Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post-Charismatic Evangelism

UPDATE: Here are those writing and linking to the questions raised in this blog:
Sarah @ Coffee Randoms: Thoughts on Evangelism
Jeff McQ @ Losing my Religion: Re-thinking Evangelism (and lots of other stuff) and Over-marketing the Watered-Down Version and How I Got Saved...
Ruth from Grains of Truth: Knocking on Heaven's Door
Co_Heir @ On the Journey: Evangelism
Also see Internet Monk's post on John Macarthur on TBN - watch the video and let me know what you think.
Andrew @ Hackman's Musings writes this: Evangelism



I think one of the hardest subjects for me to approach since having so much of what I formerly believed stripped away, is the subject of Evangelism.

I was raised a hard-core Fundamentalist. In every sermon (Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night) you would have the "plan of salvation" shared in case someone unknowingly wandered from off the street, came into your church and died that night and went to hell because someone did not share the "plan of salvation" with them. I even vaguely remember someone being fired over the fact that they did not share the "plan of salvation" often enough in their sermons. This salvation message was one of the fact of Hell, the plan for avoiding Hell, and the subsequent "sinners prayer" that would keep you out of Hell. Anything else in Christianity was just not really talked about.

Enter my years early in marriage - saved from Fundamentalism - and we understood salvation to be a way to a better, joyful, peaceful life. We would ask people if they wanted what we had. It was a bit of salvation from hell mixed in with a wonderful, meaningful life for the here and now.

Then finally in my Charismatic years I finally thought I had hit upon the greatest plan of salvation EVER!! Here in Charismatic land you could have all the "perks, bells and whistles." You could have your sins forgiven, be healed, prosper, do signs and wonders, be a leader and live a joyful, exciting purpose-filled life - all while signed up to be a part of the end time army that would ACTUALLY usher in the return of Jesus!!! We pitched the Christian life like those salesmen on late night TV. Your life would be amazing if you signed on the bottom line to become Jesus' disciple.

Darin Hufford puts it so well in his post, Gratefully Disillusioned, where he says

"I believe that Christianity has been marketed to the carnal nature of unbelievers. We successfully got people who would not have otherwise become a Christian to sign on the dotted line and join our religion. We did it by presenting "relationship with God" in a way that would appeal to power-hungry money mongers who want to escape the cold reality of life. We told people that God would financially prosper them. We told them that they would never get sick and if they did, God would make it go away. We've promised them that if anyone hurt them, their God would stick up for them and get revenge on their behalf. We convinced them that God would also give them godlike powers and they could dazzle their friends and family with magic tricks. We promised them that God would make sure they held a position of leadership in life where everyone would respect them and pay them honor. I've even seen different ministries claim that Christians have better sex than non-Christians. The list goes on and on. One by one, people signed up for Christianity. People who would not have otherwise given it a second look, found themselves strangely tempted with a religion that promised to fulfill their every carnal desire. The offer was just too good to be true."

(Read this excellent article as he goes on to say that we may not even have true Christians if this is what they signed up for.)

So here is my dilemma. If I am against using the "Hell card"as my "hook" in sharing my faith and I refuse to bend to the "hook" of the Jesus of the late night infomercials full of promises that never live up to their expectations, what am I left with? What exactly is my faith? How do I explain it to people? What is Evangelism? What did Jesus do with the disciples? What was this Kingdom of God that they shared about? What is the gospel - the "good news" to you and how would you share it with an unbeliever?

Another set of questions that interest me are these: Why did you become a Christian? What is your story? Did you sign up for the perks and if so, how is that going for you? Were you truly "drawn to God" in some way where the "perks" that I am talking about really did not matter?

If you have any thoughts about Evangelism (past or present)- please leave them in the comment section - or better yet - post your thoughts and link to it here. I'll update this post with links at the top if anyone wants to be added to the conversation.

21 comments:

Alex Blanton said...

Barb - Something I am becoming more and more convinced in regard to what you are saying is this: If we are looking for any other "perk" or "spiritual goodie" other than God Himself, than we've missed it! Why would He let us chase after anything else? Kind of a "duh!" I suppose, but one that hits close to home nonetheless, because I realized that I was trying to achieve some kind of spiritual "add-on" bonus or "upgrade" with first the Charismatic experience, and then ultimately "Ministry." God gladly and joyously lets us get all kind of frustration on this all the while whispering "your missing the point, your missing the point ..." So, a while back as I was sitting and reading Madame Guyon's "Experiencing God Through Prayer" she ends a section with the statement in regards to what the true focus and pursuit of prayer is for: "God Himself shall be your reward." Something went click inside my head - "Duh!"

