The Slow Evangelism Blade Penetrates The Shield

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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? 

0 thoughts on “The Slow Evangelism Blade Penetrates The Shield

  1. Morgan Bush says:

    1) Highly personal. Almost like a hunter.
    2) Yes, but they need to refocus on short term missions as an opportunity to spend time with the mission, and not with some goal-oriented idea of quotas.
    3) Yes.

  2. Jonathan says:

    1. What would a slower approach to evangelism look like to you?

    It would involve a focus on getting to a national church presence that can be self supporting so those areas where this is most difficult, due to economic/political/security issues, would receive greater resources from the sending/supporting groups.

    It would be a systematic approach where feedback from field personnel is more highly weighted than stateside theorists (i.e. the folks who get PhD’s in missiology and spend a career lecturing and publishing without having spent more than 2 weeks at a time in the field). Systems thinking, by definition requires slow and careful thinking in order to be flexible and quick in application.

    2. In your opinion, is it possible for short-term missions to “slow down?”

    Yes. But only if the short-term mission trip is done so within the context of the systematic approach. In this case, each trip has a specific, measurable goal that supports the overall purpose of the particular mission. The visible activity will look fast but the total work (preparation, the before and after action reviews that lead to correction/sharpening of the over all purpose, etc…) will require slow thinking/work.

    3. Slower church, evangelism, and discipleship, necessitate MORE of your time. Are you willing to give it?

    If the answer is “no”, a follow up question could be, “When, and for what, do you slow down in Kingdom life?” If the answer is difficult to get to, there are some fundamental concerns that need to be addressed…the good news is that addressing them will require some slow thinking and work. 🙂

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