Friday, April 3, 2009

The Return of the Middle Ground

So there's a war going on inside my head and inside the church. I don't know if the church even knows it. It's about how the people of God should evangelize. This applies especially when it comes down to how a church should evangelize. Let me explain by taking at the three general forms of evangelizing that I've been taught growing up.

1. If-You-Died-Tonight- Method. I've seen this approach taken far too much in the world. The premise is that you bring up death as a way to tell about God. You stress the person's sinful nature and their complete dependence on God to save them from the fiery pits of hell. That's all true. Because of our sinful nature we are separated from God and the only way that we can escape an eternity in Hell is through the loving sacrifice of God through Jesus. The problem is that why are we using the fear of death to talk about the Love of God?? Every time that I've used this approach the person that I've been talking to has given me this look like, "You are the strangest person I know. Please stop talking to me..." The truth is that this either scares people or turns them off to God altogether...If there was only a way where we can turn people on to God without scaring them....

2. Don't-worry-God-Loves-You-So-Much Method. I think that this method came about when people got tired of the other method. It consist of telling anyone and everyone that God loves them. Hey you, captain sinner, God loves you. Hey kids, God loves you! Hey creepy Co-worker, God loves you. Hey, Mr.Christian who keeps intentionally sinning, God loves you. These are all true. God is Love and loves each of us. The problem is that there is no mention of our sinful nature taking us away from God. There's also no mention of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It's like taking the first part of John 3:16. "For God so loved the world," Well isn't that nice. God loves the world. Well how? Why? This method falls short also. But it still has God in it. God offends people, what if there was a way to tell people about God, without actually mentioning God.

3. Let's-All-Be-Nice-and-Maybe-work-at-A-Soup-Kitchen Method. This is the last method that I've seen taught in church. There's a verse in the Bible that talks about how people will no who we are by our actions. I've even taught that. I've told teenagers, other teenagers will look at them and see that they are different and therefore then wonder about God. For the record, this does happen. I've seen it happen. But it seems that there is a trend growing in the church that says that this is ALL that we should do. Just be nice to people, maybe they will see God. Just feed a homeless guy, maybe he'll see God. Just DO all these nice things and the world will be saved. That way we can evangelize to people without offending them by saying the words Jesus or God. This is one of the most dangerous methods because you are almost removing God from the entire equation. (and He created the equation!)

The middle ground falls at the heart of all three methods. The middle ground says that we are sinful. Our sin keeps us from an eternity with God. Because God loves us, He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Because God has saved us, we can be filled with His joy and love. This love then can pour out and be shared with others through our actions.

There you have all three combined together. I think that this middle ground is the most authentic way to tell others of how God has saved us. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why the church should cheer like Duke. (unc fans can read this too)

Tonight is the first Duke/Carolina game. In fact it's already started and Duke isn't doing that hot. This is an annual event that gives me automatic heartburn. In fact, for this game I've never even really thought that Duke ever had a chance. I guess I'm not a true Duke fan.

I did have a chance to attend the Duke-Miami game this past weekend. It was a dream come true for me and my wife as Duke tickets are hard to come by. We drove 2.5 hours each way to get there. We took out a whole Saturday to go to a basketball game. We got there, got in, and Duke went down by 16 points. It seemed like a wasted trip....

But as we were down by 16 points, I noticed something. The Duke students never stopped chanting. When going to someone elses court the first thing you want to do is take the crowd out of it. You do that by building a seemingly insurmountable lead. When that happens, the crowd usually dies out taking the team with it.

At Duke the cheering not only kept going, but as the deficit went up, the cheering got LOUDER. You never see that. Each time Miami would score, the students would yell louder to encourage their team to keep working. The crazy thing is that it worked. Duke slowly but surely went on a run. The gap started to close. As we got closer, the cheers got LOUDER. As Jon Scheyer took a shot that tied the game, the crowd went ballistic. It was so loud that my ears were ringing 15 minutes later....The game went to overtime and Duke eventually won it. They were carried by the crowd.

This doesn't happen in the church. When one of our own falls behind, we stop cheering them on. They don't even have to fall behind by much and we completely abandon them. Why is that? Why is it that if one of our own sins, we don't cheer for them to return to a righteous God loving life. This is the most critical time in our relationships with our fellow Christians and we fail.

I want to challenge you if you are reading this. The next time you see a Christian stumble start encouraging and start praying. The more they fall the more you encourage and pray. If we can do this imagine how much we can grow closer to God.

Take care until next time.