Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In response...

So, I want to respond to Richard's comment on my last blog as well as explain myself further. I think I might not have written things out as well as I wanted--here goes on clearing it up a bit:

I don't want to push evangelism to the side. Not at all. I am NOT discounting sharing our faith. I am not even saying that its a secondary issue. I am saying that we get to it by sharing the love of God in a tangible way. Evangelism is like point B, where love is point A. I get to point B through point A. Its not on the back burner, its just that I think it comes naturally after point A. Following along with what Brittany said when she responded: we are commanded to share the love of Christ unconditionally. Period.

Secondly, American churches have been pushing this whole "share the gospel" thing for a while and its simply not working. It just isn't. And the problem isn't non-Christians. Its Christians. Did you know that only 1 out of every 10 Southern Baptists will ever share their faith? That's 10%!!! The largest Protestant group in America and only one out of every ten ever bothers to tell someone about their new life in Jesus. Wow...

People don't want the personal responsibility. They want to put the blame on someone else for everything. I've definitely seen it in my time managing a retail store and a fast food joint. People always want someone else to point the finger at. The problem is, pastors allow their congregations to do it. They tell them to invite people to church to hear the gospel. Churches organize one big Sunday every now and then for everyone to bring a friend or two. "Make sure on THIS Sunday you bring someone!" My head hurts when I start thinking about it... why in the world would someone want to come to church to hear a pastor explain about life in Jesus when they don't see it in the person inviting them? Shouldn't the members of a church be living a life in Christ where they don't have to invite people on Sunday for their pastor to explain it? Does that make sense? Its sad. We don't live lives that reflect Jesus so we have to have someone else explain it to them. That's just a terrible situation to be in. We simply need to recognize the mentality isn't working and we must rethink and rework it.

Thirdly, I don't think that "sharing the gospel" is always the most loving thing we can do. If someone has no food... if someone has no clean water source... if someone has no basic medicinal needs... if someone is in need, and we say "Hey, Jesus loves you and etc etc etc..." What have we done for them? Nothing. Nothing at all. Maybe made things worse. In "Velvet Elvis," Rob Bell says that we should consider saying: "Jesus loves you, here's a toaster." Funny, but you get the point. If someone has needs that are urgent, we should be helping them to meet them in a sustainable way. The whole teach a man to fish mentality. Make a difference in this world.

Look at the situation in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands are being displaced. Thousands and thousands are being murdered. If I went to a refugee camp simply to "share the gospel" and did nothing else, that's missing the point. Totally missing the point of Jesus. We should be about changing our world. Changing our community. Changing our own lives. We need to support groups like the ONE campaign and let our government know that we must make a difference here and now.

I love the Church. My faith has been renewed recently and I have hope for the Church. Hope for change. Hope that we can make things better. That's what Jesus left us here to do. I have hope that there is a kingdom to come, but also want to be about seeing the kingdom here and now. Too many misconstrue my recent change for something other than what it is.

To just get it out in the open: I have a lot of issues with the Church. But I still love her. And I have hope for us all. I think Jesus wants us all to pursue him in a way that is authentic to who he made us to be. I think Jesus never wants us to get in a mindset where we say we have arrived. But that we are all always on a journey to pursue him in a honest and real way. Sure, that looks a little different for everyone, but I don't think God would have it any other way.

Above and beyond all of that though--we must be sharing the love of God with a world that desperately needs it. Less that have of a percent of the US's budget goes to impoverished people while thirty percent goes to the military. America's government and America's churches need to open their eyes. Winds of change are blowing. I feel it. Emphasis must be placed on loving people, helping people, changing lives... because that's what we were made for.


Richard Carwile said...

John David, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your heart and for giving me an opportunity to throw some thoughts out there as well.

My hope is this: Poverty will come to an end. Murder, rape, cancer, sickness and all other sufferings will as well. That hope rests in the revelation from God's Word that there will be in a new heaven and new earth.

I completely agree, this does not mean that Christians should or can avoid feeding the hungry and helping those in need, but my personal concern (I can only speak for myself on this) is that we can make a lot of loving efforts and in the end do the most unloving thing by not sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with someone. The other concern I have is that we can lulled into the wrong "solution". We cannot fix the fall or the effects of the fall.

In Matthew 26, Jesus is critized for allowing perfume to be poured on his head that, "might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor." His response to that critcism points out the significance of the spiritual and the gospel.

Another passage that speaks to this issue is Matthew 11. John the Baptist sends word to Jesus and basically asks the question of who he is. Jesus responds by sayng, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Why not do and say, "the poor have perfume sold and food bought to feed them"? I do not think it was becuase Jesus was saying that that would be bad, but that there was something more important. Their eternal condition.

It is dishearting to see the statistics on how few Christians verbally share the gospel. It is interesting to note that the same percentage of Christians who share their faith (roughly 10% depending on who you read) parallels the number of Christians who read God's Word on a daily basis (again, roughly 10% depending on who you listen too). I cannot help but think there is a correlation there.

Apart from the conviction of God's Word, I would rather build homes for the homeless and feed to poor. That is a lot more comfortable for me than saying to my Hindu friend that based on what I understand from God's Word, he will spend eternity in hell apart from a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. But when I read God's Word, the Great Commission, and other passages that speak to the eternal state of man's soul, I am compelled to focus first on his soul and second on his temporal needs. They may not always go in that order in serving him, but I believe Scripture dictates that order need be in my heart in seeking to love him through the gospel.

I guess my concern about movements throughout the last few decades that are zealous for meeting the physical needs are that they are not zealous enough. They seem to loose sight of the eternal and focus on the temporal.

I think we are all pushing for hope....there just seems to be some confusion at times on where or in who that hope ultimately rests in.