According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Suck at Evangelism... But I'm really great at telling the story of Jesus!

Evangelistic Voice

by JRD Kirk
February 17, 2012

Evangelism isn’t my thing.

I have vivid memories of trying to pull it off.

One week in college I attempted the “Florida Evangelism Project”: contact evangelism on the beach during Spring Break. Easily one of the top five worst weeks of my life. Mostly because I sucked at it.

Years later, I was about to finish my Ph.D., and about to move into shepherding a core group through the process of becoming a church plant and onto grown-up adult church status. Church planter assessment didn’t go so well. They wanted people who could share the gospel on contact and close the deal with a powerful sinner's prayer. Easily one of the top five worst weeks of my life. Mostly because I sucked at evangelism.

Or, at least, I didn’t do evangelism well in the ways that made sense in these contexts.

Last night I found myself speaking the good news. I knew that I was speaking, in part, to people who do not identify with Jesus, and I was perfectly comfortable with my message. I found my evangelistic voice.

I was giving a talk on Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?. Feeling that this could only be partially a long commercial for the book, I wanted to give an overview of the Story that drives my storied theology.
  • The story of a very good world.
  • The story of a world in dis-integration from its good, created order.
  • The story of a God who would not rest until the blessing, restoring the power of God’s reign,  had been made known in every place where “the curse is found.”
  • The story of Jesus bringing wholeness to bodies, wholeness to communities, wholeness to people’s standing before God.

Whether it’s my Storied Theology, or Scot McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel, or N. T. Wright’s fulfilled story of Israel, the holistic gospel of a transformed and reconciled cosmos is, itself, the message worth proclaiming, the story worth calling people to.

In the worlds where I failed in my evangelism, I was being summoned to first convince people that they had a particular need, probably one they did not feel before talking to me, and then convince them that I had the cure for the disease I had brought.

I get how deeply engrained this way of proclaiming the gospel is in our post-Great Awakening American context.

But what I experienced last night, and what I hope becomes the new normal, is a different way of understanding evangelism. This different way is to walk in the way, and to tell the story of, the reconciling, redeeming, reclaiming power of the reign of God at work in Jesus.

In other words, there is a beautiful story worth telling–and it is, actually, good news. God cares about the deficiencies and brokenness of our bodies. God cares about the alienation and loneliness of our communities. God cares about the sins that show our distrust of our Creator.

And God acts in Christ to bring healing, wholeness, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Every place where we experience the want of goodness, the want of glory, God sends the Messiah to set the world to rights.

This is the beautiful story, the story that cannot be told without a story of creation or a story of the life of Jesus. It is a story that paradoxically demands the cross for its resolution.

And it is the good news that Jesus himself enacted. With it goes out a summons to join–but a summons to join something restorative, to participate in the work of the God who cares more about the environment than we do, - to join in the work of the God who is far more passionate about doing away with our loneliness than we are, to celebrate the work of the God who cares enough about our eternal hope to create a people who can taste its fruit in the present.

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