Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

Colbert the evangelist?

Stephen Colbert, a practicing Catholic, makes a genuine Christmastime appeal to the goodness of God on his Comedy Central program.  Wish I could embed the video, but you’ll have to check it out here.

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Also worth noting is this episode of Penn Gillette’s (of Penn & Teller fame) video blog about a special gift he received after a show one night. Penn, an avowed atheist, was clearly moved by an encounter with a Christian and has some interesting commentary on our willingness to speak of the hope within us. This might fall into the conversation we’ve had here relating to “gospel speech.” Perhaps a slightly different perspective, this time from an atheist. Enjoy.

(HT)

Rollins and Celtic Monastic Orders

So, the Pete Rollins event yesterday was excellent.  Quite mind-expanding, and the subsequent conversation with a friend about what we heard was just what I needed. The group was rather intimate — 20 at the most — so we could really dig in and interact.  I was able to ask him if he saw any parallel between what he and his arts collective are doing in Belfast and what Patrick and others did in re-evangelizing 5th century pagan Ireland in forming monastic orders that provided an empty space for God to minister to people’s hearts.  Rollins admitted he doesn’t know that much about Patrick (somewhat surprising for an Irishman), but that the concept of building in space where God can minister through community is definitely something they are doing.

While the similarities are obviously limited, I still can’t help but think about Celtic monastic evangelism when I see Rollins.

I originally posted the following in March of 2006, two months before arriving in Boston.  I’ve definitely learned lots and grown in significant ways since then, but these words still ring true for our context.  Celtic “orders” (clusters of Jesus people and n0t-yet-Jesus people) living in close proximity create precisely the space Pete Rollins talks about in order for the unspeakable God to transform his creation.  I’m re-posting this as-is, sans editing, so please forgive the seminary-induced missional vigor.  Enjoy.

Boston Celtics?
Originally Posted March 26, 2006

I haven’t read the book all the way through, but I have been impacted deeply by missiological principles gleaned from George Hunter’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism.  Hunter suggests that an ancient practice of celtic monastic communities might have some relevance to how we in the West make disciples in a post-everything culture.  He compares the Roman model of “reaching” people with the Celtic model:

The Roman model for reaching people (who are “civilized” enough) is this:

  1. Present the Christian message
  2. Invite them to decide to believe in Christ and become Christians
  3. If they decide positively, welcome them into the church and its fellowship.

In other words, we explain the gospel, they accept Christ, and we welcome them into the church- presentation, decision, assimilation (P. 53).

The contrasting Celtic model for reaching people is this:

  1. You first establish community with people, or bring them into the fellowship of your community of faith.
  2. Within fellowship, you engage in conversation, ministry, prayer, and worship
  3. In time, as they discover that they now believe, you invite them to commit (P. 53).

Christians have defaulted to the Roman way of evangelism for a long time.  We have assumed that a “good gospel message” should stand on its own to convict “the heathen,” and sometimes it does.  But reducing the gospel to a list of propositions to which a person can either agree or disagree is a gross oversimplification.  I have come to realize that in addition to eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, salvation means a different way of living — an attractive way of living — than what the world knows and experiences.  The practices of hospitality, Sabbath, non-violence, service, social justice, praiseworthy speech, as well as the traditional tenets of prayer and worship, point to the goodness of Christ and are indeed “good news” to a broken world.

This is why the Celtic model is so important.  It allows Christians and not-yet-Christians to authentically enter into each other’s lives, as most normal people in the world do, without the question of “have you committed your life to Christ” (writer’s note: what does that even mean, anyway?) being the first question. It allows the secular person to experience what virtuous Christian life looks like, assuming the life of the Christian friend is virtuous. It allows dialogue to frame the process of discipleship, not simply “teaching,” “telling,” or Bible study. It focuses on the process of discipleship in terms of belonging before behaving or believing, with the latter two always eventual goals for the future.If we began taking a more Celtic model of evangelism/discipleship (where discipleship is what leads up to someone’s turning to God, not what follows it), how would that change the way we conceptualize Christian community? How would it transform our relationships and friendships with the not-yet-Christian? Would it make them less awkward if we weren’t always bent out of shape that they aren’t a Christian and allow us to focus on simply being a Christ-like friend to them? I think the Celtic way of evangelism has great implications for the relationship of the Christian community to the world, a world that is growing more and more skeptical of us with each hour that passes and that sees in the church less and less relevance for their lives.

