streetcorner evangelist and “right belief”

My dad is now blogging about his experiences as a “truck-driving disciple of Jesus.” Read it. It’ll rock your world. You’ll see pretty quickly why I have emulated this man (as he has emulated Christ) my entire life. Here’s the link: http://holmark.wordpress.com/.

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I overheard an interesting conversation this week at work. A few of my co-workers were talking about promises that never came to fruition (I can’t remember the exact context), and someone said, “Well, a few months ago, this guy at Government Center told me that the world was coming to an end, and I needed to make sure my soul was right with God. It hasn’t happened yet.”

Another guy responded, “Oh, I’ve seen that guy. He’s always at Government Center. You know what I heard? I heard that guy just lives on the kindness of others. He doesn’t work or anything … people just help him out.”

After that, the conversation about the street corner evangelist was over. No barrage of insults against Christians or further words about the preacher. In fact, not a negative word was spoken of him. (though I was thinking some negative thoughts…)

It got me thinking. I’ve been approached by the same guy, seen him various places, and exhausted more than a few words complaining about his presence and methods for “spreading the gospel” in Boston. But though we often think non-Christians are the ones most offended by the overzealous, alarmist methods of such people, I wonder if we &emdash; Christians &emdash; are the ones whose feathers are ruffled the most?

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Google Chat Conversation of the Week:

me: I personally don’t think I could go to most traditional churches up where you are. Too “Evangelical.”

C: that’s our problem
we like the [insert church name], but it’s hard to get connected in a big church

me: plus, the [insert church name] doesn’t really … um … believe anything
no offense
New England is littered with [them]

C: they’re not as bad as some, but i know what you mean
they do a lot of social justice work

me: ya, they do. that’s one of their strong points.
but last year, they debated the divinity of Christ.

C: yeah, at least they talk about it

me: I’m no literalist or anything, but their exegesis is pretty loosy-goosy

C: true
but i’ve heard some great things from their ministers

me: to be fair, though, they are doing more in terms of inclusion, social justice — actually “loving people” — than most of the other denominations combined

C: aside from their doctrine, they treat people well and live out the teachings of christ

me: word.

C: i would love it if someone could say that about me

me: me too

I was raised in a religious “tribe” that elevated orthodoxy — “right belief” — nearly above everything else. We’re not alone, either — many conservative Christian tribes have done this. Growing up, I remember hearing older men and women in churches saying things like, “My neighbor is such a faithful person who embodies the character of Jesus. Too bad she’s a Baptist.”

But more and more Christians are recognizing the equal importance of emphasizing orthopraxy — “right action.” One implication of this is that rather than defining our salvation on what we believe about Jesus, we begin to define it by our desire to follow Him.

Both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are important to the life of the church. But I’m happy that my salvation is not determined by my ability to be “right” on every piece of doctrine. From now on, I want to look not for what separates me doctrinally from fellow believers, but for the signs of Jesus in others.

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