Pope Francis recently said;
“Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.”
Perhaps some of you are familiar with Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. They are some of my favorite fictional works ever. There’s a quote in the original Dune novel that goes like this;
“The slow blade penetrates the shield.”
Weapons master Gurney Halleck delivers this amazing line of dialogue when practicing knife combat with Paul Atreides, the book’s main protagonist. In the context of Dune and Herbert’s sci-fi universe, personal energy shields could be housed in a projector and worn on a belt or sash. One only had to hit a button and he was enveloped in a form-fitting corona of energy that would deflect energy weapons, high-speed projectiles, or wild knife slashes. But in close combat, a cunningly wielded blade can pass through the shield energy and strike the home at the person behind it. It is during this knife-fighting exercise that we learn that slow, deliberate attacks will pass through the shield’s protection.
Slow Church, Slow Church Planting, and now Slow evangelism are rapidly (pun intended), becoming the latest ecclesiastical craze. Slow Church is inspired by the language and philosophy of the Slow Food movement to rethink the ways in which we share life together in our church communities. Just as Slow Food offers a pointed critique of industrialized food cultures and agricultures, Slow Church can help us unmask and repent of our industrialized approaches to church. It can also spur our imaginations with a rich vision of the holistic, interconnected, and abundant life together to which God has called us in Christ Jesus.
The urge to slow down from the Pope and others, I think, is wise. But, I fear it’s just another attempt at nuancing methodology to obtain the results faster. Many of the ideas coming from the slow church movement are still operating in the “goods & services” mode of church. I’ll have to admit that we have been purposefully slowing down when it comes to evangelism. We’re taking much more time to communicate the Gospel message than we ever have before. We’re trusting God with the lives that He causes us to intersect with. I’ve personally shared the gospel with a dying woman who received Christ moments before her death and likewise with a man who listened for more than 4 years. I’m weary of “urgent” evangelism, or the idea that because Jesus is coming quickly, we’ve got to get as much gospel to as many people as possible before the end. This notion, in my opinion, has done more damage to authentic discipleship than anything else. I firmly believe that most cults were birthed in the hasty, truncated, and incomplete presentations of the true gospel message.
As a missionary, I would like to see short-term missions teams adopt some slow tactics, but I don’t think that most would. Short-term missions are designed and reliant on “quick turnarounds.” More than that, and with respect to evangelism, I think a slower, persistent, and more patient approach to reaching others with the good news can penetrate the shields that are so quickly risen in today’s culture. I’ll eventually write more on Slow Church, and related issues, but for now, a few questions:
1. What would a slower approach to evangelism look like to you?
2. In your opinion, is it possible for short-term missions to “slow down?”
3. Slower church, evangelism, and discipleship, necessitate MORE of your time. Are you willing to give it?