- What if sharing Christianity came without hooks?
- What if "bait & switch" evangelistic tactics were scrapped all together?
- How does one introduce another to the Life Christ brings if we aren't allowed to use a little well- intentioned manipulation occasionally?
But she was taking issue with it. She seemed to struggle with the idea that Jesus enjoyed being with sinners. She said that Jesus of course hung out with them to see them saved but that was about it. This, I believe, has been one of the central problems with the modern church for decades. People are seen as objects to be "converted" rather than individuals to be loved, cared for, and enjoyed without condition!
People just wanted to "hang out" with Jesus...
And you know what, we're supposed to be Christ. Now that he is dwelling in us and we're "his body" people are supposed to want to hang out with us. We're supposed to have "living water" in us that people respond to naturally...
But many of our "living water" wells seem to be dry and people don't want to be around us much so we come up with evangelistic "strategies" covering everything from cool music bands to free pizza, packaged as "four spiritual laws" to make up for the shortfall.. Particularly in the West, people are conditioned to expect that when a church group does something nice, they have an agenda. "You want the meal, you have to listen to Pastor Jones share how Jesus wants to come into your life." And then once you accept Christ, guess what, you can go tell your friends about him.
We've reduced the Creator of the Universe and the Author of Life down to the level of a pitch for Amway!
Back when I leading a church in Lan Kwai Fong (the nightclub district in Hong Kong) I started running a Shakespeare discussion group on Thursday nights at the church's meeting location. We'd discuss Shakespeare's plays which would lead often to talks on politics and religion mixed with generous amounts of wine. Although we intended to do the meeting every other week the group really enjoyed being with each other so we made it a weekly event and surprisingly, almost everyone who came was not attending the church.
Anyhow I can't tell you how many times I was taken to the side by Christians and pastors outside our church to "help them understand" why I was doing it. The South China Morning Post had done a story about us so everyone seemed to know about it. At a church leaders breakfast one pastor cornered me and wanted to know more about "this Shakespeare Group".
"Well, its a bunch of people from the Lan Kwai Fong area who get together to discuss Shakespeare's plays." I answered
"But why do YOU do it?" he asked
Not knowing what else to say I responded, "Because I love Shakespeare and I like being with other people who do."
Genuinely perplexed he then asked, "But you do it at the church, is it a church function? Is it pre-evangelism?"
Dear Lord, you give them eyes, yet they cannot see...
To this pastor's credit, he liked me and really did want to understand...he just couldn't. Too many years of hardened church leadership had taken its toll. He could not conceive of an event (especially one held in a church building) where you just enjoyed being with people with NO STRINGS ATTACHED. (And I still haven't figured out what "pre-evangelism" is)
The funny thing was I often was able to share Jesus at these meetings in the natural flow of discussion; one guy even joined the church...and it all happened naturally.
I'll close by saying last week at our homegroup meeting we were deciding what kind of weekend activity we could do in the summer that we could invite people to. One friend said something along the lines of, "well how do we bring the gospel into it because otherwise we just get a reputation for throwing good parties."
Funny, attending good parties seemed to be a reputation Jesus had and I'd welcome the reputation of being one who throws them.
What would happen if the church started throwing parties people outside the church wanted to come to? What if our relationships with people came without agendas and "hooks"....mmm I wonder.