Barb said...

Alex. That truly is simple and brilliant. I guess my question is, "How do I present that to an unbeliever." - thus the Evangelism focus. My only thinking at this point is I need to wait till they WANT that relationship. There is nothing I can offer, per se, that will induce that longing.

Alex Blanton said...

I am kind of in that same place of questioning the real "how" of evangelism as well, since it had been a rather selfish activity for me in the past (to alleviate my own sense of guilt or boost my spiritual self-image.) I have been struck with the importance of the incarnation again - how Jesus approached revealing the Father to us. Really, it's almost like He had to sneak up on the disciples in a way that they did not know who He really was at first, because they probably had so much baggage about who they thought God was and how to approach Him. (Let's face it - that Old Testament God could be a scary guy sometimes!) I guess this is where I have been living lately - learning to delight myself in the Lord for His own sake, and share this with others in sneaky ways ;-).

Sara said...

as requested:

http://coffeerandoms.blogspot.com/2009/01/thoughts-on-evangelism.html

Jeff McQ said...

I wrote this post last year. As I re-read it tonight, it still pretty much reflects what I think about this.

http://jmcq.blogspot.com/2008/03/re-thinking-evangelism-and-lots-of.html

Rich said...

Barb,

IF God our Father IS Love, then wouldn't it stand to reason that in being His, we R to BE living expressions of our Father who IS Love?!

Please tell me if there is anything more compelling or drawing than to Love as He IS?
But of course how could that EVER Be done without a "How TO" manual?

Maybe, just maybe like Everything else, "EVANGELISM" is just another word we've tossed around, a spiritual reality that we have naturalized?

Erika said...

Love your questions and thoughts, Barb. I was never really sold on the soul winning thing of the old days...just made me squirm inside while I tried my best to get it right in hopes that it would someday become more natural and productive! And anytime my prayers focused on something I thought I needed, I felt that I was still missing a greater and more basic, although unknown, need. Could it have been as simple as Jesus Himself...quit worrying about the rest!!

So now after all my time trying to get it right, I also question "What is the real gospel anyway?" Could it be as simple as giving up trusting in my/human wisdom, reasonings, faith, humility, theology, denomination, abilities, do-ings, formulas...the list goes on...in order to lay it all on Jesus and trust Him in everything? The good news I've found is that none of that works...it's infinitely better to just rest in God's love for me, learn what that really means and live it before others. It is God who does the drawing/convincing, I just need to be honest and real.

Interesting how I would have always agreed with this concept over the years, but see it so differently now.

Ruth said...

"Did you sign up for the perks and if so, how is that going for you?" LOL - I just love the way you say it like it is Barb.

I think deep down inside, people are hungry for truth not perks. God has put eternity in the hearts of man.

Last year I posted my thoughts on evangelism here.

co_heir said...

Barb,

Here's my .02 worth:
http://fredshope.blogspot.com/2009/01/evangelism.html

From the Middle East said...

Sister Barb,

People enter God's Kingdom because they need Him. While there are different situations in life that lead us to this, the only valid reason for entering His Kingdom is a desire/need for God.

Peace to you dear sister,
From the Middle East

Jeff McQ said...

Hey, Barb...here's another one. :)

http://jmcq.blogspot.com/2009/01/over-marketing-watered-down-version.html

Ruthie said...

Barb,
Geez... it's simple.
Tell "em you love Jesus and what he's done in your life.
It's all about what comes up in the moment as you're hanging out and loving people. You don't need a 12 step plan(or Program...)Sometimes we make this whole thing way to complicated. That part gives me a headache. Do what you do...be who you are...let the Holy Spirit do the rest. You've got a great story, friend, just tell it.

Love ya,
BF

Andrew said...

My recent thoughts on evangelism
http://mrhackman.blogspot.com/2009/01/i-started-to-feel-strange-about.html

Redlefty said...

Following up on Alex's latest comment about Jesus "sneaking up" on even the disciples, I find it interesting that after the resurrection nobody recognized him. He chose to appear as a stranger.

I've often wondered if the lesson there is that we should all treat each other as if they're Jesus. Because really, how do we know they're not?

