Monday, June 19, 2006

Creating Divisions

I fear far too many of us have been given bad information and instruction in the areas of evangelism. I love this quote from Nouwen because it restores the truth of 1 Peter 3:15 - "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect." or as Peterson puts it:

"Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy."

That means we live in close enough contact with those seeking truth, and in such a way that they see us living a life worth asking questions of - not us knocking on their doors and asking questions of virtual strangers.

The Fruit of the Spirit

How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God's presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavour often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.

The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). These fruits speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question "How can I grow in the Spirit?" than the question "How can I make others believe in the Spirit?"
Henri Nouwen


aBhantiarna Solas said...

This reminds me of the story told by my friend just yesterday of her fiancee (who doesn't believe and struggles with his unbelief, sort of). Some Baptist ladies came knocking on doors in their neighborhood seeking to "evangelize the lost." So they asked him this question, "Do you know that Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay for your sin?" He responded, "Yes." Because he does know that. And they went away satisfied. But the larger question of whether or not he believed it and what it meant to him and who God is ... all the things you (and Nouwen) speak of were lost because those very concerned Baptist ladies were not in a relationship with him. But ... he comes to our church **every** Sunday, where he is welcome and fully a member and fully allowed to wrestle things out as long as he wants/needs to. I don't know which is the "right" way, but this certainly feels more like the way Jesus modelled in the Gospels. Thanks for those timely quotes from Nouwen ... I loved them. Pax, Sonja

Owen of 4 blogs said...

When we do this {those essential things mentioned in the quotes and what you have expressed so well in your own words} we really have no need to fret spending great amounts of "time, talent and treasure" in order to be "make the Gospel relevant" because a) the Gospel is relevant and b) we are already truly living it. The church I used to be employed with worked so hard {ironic in a "non-works" theology} to be relevant and yet people came and went through the great revolving door. The parish where my family and I now attend has none of the affectations normally prescribed for making the Gospel relevant {contemporary band, movie clips, skits, small groups, age targeted follow}. In fact with liturgy and the Eucharist we must seem to some to be very outmoded. And yet I have seen no small number of people come into a living relationship with Christ and become a vital part of his Church. I feel very blessed, very lucky, very happy to be away from the cutting edge of being relevant and deeply in love with the same Church of which Nouwen is a part. Simplistic answers regardless of their denominational or theological dressing are of little value but a being able to give an answer for the hope that is within us, in all its messy, complicated but grace filled, Christ filled way.

Well, ex-preachers never quit, they just take up space in other people's blog comments. ;-) Thanks for your patience.

::thrive! {p.s. I am interested to know if your art arrived yet and if it did, what you think.}

Amy A. said...

I always felt weird in youth group when we would go downtown or to the mall to "evangelize". It was never fruitful, unless you counted the girls who got dates out of it.

On the other hand, I have missed many an opportunity when someone told me they thought I was neat, but different and wondered why. I would tell them I was a happy person instead of the real reason, mostly because I would remember those old street evangelism times and start to sweat. They made me fearful of telling my friends the gospel.

So, I am living proof of one who was given bad instruction and I am thankful that I am learning a better way.

L. Paul said...

Being salt and light to the world around us. Also not casting pearls before swine. Have you read Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman? I'm almost through. Very practical.