Monday, November 27, 2006

a scary and curious thing

A field guide to blending in at Church

page 17: What to do when your parents drag you to church

First of all - don’t panic.

You’ll probably only need to attend a one hour weekly meeting. You can handle an hour. Assume that your experience will be the same as many others. In many of these places the understanding of God is firmly held with a commercial capitalist world view - as if God is somehow like that blue genie in "Alladin."

The good news is you’ve probably been to the mall before - just look at this experience as a “Jesus store at a Spiritual Mall.” Here they mostly offer spiritual or motivational speeches aimed at the listeners’ personal growth and development. They seem to feel that the best motivation they can offer is to explain how listening to their speeches will make life “better for you.” (If it’s not about “YOU” why would you possibly be interested?)

But not to worry the challenge toward change is seldom so serious that you are expected to actually demonstrate any of the stuff they talk about. Just listen to the speech politely, the writers often throw in a few corn-ball jokes to keep things moving. Sometimes they are genuinely funny.

Anyway, the challenge to change will mostly be stuff to just think about. The audience is just as afraid of being vulnerable as the rest of the world and they are usually too busy with their own lives to be close to others anyway. It's rare that you would be asked about your true self by any of the other people there.

The good news on this front is that anonymity within the larger whole seems to be a pattern. Many of those in the audience with you, find they are able to just listen to the speech without doing much else. The two key things seem to be showing up regularly while “looking the part” and nodding your head at the right times.

Be aware that some of these places have a group of self appointed inspectors that decide who “measures up.” It’s an especially good idea to figure out who these people are and put your best foot forward.

To help you stay motivated,closely watch how people who are "rough around the edges" are treated by this group. (Pay special attention to women who have become pregnant before they got married.) Seeing their collective, quiet, public, disapproval in action is really scary. You don't need that in your life - shame sucks.

It's weird, the speeches are so often about how important it is for us all to love - but watching them make people outsiders for being human, will make sure your personal life is never too well known....

May YHWH help us all!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I was going through some notes from a lesson I'd sat in a little while back. The topic was "Evangelism."

I compared some of those thoughts with Donald Miller's teaching at the NYWC Cincinnati. Mr. Miller commented (as he has at various other times and places) about the commodification of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sense that evangelism has become for many churches a "Buy into Jesus" sales pitch that promises "everything is better with Jesus" by people who know it's not that simple. It reminds me of that tired old Blue Bonnet Margarine commercial ("Everything is better with Blue Bonnet on it!")


Anyway the notes I'd taken were based on a comment Peter Fitch had made - He mentioned that often when evangelism efforts fail a predictable pattern emerges:

For some if a person can't be converted they are to be either ignored or worse resented. Worse still, if that fails there can be a promotion of an environment that moves them somewhere else - creates enough awkwardness and tension that they disappear from the setting. It's sort of a "His way (as WE see it) or the Highway" policy. (shut them up or shut them out)

I thought back to how the people on the margins were treated in pre-war Germany.


Even if that's hyperbole - it gives me pause.

Jesus can't be sold to anyone, even those who have nodded, said "the prayer" and caved to the sales pitch. Many started that way and have been loved beyond that less than perfect beginning into real life.

My point is we must not tolerate "eliminate objections and hang in there to get the sale/conversion evangelism" programs. Evangelism isn't a methodology, an explosive device, or a belt notching system toward getting your "Extra especially approved by Jesus" badge.

People are loved to God, by people who are living the love of God. Love one another as He has Loved us - that will be more than enough evangelism for all.