My takeaway is that God is already inside each person -- it's not my job to put him there or wake him up. Just to recognize his presence, value it, love it and see what happens naturally. No strings attached.

There are principles of life (which Jesus taught) that definitely have consequences on earth. But I no longer think we're all teetering on the edge of eternal bliss or punishment. Once the stakes changed, my need to convert the world changed to a desire to serve, love and enjoy the world.

G.W. said...

I am going to give this a shot, been trying to comment here for days…

I would agree after my own Word of Faith experience that “life enhancing” perks are used all over the evangelical spectrum (and beyond) to draw the unchurched to a relationship with Christ, or at least to get them attending a church.

I agree also that we too often we put pressure on ourselves to ‘win’ non-Christians to Christianity. We all recognize that we should be doing something, but as is typical for the time we live in, not body is sure what that something is.

Although the religious pressure is off my life, I must still consider what happens when a person dies. No matter how much phoniness and corruption takes place in church or in society, nothing changes death. So is it true that Jesus was sent to save us from our sins? Has He called all men to repent? What is the fate those who do not believe? We Christians act like we have all the answers, why wouldn’t we be proactive to share that message in society…by “society,” I mean with people…people who may or may not want to think about it.

We should be honest, real and moral (what a concept). We should also mindful that we are only delivering the information and not the ones doing the saving. And speaking of being uncomfortable, we should also be glad that no one is trying to stone us like Paul. I think this is an important point that cannot be overlooked. If we plan on sharing Christianity with non-Christians, expect resistance. Christianity challenges every person; it challenges a person’s world view, it challenges self righteousness. Everyone is right and clean in their own eyes. To introduce people to a line of linking that might challenge their own goodness, it will be uncomfortable and they might not like you. But what are we to do? Should we be like someone who sees a house that’s on fire and say “Oh, they will get out in time.” Does a doctor fail to tell a patient about his cancer because he’s afraid he will loose the patient’s friendship? Hopefully we are not in such a state of Jesus-follower bliss that we ignore the spiritual condition of those around us. We can ask thought provoking questions to see how far we can go with people and demonstrate that we aren’t trying to get something out of them.

My last thought is this: At times I have been engaged in,…..yes,…. door-to-door witnessing! The reason I did was because of a co-worker who was a Jehovah’s Witness. He told me the reason he started going to the Kingdom Hall was that someone paid his family an unexpected visit and shared their beliefs and viola! He’s been a JW ever since. Meanwhile churches with more orthodox doctrinal positions can’t be bothered and when they do they try to ‘win’ people over to evangelical church culture rather than Jesus.

Thanks for the opprtunity to comment.

GW

http://theautonomyofthebeliever.blogspot.com/

deaconandusher said...

Usher: So Deak, what if it's not man's responsibility to "save the world"? What if all that pressure they put on themselves is just rhetoric? What if God pre-wires everyone just as he wants them?

Deacon: That wouldn't be "fair" in their eyes. They've all been marketed to death with fairness, with liberty messages, with justice. It's not any mystery why they keep beating themselves up to be better than the next, or pursuing opportunities that don't exist.

Usher: You mean sort of like what's going on in the US? How all the guys with the money are even stealing from the government and the people still don't want to believe that the whole thing is a ponzi scheme?

Deacon: Yep, they just don't want to believe that they might be stuck in a life that isn't full of fun and pleasure and freedom.

Usher: Isn't it nice just to be a buzzard? Hang out, watch God do his thing, and know that the roadkill is from God and not something either one of us can conjure up?

Deacon: The humans have it hard I say. God must have something grand in store for them.

Jules said...

Thanks for your comments on my blog Barb - God contines to surprise me with his feelings on the IC!

Jules x

Frank said...

http://francisdrakeprivateer.wordpress.com/

I remember being in a church over 20 years ago, when one of the elders spoke. "Look out of the window," he said, "look at all those people, they are all going to Hell, AND ITS YOUR FAULT!"
All the church, except me, was silent, under compliant condemnation for their lazy Christianity.
Quietly to myself and to God, I simply said,- NO its NOT my fault!

Their eternal destiny is their freewill choice not mine, and its got nothing to do with hearing someone tell them about the Cross!
I was born again long before hearing the "message".

Mat 12:31 Therefore I say to you, All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men.
Mat 12:32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come.

