Thursday, November 16, 2006

Normalcy in Evangelism, Part Deux

I refuse to bend to the common practices of the blogosphere (which is the going-away favorite for dorkiest word ever invented) and post cute things like photos or poetry on my blog. Instead, I do moralistic blathering. And who wins? We all win, that's who.

In all seriousness, and it's abounding, I want to ever so briefly resume our discussion of the need for Christians to be normal. I'm arguing that it's evangelistically expedient to do so. This prompts a question. It may be helpful to be normal, but is it godly? Quickly, I would say that Paul in Acts 17 is being normal. Jesus in eating and drinking with sinners and attending wedding bashes was normal. Jesus working as a carpenter was normal. So there's a biblical precedent for normalcy. Who really thinks that when Jesus went to work, He sermonized the whole time? I'm sure he seasoned His conversation with the gospel, and I'm sure that He took opportunities to speak of the importance of faith in Yahweh, but let's be honest, He nailed nails and carried wood. He went to wedding bashes and hung out with people and, oh yeah, working astounding miracles like changing water to wine. Now, may we also say that as He did so, He brought the gospel to bear on the situation? He wasn't hanging out for the sake of doing so. I'm sure He enjoyed talking with people of all types, but He had a purpose and a plan for His life that included radical gospel ministry. Here is where things became decidedly abnormal.

But you know about that. If you're a Christian, you know about the need to share the gospel. You may not be realizing, however, that you are commending the gospel to your hearers by being normal--by shooting the breeze about sports, by joining a knitting club, by talking about the world's greatest tv show, "The Office." It is wonderful when Christians witness to lost people. But in a world that is increasingly hostile to lost people, we commend the gospel when we show people that gospel transformation changes a person's heart. It doesn't automatically wack you out, such that you eat raw meat, never comb your hair, and torque every conversation to introduce the gospel. "Yeah, I love that deodorant. Say, not to be awkward, did you know that before we are saved, we are a spiritual stench to God?" I think oftentimes the most normal thing to do is simply to share the gospel with people in a normal conversational style. If they are interested, pursue it. If not, say your piece and then return to normal discussion. Such behavior shows people that the gospel, while certainly overhauling one's life, doesn't leave one unable to converse on a normal level with people.

This call to normalcy extends to the context in which we witness. I would never say door-to-door witnessing was wrong. Nope--wouldn't do it. I would, however, encourage people to try to engage people in a more public setting. Society is more closed than it used to be, and many people associate all door-knockers with sheisty salesmen or cultish folks who try to get you to join religious groups that meet in buildings without windows. For your average everyday dude, that is not gonna fly. I remember identifying that things have changed in the evangelistic world when I entered an apartment complex to share the gospel with people. I buzzed this lady's room, and she came out, and peered at me, and in one of the most socially uncomfortable moments I've ever experienced, told me she wanted nothing to do with me. Thinking back, I understand her attitude (I am a child of this age, after all--privacy in one's home is big). Who knows who she thought I was and who knows what she thought I was going to do. I also approached people on playgrounds in hopes of giving them information about a church. That also made the "extremely uncomfortable moment" list. Parents thought I was some sort of gospel-spouting child stealer. I wanted to sink beneath the wood chips.

Here's another idea. Go to a place where people have made themselves public, and then try to witness. Also, get to know your neighbors. They can then trust you, unlike total strangers who descend on their doorstep. Pray like crazy, love them, talk to them normally, and avoid seeking the one perfect conversational starter that leads to the gospel. People today are cynical. They distrust sales pitches. When you think it's right, just tell 'em the gospel. If it works, awesome. If it doesn't, try again another time. Normalcy is no excuse for passivity. It is simply a reasoned approach that tries to befriend the lost world in order to commend the gospel and extend love to those who want fulfillment and hope but who doubt they'll find it in raw meat and mildly deranged conversation.


Anonymous Grubb sowers said...

What about standing on a box in the center of Cambridge and yelling at passers-by, telling them that they are going to Hell, that the earth is 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs were planted by Satan to make people disbelieve the Bible? I would think that this would be just as awkward as approaching little kids on playgrounds or knocking on old ladies' doors, yet some dude does this almost every weekend. I call it the Carl Everett approach to Evangelism and if I didn't believe God was sovereign, I would be very angry at such people for turning people off to the Gospel. As it is, I feel the dude is more than a little misguided.

10:55 AM  

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