Monday, July 25, 2011

A new look at evangelization

As a retired pastor, and a man of faith, I have my own views on religion and spirituality; but I'm open to the views of others as well, in a spirit of openness and genuine interest. I'm not out to convert them except by example, and I trust they'll approach me with equal respect. We can learn a lot from each other.

In that light, a recent article by Carl Medearis offered an interesting approach to evangelization. Here's an excerpt.

Jesus was the master of challenging religious prejudice and breaking down sectarian walls. Why do so many Christians want to rebuild those walls?

Even the Apostle Paul insisted that it’s faith in Jesus that matters, not converting to a new religion or a new socio-religious identity.

What if evangelicals today, instead of focusing on “evangelizing” and “converting” people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?

Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider. How might that change the way we look at others?

. . .

Jesus never said, “Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.” What he said was, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Encouraging anyone and everyone to become an apprentice of Jesus, without manipulation, is a more open, dynamic and relational way of helping people who want to become more like Jesus — regardless of their religious identity.

. . .

I believe that doctrine is important, but it’s not more important than following Jesus.

Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?

Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with. And since evangelicals like to say that it’s not about religion, but rather a personal relationship with Jesus, perhaps we should practice what we preach.

There's more at the link. Thought-provoking reading for people of faith. I don't agree with all Mr. Medearis' views, but I applaud him for thinking outside the usual evangelical box.



Unknown said...

Ooh! My favorite soapbox. Christianity is NOT all about, "Follow my Bible; It's the right one." It's about the gift Christ gave to us - forgiveness.

It's acceptable to judge one another based on rational measures of right and wrong, in fact it's necessary in this world. It is absolutely irrational and downright ludicrous for us to judge one another based on a ridiculous assumption that we know God's will. If we are fortunate, we know God in our hearts, but he's a bit too big for our minds.

"I might be wrong," is a phrase I rarely hear from Christians when they spout "doctrine." If God is truly divine, how can these folks possibly be right? Lucky guesses, or are they divine too?

God is not xenophobic; we are.

Anonymous said...

But hatred and xenophobia are so energizing!


Mikael said...

Food for thought: your average hippie is more like jesus than your average christian.

Peter said...

@Mikael: I'm not so sure . . . most of the hippies I've met seem to follow the teachings of Dionysus/Bacchus and Aphrodite/Venus a whole lot more eagerly than they do those of Jesus! If there was a Greco-Roman deity for marijuana, they'd have their very own Hippy Trinity!


Anonymous said...

I know that in todays post modern society, Christian and non-Christian, it's rather passé to believe, much less quote God's word when seeking to follow Him, but consider this. The commission reads:

Mat 28:19,20 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen"

What are we to teach them to observe? "What so ever things I have commanded you." This is doctrine.

John 7:16,17 "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or [whether] I speak of myself."

To do God's will is to know and be obedient to His word regardless of what others think or how politically correct it is in todays society.

Jesus warned that those who would follow Him would be hated and despised by the world.

In contrast He warns in Luke 6:26, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets."

His doctrine is the Bible in total. We don't see characters like David and Paul despising doctrine but teaching it.

We can choose to ignore it and minimize it as unimportant but once again if God means what He says than the following verse should have some weight:

John 12:48 "He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

As you can tell I am in total disagreement with the type of Christianity promoted in this article. It seems broad and wide accepting, anyone and everything, with no cross, no narrow way, no need of repentance, no conversion manifested in a transformed life. I'm amazed and perplexed at the disdain for the Word of God often manifest by those promoting this type of Christianity. If Christ was the Word made flesh isn't that disdaining Him?

Mikael said...

"His doctrine is the Bible in total."

If that is true, then the good guy in the bible must be lucifer.

Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him." (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

suz said...

"To do God's will is to know and be obedient to His word"

Which version of His word? As far as I can tell, the main thing they have in common (going back to before the Nicene council) is Christ's love for the people we think are morally beneath us. You know, these guys: "anyone and everything, with no cross, no narrow way, no need of repentance, no conversion manifested in a transformed life."

It's a good thing Christ loves the hopeless losers, since we sure don't.