Church and Tupperware Parties

First off, I review Bill Maher’s comedy, Religulous, over at the Jesus Manifesto zine.  Check them (the review and the movie) out if you get a chance.  On a related note, it’s interesting that apparently, folks associated with the film’s production created a fake Christian rock band to call for a fake Christian boycott of the movie in order to create more of a buzz around the film.  Check out the funny call to arms here.

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We’ve all known him or her at one point in our life, perhaps at this moment.  S/he is a regional salesperson of [insert product name here] for [Tupperware / Pampered Chef / Mary Kay / etc].  Remember the first few weeks s/he was selling the stuff?  How s/he kept inviting you to that sales event s/he was having at his/her house?  How everyone would receive the complimentary gift, and there would be no pressure to commit to buying anything?  How you either went to the party, bought something, and that was the end of that … or you didn’t go, haven’t bought anything, and subsequently dread every conversation with said friend since then?

Sound familiar?

I wonder if this is how many outside of Christian circles feel about their Christian friends, especially those who are super evangelistic.  You know, always feeling like they are trying to get them to buy something.  Trying to get them to come to some introductory meeting at their church building or house, where they may even receive a complimentary gift just for showing up. (a Bible, a CD of worship music, the Jesus Video…)  Like many “regional salespeople” of those catchy kitchen products, one begins to wonder if s/he is my friend because s/he cares about me, or if s/he is just trying to sell me something.  In way too many relationships, the agenda is painfully obvious, and the “potential buyer” is usually the one who gets flogged by it.

I’m finding it more and more difficult to “close the deal” in this way as it relates to my faith, instead just desiring to love people and be their friend for no other reason than to love them and be their friend.  (because Jesus said this was the sum of the law and the prophets)  On the other side of the coin, I want all my friends to experience the joy of life under the reign of loving Jesus and be assimilated into his mission.

This is perhaps my/our biggest tension right now.  Suggestions?

*my apologies to any of my readers who are “regional salespeople.”  My intention is not to knock your profession, but to underscore the difficulty of forming authentic friendships while trying to sell a product.  In the same way that not all Christians are “salespeople for Jesus,” clearly not all “regional salespeople” fit my description above.

safe places

Fred Peatrosss has continually blessed me with his writing, specifically the stuff he’s done for Next-Wave E-Zine. He’s a missional Christian with roots in the Restoration Movement who, according to his profile on Next-Wave, “makes a habit of creating safe places for pre-Christians.”

Listen to what he has to say about “safe places” as they relate to our relationships with not-yet-Christians (the whole article, titled “Fellow Explorer, Sometimes Guide,” can be found here:

Creating safe places offers nothing new or beyond the model Jesus gave us almost 2,000 years ago. God became flesh and joined the indigenous practices of His culture. Now it’s our time to embed the message of Jesus into the emerging culture of our day. (I’m indebted to Brain McLaren for this terminology.) Flesh is encoded culturally and historically and is socially constructed.

Safe places stand as a corrective to the prevailing mentality of the church and its uncanny addiction to centripetal ministries, which attempts to drag seekers into its gig. Jesus wasn’t centripetal but centrifugal. The four walls of a church building should simply serve as a location for training loyal apprentices how to leak the life of Jesus to the people around them. Portable spirituality is the ministry of Jesus.

The tradition of primarily using church facilities for activities to bring people closer to the presence of God is not the creation of “safe places.” Church buildings are owned and managed by the church, sometimes to good effect but always subordinate to some other purpose. God’s people would come closer to fulfilling the mission requirements of the emerging culture if they could define the common ground in such a way that it is not directly under the control of the organized church. This is the significance of the boundary between the sanctuary and the “Court of the Gentiles” &emdash;such as, believers must come out of the church in order to play on the common ground. They do not cease to be believers, but the rules of the game have changed.

Though I think many Christians have made amazing strides in moving toward a more Christ-imitating practice of everyday mission, so many of us have so far to go. We have such a hard time thinking beyond what we can buy, maintain, and control. We have such a hard time thinking beyond hard, quantifiable results of our ministry.

This is evident even in many emergent/emerging churches, which have often taken baby steps toward incarnational ministry while in essence maintaining a primarily attractional structure. Many of the changes have been aesthetic, whether it be fresh worship music, soft couches, incense and candles, or art-decorated sanctuaries. Unfortunately, the DNA of these churches has often remained the same.

