Wednesday, April 02, 2008

questions concerning evangelism
submitted by slowfo

Here's something I wonder.....what if, other than faraway tribes that really haven't heard this Jesus story, the Church should really just put the whole evangelism thing into a much lower gear. I was just thinking about the context of the whole "spread the good news" thing the other day and was simultaneously trying to visualize a world without TV, internet, cell phones, radios, etc. let alone a decent postal system.

I mean, if Jesus was a brand new story during the 1st Century and I didn't have any of those means of communication, then hell yes....spread the good news!! Tell everyone! Make it quick too! Hurry!! Go, go, go! It's NEW news. But, I don't think Paul, Peter, or John, originally had any idea that we would one day be able to communicate instantly with people on the other side of the globe.......otherwise if they were living today, they might think "Alright, good. The Word's out. Now let's just live as Jesus lived and see how He draws people to Himself through us."

I'm not saying that Jesus is worn-out news, dull news, or irrelevant news for today's world but it definitely isn't NEW news - especially for people in the United States. So I just wonder, should we still treat it like it's NEW news?? Or is it time to just put it in a lower gear on the evangelism and in a higher gear on living Jesus' love to others? Maybe more of an attitude of "Look, you all know about Jesus....I'll just leave it to you to decide whenever you want....meantime, I'm gonna just do my thing and care for the poor, feed the hungry, etc.......and we'll all watch and see how Jesus changes the world one person at a time." I dunno.....just thinking.


g13 said...

hey all, i'd like to welcome slowfo to the conversation. he is an old okie friend who at a pivotal time in my life helped make a way for my faith and later redeemed my first year of exile at soybean bible (a school he initially discouraged me to attend because of the relatively limited, um, options on campus) by providing me with a refuge, introducing me to wes anderson, ignoring my smoking and generally making life in the plains palatable.

i'd appreciate it if you would welcome him to musings by entering into this conversation. i'm tempted to ask you to play nice, but am confident old slowfo can handle himself.

Scott said...

hey gang. i realize that most of you don't know me but i appreciate you all and jg allowing me to throw an idea or opinion into the mix with you. i'm looking forward to some good convo and getting to know the rest of you as we all travel this journey of life.

i don't really know much to tell you about myself other than that i'm a huge fan of Flight of the Conchords and beginning today i think any conversation should start and end with that........oh, and mixed in with a few ponderings regarding the Jesus we follow.

btw, if you ever need a little dirt on jg, let me know. we go waaaay back. :)

g13 said...

scotty, since its only the two us in here (strike: lights; cue: endless love), i'd like to offer a few quick hits on your post.

first, your post really reminds me of marshall mcluhan's dictum that "the medium is the message." i think that many evangelicals have realized at some level that the advent of global travel, instant communication and international media has influenced the message, but we haven't, at least on a popular level, delved into the implications of that reality.

second, when i hear you suggest that we might need to "slow down" our hyper-frenetic proclamation in order to more intentionally introduce the gospel as a lived reality, i can't help but think of brian mclaren's suggestion in more ready than you realize that maybe the evangelical church should take a five year hiatus from apologetic evangelism as we know it so that we can apologize for our failures to incarnate Christ in the world and reimagine what it means to live incarnationally.

i'm all about slowing down, living incarnationally and re-introducing the Kingdom as a lived reality as long as the people of God. however, as the church makes this type of missional shift i also think it is imperative for Christian communities to maintain their intentionality and passion in regards to inviting, enticing and provoking people to fully experience the beauty, truth and goodness of God.

Agent B said...

That's a great question that no one has asked. And I definitely agree: put it in a lower gear.

In the city I live in, I'm convinced that 99.9% of the population has not only heard the good news, but had some sort of church experience in their past, probably as a child.

It's the lack of living like christ that has turned off many. So, I agree with living the christ like life. I guess everyone debates over what that should look like...

Brian said...

I have to think that to some degree this is vital. I hear Agent B speaking about his demographic and I can't imagine that boisterous evangelism (in it's traditional sense) is anything but counterproductive in my demographic as well. By "taking it down a few gears" people are allowed to watch and then ask about something that seems genuine. On the converse side, when we speak first we are just opening ourselves up for scrutiny. While I don't think that scrutiny is wholly bad, we are typically being scrutinized based on stereotypes (things like political stances) and not for anything resembling a genuine Biblical faith.

monts said...

it sounds as if this is a proclamational vs. incarnational sort of conversation, however at the same time i feel that is an unfair assertion. i'm not sure you're saying it's an either/or sort of issue, but rather finding the balance in a both/and sort of way.

i feel that as christ followers in a post-christian society we have totally lost our voice to speak prophetically into the culture--we've lost every last ounce of respect, and as a result we've lost our right. therefore, it is imperative that we "preach the gospel always and if necessary use words." it will only be through our incarnation of the gospel that we will ever be allowed to balance it with any prophetic proclamation. this will afford us the right to speak deeply into the lives of the people we encounter by sharing a love that is more than words.

