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Friday, March 28, 2008

Introducing Jesus Part Deux

I really want to fall in love with Jesus. I really want others to fall in love with Jesus. Jesus is loving and lovable.

At an early age, I understood that my story, like the Bible says, is not a secret to be kept. My story is part of a much larger narrative— a meta-narrative—an over-arching story where I play a role. I am a character and you are a character and we are part of a bigger story where God is weaving and shaping and molding and scripting without a strike. And, our job is to tell our story. To hear other stories. To spread the stories.

But as far back as I can remember, from about the time that I was nine or ten years old, some things didn’t jive with me when it came to some “evangelism tactics” I heard of and witnessed. It wasn’t always about good storytelling or the stuff of life—it seemed more like a recipe to be followed. A one-size-fits-all plan. A cookie-cutter flip chart presentation.

I think that the word “evangelism” and maybe even the word “gospel” has garnered a bad reputation outside of the Church and it’s understandable, because not every example of evangelism has been as gentle and as loving and as relational as the example of my hero Charlotte that I told you about.

The words evangelism and gospel come from the same root word and really, it’s not a religious word. In context it certainly can be. When we talk about religion, then evangelism becomes, or gospel becomes, a religious word, but it’s really a word that just means good news. It simply means “good news” or “good headlines” or “good story”— something good to think about.

The thing is, when there’s good news, we want to hear it. We seek out good news, right? Everyone likes good news.

I wonder though if sometimes we’ve done a poor job of understanding the people that we’re in relationship with (or not as the case may be) and erroneously assume that the good news we are going to share with them is actually good news to them. Or, at least, our version of what the good news is.

So, in some cases, the church has approached people as projects—void of relationship—and invaded someone’s space with a story about Jesus. In some cases, I fear the approach, the non-relationship, the pat answers, the non-tact, and the sales job doesn’t get anyone closer to Jesus. In fact, this person’s “good news” may be when the evangelist shuts up and leaves them alone.

Good news is not simply heard or told. Good news is also seen. Good news sometimes comes unexpectedly. Sometimes good news is not realized until Act Three of the play and sometimes good news is picked up in Act One. Sometimes the good news is understood in one sitting with a person and sometimes the good news unfolds over a long period of time, sometimes an entire lifetime.

I fear sometimes in our attempt to define the gospel and to narrow the gospel— the good news— down to small booklet size we do people and God a disservice.

I wonder sometimes if our simplifying of the gospel is actually more about us then it is about people. Not that we have impure motives by any means just maybe a skewed perspective. It might be possible we have been guilty at times of stripping the transforming power of the “gospel” in an effort to make something concise and simple that was never meant to be that way.

When we get to the end of our diagram, or our chart, or our booklet, have we in fact shared the good news?

I think that sometimes we desire to simplify this good news in order to determine exactly at what "point" we have shared the gospel.

I think most of us agree the “gospel” is not about winning an argument or closing a deal but . . .