My friend Rick posted this on his blog. Worth a read. Worth thinking about. Worth considering doing something about.
And here’s a follow-up post.
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The letter reads, “Every year we pray with youth to receive Christ as Savior when they say at first they are coming on rededication or for special service.”
A few observations:
1. Would it be better to give a variety of “decisional” opportunities as opposed to the big three? Occasionally more specific direction as to how one might repsond to the voice of God. The result is that in our churches when people sense the leading of the Spirit of God they click through the three mental models for expression of a decision and when what they are feeling does not fit, then they are stunted at the point of expression.
2. Would it be better to acclimate “encouragers” to a variety of idioms for trusting Jesus? We often look for the “code” words or phrases. These are modern developments. One hundred years ago you would not hear the idiom, “trust Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.” There are some very biblical phrases. My personal favorite, “follow Jesus.” Or as another has put it, “follow God in the way of Jesus.” Could it be we “reconvert” people by the numbers but we covert them to our “code” words; this has a more gnostic feel.
3. Could we find a better way to get into the stories of the young people who respond to the move of the Spirit? We objectify them as a “number.” We ring the bell each morning for each person who “confesses Jesus.” Would it be better to call out their names over a loud speaker or do nothing at all? Maybe it would be better to let the young people share their story in a small group and mabye not even for the larger group they came with. We report on people by the hundreds and thousands. Does this in some way diminish them as people and prop up our system?
Considering the guidelines.
“I hope we can reach [fill in the blank with a given grouping of people]!” With that kind of statement comes a variety of churches “targeting” a given group. Over the past years we have witnessed “biker” churches, “cowboy” churches, and a host of “brand” churches.
What about reaching people – all people. I know the arguments. They won’t come to this church or that church. But, if you hold church in a rodeo arena or a bar you may get some to come. I have little problem with church being held in an arena or a bar (I am sure I will be called on to explain this one). The problem is with the idea of “targeting” groups rather than reaching people. And then I sometimes wonder if we don’t negate the persons in out attempts to reach people.
We exit, hopefully, an era in which we expressed a greater love for noses than for people. When we label a group we “objectify” them. We categorize them with the hopes we can find what they like, don’t like, listen to, don’t listen to and then forumlate a strategy to “go get ’em.” In the process we miss their story. We miss who they are and from where they’ve come and their dreams of where they may go. We fail to consider the full impact of the crises they have endured and the victories that may be theirs. We may miss an incredible part of God’s story in the process.
I know, we do prop them up by asking them to share their story in a setting where we hope others will make the same connections with God they did. In the end, is this not the same thing? Aren’t we commoditizing their story for our benefit? Haven’t we objectified their story and in some way taken them out of their own story? Does this not reduce them from people to tools?
The solution may lie in a shift in our understanding of mission. We tend to objectify missions as though they are projects. Would it be better to view the church as mission and therefore those of us in the church living out missional lives. The difference may be expressed as we would not only take “mission trips”, but we would live “mission”; lives compellingly connected to the Kingdom of God. Lives expressing how the grace of God captivates us completely – heart, soul and strength.
What about a story? Diabetic. Broken leg. Pneumonia. Lost finger. Alarming phrase used by doctor. Lost house. Lost cars. 51 years old. Away from wife. Scared. Little family. No care from family. Anxious. Electric wheel chair. Alone.
Interested brother-in-law. Embers of faith. Hopeful for heaven. Like to live longer. Loves his church. Knows pain causes an upward look. Realizes the hand of God comes in many forms. Eased.
We all live in God’s story. Some of us live with the light of his story. Others live unaware. How may we speak hope and love into others’ lives? Enter their story rather than ask them to co-opt our own. Listen. Be. Share common connections with their story without taking over the story and somehow making it about us.
Pray Larry gets better. More, pray Larry lives in his story of God’s grace.
Thinking is dangerous. Were we to “doefully” stare ahead without so much as a sideward glance, we might find ourselves plugged into a way of life and thinking that will be our own end. I have a friend who thinks well. I find his thoughts on the situation in Iraq compelling. Take a read and see what you think.
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