Cube and it's corresponding paraphenalia has tattooed Jesus to a cheesey trinket of American culture that will be forever associated with Western capitalism and entertainment.

I would love to talk more about this and the nature of evangelism but this is not my blog. Thus, I will duplicate and expand this post over at my site in the near future.

Brian, I hope this helps give a little perspective as to my comment. Let's pick it up via email, or over the phone, as often text can't communicate tone well. My email is dalherring@gmail.com. Cheers.

Bryan Bergmann said...

Wow, there's a level of depth going on that I love, and you brought up a few things that I hadn't thought of like, "was Jesus a good Evangelist..."

For both of your replies, thank you. I came on here about 5 monthes ago with similar attitudes and many of them have changed. I actually proposed that we make this sweet looking black - cubist art style cube that used abstract art to preach the Gospel. I was like, please! make this thing cooler. Now I'm not conviced that that is the point.

Mass production, and Mass communication are the institutions of our time. I know about guys like Seth Godin and the book the Long Tail and such that are hailing a different message but still -the massess are using the massess. But what is it going to take to get the 90% of the American church who has NEVER shared the Gospel verbally.

Question:
How did you become a Christian?

james said...

Howdy . . . g13 asked me to share some of my thoughts on the matter. My first couple of questions are in regard to your last paragraph.

You stated:
Mass production, and Mass communication are the institutions of our time . . . the massess are using the massess. But what is it going to take to get the 90% of the American church who has NEVER shared the Gospel verbally.

Have to say firstly that your statistic boggles me. Where are you getting these numbers, and how is a personal and verbal statement from one person to another measured and bound into a statistic? Just asking. No ill feelings at all.

Second, while the idea of mass production and communication as institutions of our age may seem useful when inegrated into evangelism, I primarily believe these elements to be foundational principles of business and marketing. While these can be of use to the Christian church when bound together, I do not believe the merging of these two elements to be our best option as they often times stand in stark opposition to the message and natural outworking of Christ's Gospel.

Why use chick tracts, Christian t-shirts, power-point presentations, bait & switch methods of entertainment films and travelling circus performers (see The Power Team), when the exemplified sincerity of a life lived in obedience to Christ (even to the point of martyrdom) has worked fairly well for almost 1900 years?

We may say to these previous methods, "but if it saves only one, then it is worth it." But in the end if they save one while turning away five in the process, is it still worth it?

In my opinion, we don't need a Christendom that is run and looks like a business exemplifying the practices of John Maxwell and Bruce Wilkinson. We need people who are simply willing to live as radically as Jesus commanded them to live. We need those who are not afraid of death and willing to be the Clarence Jordan's, and the Desomd Doss's of our time.

Not trying to lash out here or anything. I guess I just feel there is more of a sincerity in this kind of approach than there is to an evangelism that at times comes off like we're trying to sell something.

peace,

james

Mike said...

first i would like to add that the medium is the message. if the medium is mass marketing, in this case the cube, and what mass marketing does best as exemplified by the cube is it reduces complex concepts into simplistic maxims. the problem is that the Story of God, the Gospel, the evangel is not simple or simplistic and historically attempts to reduce it have resulted in bad doxy, bad praxis, and bad feelings towards the faith.

you ask: How did you become a Christian?

that is a great example of what i am trying to say above. entire volumes have been written in an attempt to answer that question and i am skeptical of any attempt to do so that can be put on the 6 sides of a die.

as to how DID i become a christian i first want to note why i didn't for so long. it was because of cheap reductionist approaches to evangelism. i don't remember seeing a cube but i do recall seeing the gospel on the back of a dollar bill, a napkin, and more t-shirts than i could shake a stick at. i heard the 3/5 spiritual laws, many of the different tracks, sat through a billy grahm show on tv, was drug to numerous concerts (bait and switch - come for the derivative-poor-imitation-of-secular-music and then have dogma stuffed down your throat) and the classic bait and switch - youth group.

i don't think i was all that sharp as a teen but i was repulsed by that crap.

how did i become a christian?

a community of followers showed me love and grace and invited me to watch their lives and experience christ incarnated in their little community and in those people collectively i bumped into jesus. their testimony was powerful enough to overcome the reductionist gospel that had repulsed me.

here is another reason the cube bothers me: if my faith can be reduced and trivialized to the point that it can be put onto a die or deomonstrated by a gimick then i want out.

and, i have my doubts about the veracity of any metanarative that can be explained on a die.

AND, i don't think we are doing anyone any favors when we excuse them from doing the hard work of living the new life (which should be the only demonstration of the truth we need) by offering them an "Easy" way to share the gospel.

AND (sorry) i would like to see where the folks who were "converted" by the use of the cube are now. are they still following christ? where is the fruit? i remember reading in C.Finney's works (he was a fan of reducing the gospel, use of mass media, and "new methods") how he was disapointed later in life to learn that many of those converted by his methods no longer followed christ. so i ask, where is the fruit?

g13 said...

bryan, thank you for jumping into the shark tank once again. i really appreciate your passion for the gospel and am thankful for the questions you have posed.

i suppose i should begin by answering your last question: how did i become a christian? i the simplest answer to that question is: nepotism. i grew up in a family that worshipped God and have a grandfather whose character and wisdom drew and continue to draw me to Jesus. i also believe that conversion is as much a process as it is a point in time. thus, in a very real sense, i continue to have periodic conversion experiences that deepen my understanding of Christ and call me to a more full orbed obedience to him, but i don’t think this is the space to unravel that tangled story.

in regards to the evangecube, you openly wondered what it going to take the 90% of the american church who has never communicated the gospel to actually share the gospel with their friends, family and the world. i would like to respond to this open question with a question: is it every individual Christians responsibility to share the gospel in a propositional manner?

i think we can both agree that evangelism and/or making disciples is a crucial component of Christian mission and is the primary entrĂ©e most people have into the Kingdom of God. however, i think we might differ regarding the primary means of making disciples in the world. from my perspective, a lot of traditional evangelicals consider evangelism to be a charge and expectation that is primarily laid upon the individual Christian. i was introduced to this perspective by daniel, a southern baptist kid in my second grade class, who warned me that i could not get into heaven unless i saved someone’s soul, and i continue to hear this kind of evangelistic emphasis ringing throughout evangelicalism still.

contrary to the radically individualistic conception that characterized so many traditional evangelicals, i would suggest that evangelism and/or making disciples is primarily the responsibility of the church as a whole (well, actually it is the responsibility of God, whose grace is the true source of redemption accomplished and applied, but that’s a whole ‘nother post). God did not call us to be individual agents of his grace who are sent into the world to convince people to accept Jesus by using any means necessary. rather God has incorporated into the body of Christ, and within that body there are members that will be effective at proclaiming the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard, others who teach young believers to subvert the status quo by following the way of Jesus, still others who find ways to meet the basic needs of the widows and the orphans, etc. thus, i think that a good portion of the 90% who have never shared the gospel in a propositional way probably are not gifted as evangelists and thus, might never share the gospel in that manner. i think that’s okay. of course, if they are failing to use their gifts to further the mission and ministry of the body of Christ as a whole, that is a problem.

of course, i’m still processing through all of these issues and i’m responding in a stream-of-consciousness manner. so you should probably take everything i say with a grain of salt. pax.