I breezed through this article on the Huffington Post’s religion section last night before I went to bed and it gnawed at my conscience all night. It’s called “How I Kissed Evangelism Goodbye,” and it is a REALLY GOOD article. But, I think it’s full of bad assumptions and reflects a poor missiology & ecclesiology. Here are some quotes from the article:
“The biggest problem I have with evangelizing is that you enter into a relationship with a prescribed intention, and that stands in the way of listening well.”
Of course we have a ‘prescribed intention.’ It’s making disciples of people by ‘going’ to them, and in that going ‘preaching the gospel to them,’ (Isaiah 52:7) (Mark 16:15), ‘baptizing them,’ and ‘teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded.’ (Matthew 28:19,20) (Acts 14:21) All the while we love them as we love ourselves so that they and we can love God with all of our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. (Luke 10:27) If we’re not making disciples of people, we’re not loving them.
“You can’t listen well when you are carrying an agenda.”
Sure you can. It’s not the agenda that impedes listening, it’s dull ears and hard hearts (Matthew 13:15) etc. These dull ears can belong to the not yet evangelized and the evangelizer. Besides, the ‘agenda’ of ‘listening’ is still an agenda. The agenda is a divine one because God is a God of agendas. Our agenda is one of agency. It is to be the ambassadors of the King and His message. (2 Corinthians 5:20) We speak it, announce it, appeal to it, and live it. Luke 9 & 10 bases evangelism in the context of whether or not THEY want to listen. If they don’t, we’re to move on until we find someone that does.
“You can’t listen well when you are looking for ways to fortify your own position.”
Totally agree. But likewise, we’re to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Not ‘defending our faith,’ but giving reasons for the hope within us (Jesus). (1 Peter 3:15) And, at times ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ (Jude 1:3)
“You can’t listen well when you are searching for what is broken in your conversation partner, in order to introduce the solution.”
I understand what she’s trying to say here, but the gospel touches on ALL brokenness. Listening is not the magic key. The multifaceted gospel is. The problem is not poking and prodding looking for a soft spot to determine the malady, it’s never offering a robust, freeing, healing, and reconciling gospel to begin with. A gospel of Kingdom, of peace, of grace, of eternality, of salvation, and of Christ not only exposes brokenness, it becomes its salve.
The Pope’s quote, “The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.” Is just wrong. In the first place, he’s only talking about his kind of church. The kind of church that proclaims “Extra Ecclesiam nulla sales,” which means “outside the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation.” That church is not what the bible speaks of when referring to church. The church does not grow by attraction or addition. It grows by multiplication, the multiplication of discipleship. The church does not grow by attraction, it grows by mission. The church does not grow by attracting, but by sending. The church does not grow by gathering together, but by being sent together and gathering ‘along the way.’
“Proselytizing limits the wildly beautiful story of God and God’s people into a sample script.”
Yep, it sure can, but it doesn’t have to by necessity. The word ‘Proselytizing,’ sounds ugly. It is. Its focus, after all, is to make proselytes of religion. Our task is to make disciples by the means of relaying, relating, and discipling.
Finally she said,
“Our best hope for connectedness lies in having our stories heard. We earn our right to speak into other people’s lives when we have logged enough hours listening to their truths, and been willing to be changed by their beauty.”
Our best hope for connectedness does not lie in having our stories heard, it’s in having HIS story heard. The good news is a story about God, His Son, and His people. The gospel connects. Consider the multitude of scriptures that talk about the ‘message being heard’ or received, or spoken, etc. I think we get it backwards when we try to build community first, then ‘church,’ and then attempt to insert the gospel. The gospel is the catalyst of community, of Kingdom. Can we presume to speak into another’s life without permission? No, I don’t think so. But, invitation and permission are worlds apart.
So much of what she said here makes me want to scream “YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT,” but likewise urge caution to not make listening, or any other thing apart from discipleship, the holy grail of evangelism.
If you’re reading this and have read the article itself, am I off base? What do you think?