The purpose of the Gospel is NOT to get people to heaven when they die. The idea of rescuing people from Hell is just religious drivel created to divert the Christians from truly following God whilst in this life.

Look at the words above,-- "And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him."

The church teaches that it is our response to the teaching about Jesus and the Cross which determines our destiny. Jesus however, says it is about our response to the Holy Spirit which determines our destiny.

What does this mean?

The Holy Spirit cuts straight through the crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Holy Spirit speaks straight to the heart via the conscience. No one can be confused about what He says. He speaks in the language of the heart, words without sound, convicting of sin and righteousness. All this without any knowing of the Cross.

IT WAS THE CROSS WHICH PAID THE PRICE BEFORE I EVER KNEW IT. WHEN I FIRST RESPONDED TO GOD, ALONE AS A CHILD, IT WAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS, NOR DID I HAVE ANY THOUGHT ABOUT ETERNITY. NONE OF MY FAMILY WERE CHRISTIAN NOR DID THEY KNOW OF MY EXPERIENCE WITH GOD. I JUST SENSED HIS TOUCH AND RESPONDED.

When the young rich man actually asked about how he might get eternal life, Jesus sends him away on what appears a wild goose chase. If eternity was the primary issue of preaching why didn't Jesus grasp the moment with this seeker, and save him from eternal damnation?

When Jesus sent the 12 and then the 70 out, did he send them to preach about eternity? Absolutely not.

Why is the church so obsessed with it then. Simply because it feeds the need for their very existence. It enables them to run on programmes rather than hearing God.
It enables them to control and motivate others to feed their own kingdom and status.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I am coming a bit late to this post, aren't I? I wonder if there is continuing interest in it, or if folks have gone on to other topics.

Reading the post and the comments makes me realize how fortunate (blessed) I have been. The church did not bring me to God. God brought me to the church. In fact, God nearly literally pushed me in the door, and I now understand the reasons for that. (The details are too complex to include here -- please just accept that this somewhat unusual experience did take place.)

Because I began first with a relationship with God, I do find myself quietly at odds with mainstreamers sometimes and especially with charismatics and fundamentalists. I do not care at all about "salvation" (or damnation), eternal life, riches, or any kind of personal gain. I know that God does give us gifts/charisms, but I don't feel that I must have them. If others do have them, I am happy for them if they are happy to have them. But I don't seek the same. That was not what brought me to God.

God brought me to God in similar ways to Francis Thompson's description in The Hound of Heaven although I did not have Thompson's unhappy life (although I was severely abused as a child) but rather, especially as an adult, a chronically happy life albeit one lived in the Land of Splat! (where there is always a new problem -- uh, a new challenge).

God has granted me many requests. My requests are almost always for other people, including, of course, those close to me. To watch God, one time after another, save five dying children for whom medical science had grave doubts is an incredible award. To watch a family put back together, a hopelessly ill employee returned to work, an Iraqi youth sought by the insurgency for killing whisked out of the country -- these are the enticements that God has given to me (not pennies, power, protection, and prestige) to linger in "The Kingdom." These are the rewards beside which pennies, power, and prestige pale.

And when I ask in a moment of aloneness, "Where are you, God?" and am suddenly surrounded by perceptible light and warmth, I know why I want to be in the presence of God always.

As for protection, yes, I have experienced God's protection on more than one occasion both at home and abroad. I am an independent sort and do not necessarily even request it -- nor would I ever expect God to protect me from such things as free will, the interplay of genetics (yes, I do have children and grandchildren with birth defects), and the ups and downs of life for these are learning moments, growth experiences, and the opportunity to mature in faith. I would not want to have those opportunities taken away.

So, no, Barb, I did not sign up for the perks. The bottom line is actually pretty simple: God entered my life by allowing me to experience His presence. Now I cannot imagine life without it. Everything else flows from that.

Barb said...

Elizabeth, thanks for joining in! Your story is a refuge for me. This is what I want for my kids lives as they run into God. I feel much the same today. "God entered my life by allowing me to experience his presence. Now I cannot imagine life without it. Everything else flows from that."

Kari Lane said...

Thanks for this post, just found it. I felt pushed away from Jesus, by people in the church...I didn't want to go to heaven as a child, because I understood my father would not be there.
I struggle with the burning house/going to hell analogy. But in the end, I think these people have to truly choose God or not...that repeating a sinners prayer does not save you...believing in Christ's gift and choosing to accept it allows you to begin a relationship with God.