Archive for February 2008

moving goalposts 2

February 28, 2008

(evolving from goalposts 1 comments.) So while some of you continue debate on ‘goalposts 1’ entry, I have been thinking about this idea of ‘tipping the balance too far’ in terms of our evangelism. in-case you missed this part Evangelism is sometimes seen as a scale with ‘speaking the gospel’ at one end and ‘living the gospel’ at the other end. To emphasise one side more than the other is considered dangerous, and so we need to live in the middle where we have the balance of both speaking and living the gospel.

I really do appreciate that this idea is rooted in the concern that the gospel needs to be ‘proclaimed’ I agree. But I’m not actually sure what the ‘danger’ is in focusing on living the gospel? The only way there is a danger is if ‘speaking the gospel’ is somehow separate to ‘living it’. I am not at all convinced that it is. And yet when we put the two on opposite ends of the scale we are creating that very separation. This, i fear is the real danger.

If we think that it is possible to live the gospel and not speak it then our idea of living the gospel is distorted. But the words and conversations that flow out of our incarnational lives are different to the kind of words and conversations that flow out of our felt need to ‘speak’. The former i believe is a far truer proclamation. Im not sure we should be settling for anything less.

My fear is that the proclamations born out of a sense that we have to ‘proclaim’ are not proclamations at all. These are forced and often detached conversations. This does not feel like love to me. If we are speaking the gospel or encouraging others to do so in order to keep this ‘balanced’ life then surely the focus is on us not the person we speak to? Why do we put pressure on each other to have these kind of conversations? I think these kind of conversations are the very reason that many people think they are scared of ‘speaking the gospel’.

But ask people if they are scared of a conversation with their best friend, or their dad or their next door neighbour that is natural, and honest, a conversation that seeks answers to deep questions, that wrestles, that cries and laughs and wonders. The kind of conversation that spills out of our mouths rather than being draged out kicking and screaming. I don’t think we are as hesitant to speak the gospel as we think we are, we are often simply resistant to words that settle for anything less that true proclamations. In my (not fully formed) opinion, rightly so, for a proclamation that is disconcected from incarnation is perhaps no proclamation at all.

i reckon speaking and living are not so much opposite ends of a scale as they are on the same end of the scale (or as zoomy so beautifully put it “one lives inside the other”).

ready to hear your thoughts and arguments and willing to be wrong…

(i’m getting the hang of this paragraph thing!)

is your freedom too small?

February 23, 2008

Our idea of freedom is too small. We covet a freedom where we can do whatever we want when we want. Where we can indulge ourselves in every way without limit. Where we can say what we really think without having to ‘choose our words’. But is this freedom really freedom at all? In reality it is perpetual chaos. it destroys us and those around us. it diminishes humanity in every way. In reality this kind of freedom creates worlds and people that we long to be free from. In reality our freedom enslaves us.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”. God didn’t set us free to do that which destroys our freedom, he set us free to enjoy true freedom. It stands to reason therefore that the kind of living he has called us to is an act of true freedom. It seems contrary, that to serve and love and be patient and faithful and kind and whatever else you can think of, are tastes of true freedom, and yet the more i think about it the more i realise that i can think of no greater freedom than the experience of sincere loving an enemy. Such freedom is only fully realised in Christ. In the words of Iron & Wine “freedom hangs like heaven over everyone”. Let your freedom grow.

who moved the goalpost?

February 12, 2008

Today i was asked the question “what are the evangelistic highlights of your year?” This is a normal and legitimate question in my slightly obscure job.  But i have to be honest with you this question drives me crazy.  The process of answering a question like this basically involves me sifting my brain to think of a story where i or someone else (preferably someone i have influenced) has had a significant conversation about Jesus with another person who does not yet call themselves a Christian.  I will score extra credit if that conversation has involved a clear explanation of sin (theirs) and the cross.  It will be even better if that conversation has happened with someone who really hates all the Jesus stuff.  In my head a story like this is the ultimate evangelistic encounter.  This is the kind of juicy stuff my friend is looking for (at least that’s what i imagine).  This is the kind of story that gets the ‘amen’s’ and the nodding heads of approval.  BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY?! i seriously struggle with this and I’m asking for your input into my more than likely poor theology.  The reason i struggle with this question is because it puts pressure on us to have a good story, and the need to have a good story makes us shitty lovers of people.  I guess my question is ‘what really is evangelism?’  because if it’s no more than simply talking to people about Jesus then i give up.  If we make this kind of evangelism the goal then we’ve missed the point of evangelism itself.  I want people to become fully themselves, fully who they are created by God to be.  People will flourish in such ways under nothing less than love.  Sincere love.  Jesus said the greatest command is love.  Why do we make the greatest command ‘to talk about sin and the cross to as many people as possible and quickly?’  Who changed the goal?  The truth is there are many stories of love that i think are impacting people in a way that is drawing them into the kingdom life they were made for.  Can i tell these stories in answer to my friend’s question? Don’t get me wrong, i love nothing more than to have conversations with friends about God.  I really love it.  But these conversations can never be my goal otherwise it wouldn’t really be one of those conversations at all.  My goal must never be anything more or less that to love sincerely from my heart.  I want the question to be not “what is your evangelistic encounter?” but rather “how are you loving the people around you?”   I am angry, i am sorry for the long rant!  I would love to hear your thoughts though!

Guilt is a poor manager…

February 10, 2008

It often makes me laugh when I see parents play the adult card “because i said so that’s why!”.  But I think the church has often played an equally inadequate card.  Guilt is too often used to motivate and manage our behaviour.  We are told what we can or cant do, but sometimes we have no idea why (other than ‘because the bible says so that’s why!’).  We have a vague sense of things that are BAD and a vague sense of things that are good.  There are many flaws with this, one of them as Laura Winner points out is that ‘if guilt is the only resource the church has given us to diagnose sin… then in the absence of guilt we will simply keep on doing whatever it is we shouldn’t be doing.’ 

Surely if we better understood what it meant to be truly human, or if we better understood the beauty of God, or the value of each other we would make better sense of the way we are called to live and we would live better lives.  I want my life to be more than a series of decisions based on avoiding guilt or even a series of decisions based on avoiding getting it wrong.  That is never the goal.  The things God calls me to are invitations to glorify him, and therefore they are invitations to life.  To give life to others rather than rob it from them.  To impact the world around us in ways that helps it flourish rather than diminish.

When we use guilt to manage people we have reduced God to something he is not, and we live mediocre lives.  We need to restore our muddy unformed images of God and the life that is truly life.  We need to stop using guilt and fear as motivators – whether it’s about salvation or social action.  Beats me why we choose to settle for guilt over seeking the answer to the ‘why?’ in the eyes of our Father.