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Friday, March 28, 2008

Introducing Jesus Part 1

Step back in time with me.

I want to talk about the “evangelizing” of a little boy.

I’m about nine years old. My family--my mom, my dad and my one brother (at the time) are all living in a camper. We’re living in a van down by the river, pretty much, almost literally—in a truck-bed camper that has been laid out on pipes so it doesn’t get dry rot. . We’re building a humble home. When the home is done, it will be about 700 square feet.

My dad is a struggling house painter and we are taking showers in a fifty-gallon drum that sits outside of the camper. You fill it up with water in the morning and it is warm enough by the evening to take a shower. My dad calls them “Vietnam showers.” It is our evening routine to do this. Another part of our evening routine is for my dad to disrobe, to get naked, and walk around the property smoking weed. So, pretty normal family for the most part. Ordinary. Ha.

But one day something out of the ordinary happens. This small Honda Civic drives down the driveway and parks down by our little campsite and out walks this woman. She’s probably in her late 40’s to mid-50s and she approaches my family. Not too many neighbors talked to us. My dad—as gentle as he is—is tattooed head to toe, drinks, rides a Harley, and well . . . there’s that naked thing.

But, this woman seems to see right through all of that. She asks my parents’ permission to take my brother and me to Sunday School.

That’s how my Jesus story begins.

The rest is an incredible story of love and of sacrifice and of risk and of time investment in two little boys. I can tell you story after story about my journey and my connection with this beautiful woman that I call Charlotte. I can tell you about the Bible she bought me (I am looking at it right now)--the first Bible I ever owned— and the stories that she told me. I often think about the time that we used to spend hanging out in her garden together and the cookies that she baked me and the shoulder she gave me to cry on. I remember kneeling with her by a swing and praying to God to tell Him I wanted in.

I am who I am today because somebody was a risk taker and a storyteller : : : because somebody took Jesus seriously.

That is the story of how I came to Jesus.

Not every story is like mine. If you are a Jesus follower, your story may be similar or way way way different.

Charlotte’s “evangelism” methods were very sweet and began with relationship.

Webster says “evangelism” is: “Zealous preaching and advocacy of the Gospel.” Every church I’ve ever been in has been part of this tradition— the evangelical tradition. Really, it’s something that I’m proud of; I’m not sorry for the name. If you called me an “evangelical”, I wouldn’t be disappointed with that label on some levels.

But, not all the way comfortable or excited either.

The discomfort that I’ve had with some “evangelism” tactics lie in how we determine just how people “come to faith in Jesus” and what role we play in their faith journey--how we go about telling them the story of Jesus and really what our role and responsibility is in making sure they “get it.”

These things are really heavy on my heart right now—especially as we plan an upcoming series on Atonement Theories/Theology.

More to come. In this and the next few posts I value your insight and banter. Please join the conversation.