g13 said...

thanks to one and all for entering in.

you're right montsie, this definitely isn't an either/or conversation. polarities generally suck and we definitely need to balance incarnation and proclamation. however, in an age of media saturation and message reduction i think that incarnation needs to carry more weight. the latter guess is also supported by the imbalance that has often resulted from an evangelical overemphasis on proclamation.

thank you for pointing us towards the prophetic edge. as my man rodney clapp reminds us in johnny cash and the great american contradiction, a book i'm really enjoying right now, prophetic words resonate most fully when they are first applied to the individual, then to the individual's community and then the world. i'm all for being personally reshaped by the prophetic testimony of scripture. that process is undoubtedly painful, but necessary.

slowfo said...

But what if...and this is a big what if......what if the command to share the Good News was purely and totally a contextual command?

As an analogy, what if we had no modern means of communication and our government was overthrown by the French (for instance)? we would immediately want to tell everyone as fast as possible that a "new deal" was upon us that would change the way that we would live even our everyday lives forever....but, once everyone knows, then they know. Now it becomes just a matter of living accordingly.

Is it even remotely possible that the new deal/testament was to be proclaimed throughout because it wsa such a major change from the old deal/testament....and now....well, we just live it - except of course for the remote tribes who still haven't heard (and btw, God's gotta be a little disappointed in us at this point that with all of our communication and transportation, we still haven't even gotten to them).

Anyway, how would it change things for modern Jesus followers if it was totally a contextual command and/or is that even possible?

james said...

Awesome post. Awesome topic. Awesome conversation!

There's not much more that i can say that hasn't already been said. With this in mind. I will say this: What American (or Westerner) doesn't already know that God has a wonderful plan for your life and that Jesus died for your sins. What G13 stated about incarnation is crucial. We need to hunker down and prepare to show the world the redemptive hope found in the incarnation; individually, communally and globally.


g13 said...

scott, that's an excellent clarification. if the NT command to witness is a contextual command, then i would submit that saint francis might be the best model of how we are to operate in the world. For though he's best known for one quote and his oft repeated exile to the kitchen garden, his ministry was shaped by calling insiders (those within Christendom) to repentance and outsiders (the Muslim saracen, etc.) to faith.

other thoughts are percolating here, but i have to tend to a screaming child.


Anonymous said...

g13, are you suggesting the church do need-centered ministry? would that involve a screening of Facing the Giants? People need that (like I need hemorrhoids).

You know where I live...I've quit using the term "unchurched", for there isn't a group in NW Ohio hiding in the woods with gourds covering their swimsuit areas. but I definitely appreciate the term "dechurched" and we have plenty of those here--mostly those who neither found no personal relationship with Christ during their Lutheran or Catholic upbringing, nor were taught it(please don't take that as a knock against Catholics or's just not doing much around here).

Appreciate the post, man. Most do know the story...the question is how do we let them know that their stories connect with His? A much tougher challenge than sharing four spiritual laws, or leaving tracts on requires relationship, time, sweat, suffering, know, the sh** Americans try to avoid.

Kevin Smith Clark

g13 said...

kevin smith clark, i'm glad you brought up that point about the language of "unchurched." i think that if churches utilize that language to refer to ministries/services/etc. that primarily target the white, american-born, rhythm-disabled among us, they are either intentionally being a little misleading or they are a little delusional.

not that i have an opinion on the matter...

slowfo said...

or how 'bout this? maybe the American Church needs to shut up a little more and get to work - i.e. feed the poor and take care of the widows. The problem is that the AC has become so sanitary and hip that it won't be "cool" or "relevant to the culture" to be hangin' out at nursing homes and busing in the poor to our sunday services (they don't really belong there anyway....they'll stain our new theater seats).

Agent B said...

Yes Slowfo - the AC needs to get to "work". Do some sort of action, lived out, etc.

It probably won't happen as long as the sunday morning community talent show and social club are the number one ship to keep afloat.

In social clubs, all resources and teachings go towards maintaining the cogs that run the machine.

I could go on (really). But basic point: the church culture fears shifting resources to others (the local town/community?) instead of itself.

My solution: leave the church culture. But that might not work for everyone.

monts said...

"shut up a little and get to work..."

i like that.

although i am extremely inclined to agree that the our proclivity to proclamation is overwhelmingly imbalanced, i don't think we need to throw the baby out with the bath water... for that is what we tend to do in a reactionary state of mind. when i lived in central illinois, i could've sworn there was no one there that had never "heard" the gospel because it is such an over saturated area of "church" (200 churches for about 70,000 people). however, i learned that wasn't the case. i found a couple of friends that had never cracked open a bible, never heard about Jesus other than WWJD and had no understanding of the gospel. it was only through conversational proclamation that they were ever able to hear... the rest has been incarnational.

i think we need to strive for a balance--although i'm okay with erring on the side of incarnation for the time being.