Peatross raises some important questions about where ministry happens, specifically among pre-Christians. We must begin to see ministry as happening not only in our padded sanctuaries and fully functional gymnasiums, but in the rhythms of everyday life — on their turf.

some reflections so far

1. Dogs help. We only would have met 1/3 of the people we have met so far were it not for our our poodle Damon. Walking Damon earlier today, I saw a woman struggling to carry several bags of groceries, so I went over and offered to help. She spoke barely any English, but I did manage to gather that she is from the Dominican Republic. We spoke Spanglish as I helped her carry several heavy grocery bags back to her apartment several blocks away. The chance meeting wouldn’t have happened were I not walking Damon.

An amazing story from tonight: Chrissy and I walked with Damon down to a walk/bike trail, where we saw several people standing around watching their dogs (little dogs, no less) play on a grassy area in the middle. We told each other, “we need to get to know them so Damon will have dogs to play with.” On our way back from the trail, we walked by them and Damon immediately started to sniff out and play with the other dogs. Before we knew it, we were chatting with the dogs’ owners. One of the people standing around was the guy from whom Chrissy has bought fresh produce since we’ve been here. Chrissy had already gotten to know him a little bit, so it came as a shock when we saw him in the park. One of the other dog owners we met was a young woman who just moved to Boston from Key West. She “just happened to be” a student starting her MBA at Suffolk University (exactly like Chrissy) and was thrilled to meet another student. They talked for a while, made plans to see each other again or attend a student function together, and exchanged numbers. It was quite an evening. All because of a d-o-g. (or could it be because of a G-o-d…?)

2. Ministry happens in the mundane, ordinary, everyday activities of life. People walk dogs, play in parks, go shopping, work in highrises, go to the beach, and sit on their porches, among countless of other things. How could we say we are involved in ministry if we purposefully avoid the situations where people are? How could we possibly spend more time in planning meetings or reading books or sitting in church than putting ourselves in these activities? If our God is in his nature relational, then relationship must be the cornerstone of any “ministry” we say we are doing.

3. People are people — not projects. We are learning to meet them on their turf with no strings attached — no agenda (accept to display the love of Christ). It is much easier to relate to the people we are meeting when we aren’t thinking about how quickly we can bring up their faith situation or receptivity to the gospel. In the beginning, we must get to know and love them because they are children of God, and no other reason. The deep stuff will come later. (not to mention the fact that we’re all broken somehow…the only thing Chrissy and I can do is walk with people toward the cross, and ask people to help us do the same)

4. Finally, All the planning and strategizing in the world couldn’t account for the spontaneous, take-it-as-it-comes encounters with people that occur on a daily — and often hourly — basis. Call it fate, the leading of the Holy Spirit, or what you will, but life doesn’t happen on our watch. We really can plan very little, when push comes to shove. This is why after almost a month in Boston, the idea of having all our ducks in a row with regards to “ministry” and “church planting” seems even more absurd than it did before we left. I now cannot imagine deciding back in Texas what our church in Boston was going to look like — types of songs, specific location, evangelistic techniques, etc. — without having first developing authentic relationships with neighbors and co-workers in Boston. It’s the difference between taking a potted flower to another place and planting a seed in the new soil. We cannot take our potted flowers — our preconceived notions about what “church” or “church planting” is — into soil that is completely different. The reality of this truth is hitting home.

…and that’s just after 4 weeks!

Hank Hill goes church shopping

“I guess I can understand buying coffee in church, but do you really think Jesus recommends Nat King Cole?” — Hank Hill, King of the Hill

(press the “play” button at the bottom)

HT: Kelly

double feature blog post: “worldview change” AND “separated at birth”…today only.

What is the process by which a person’s worldview is changed to make room for the Christian way of life? Is it by linear, rational propositions? Is it by superior logic?

I think the following quotes might be of use in this discussion:

“You say to the person whom you are talking to, ‘come here and stand with me and tell me if you don’t see the same thing.'” — Lesslie Newbigin

“The soteriological [salvation] task is nothing more than helping see how this story is their story.” — Michael Root

Are these helpful? What are some more metaphors?

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On a more serious note, people say that I look like the guy on the far right (Ben), who plays the guitar in a band called Comrade. You be the judges.

me and my twin