Monday, October 30, 2006

New Strategy?

I have been away for a couple of weeks. I have been in New York for business, Florida for some R&R and now I am in a hotel in San Francisco. I am here to be part of an ad hoc committee (Doesn't that sound as if someone got something stuck in their throat?)

The committee I am on has the purpose of evaluating a long standing conference/seminar on evangelism The Salvation Army holds in Colorado every year. My wife,Janet, attended the seminar a few years back and found the experience exciting. Others I know have really touted the effectiveness of the seminar. I do love the fact that it is giving lay people the opportunity to share the
Gospel. It also gets them excited as a result. Many, for the first time share their faith, often to perfect strangers. Of course, I wonder if the people receiving the Gospel on the other end think we might be the strange ones. We walk up to them in a uniform and ask them if they want to know Jesus. I am sure that is an experience you don't have every day. It is probably one most people would not WANT to have either.

There are many positives about the experience. That is why I am somewhat conflicted as I write. What I fear is that we have packaged evangelism into a nice neat three point (or more) technique and then the next thing you know, we have a convert. I don't want to trivialize the importance of the Gospel. It is LIFE. I guess I am more concerned with the notion that there is a school of thought that has reduced evangelism to a science. In fact, for years, I practiced that kind of evangelism.

Sadly, in my practice of technique evangelism, I think there were tons of spiritual still births. I would pray with someone after sharing the Four Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, or stick the name of your method here ____________, only to never know what happened to the person or to have them ignore my follow up attempts. So I wonder, is that really sharing the Gospel?

I believe the Gospel has the power to change lives. The Gospel has the power to change systems of corruption. It has the power to change neighborhoods. It is, however, becoming more abundantly clear to me that the Gospel that really will change lives, is not in a package, but in a process. In other words, I need to look at people for relationship purposes and be willing to walk the road with them for the long run. Otherwise, my presentation I fear, especially in these days of postmodern thought, will bring about spiritual stillbirths at best and at worst, a negative, hostile reaction to the Lord I love.

So I come to these meetings the next couple of days looking for what the Spirit would say. I am not sure what He will tell us. I know many here will be look for a new strategy. I am wondering if an old one might do better. I am talking about a first century strategy where community was built and pentecostal rain fell. Maybe that is what the Spirit is calling us to do. I am afraid I will not be much for endorsing curriculum or a package. I am thinking we may need to have the bold new strategy, maybe there will need to be some discipleship of the non-believer before they accept Christ. We invite and accept them into community and allow that community to be a witness to what the Gospel can do.

It is not a neatly prepared package of talking points. It is probably a bit messy. It won't be efficient. It might just be what we need in this day in which we live.

What do you think?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Black and White?

I have recently had a great number of conversations with a well-loved co-worker. The conversations have centered around the need for there to be black and white answers. I am not sure there are black and white answers in most situations. In fact, more often than not, I think that most answers are not that easy.

Some of my friends say I think too much. Others see me as wishy washy. I think there are some people who take black and white answers and try not to think. I find this is especially true in dealing with difficult issues of the church. For example, is there really a black and white answer in the Yuill saga? Is there really a black and white answer surrounding the distribution of condoms or needle exchange programs? The Army has been involved in both and condemned both. I am convinced that people on both sides of the argument love God.

Yesterday, I was in a Bible study where one saint, and I mean saint, decried the sin of abortion. I was with him. He then said I will never vote for a politician who does not condemn abortion. I personally abhor abortion. I believe in a seamless garment of life. Unfortunately, some of our strongest anti-abortion candidates are also the same that have voted to cut funding to local police departments, especially in the drug intervention programs. These are also the same politicians who refuse to raise the minimum wage and have not found a way to have health insurance available, separate from employment. It would seem to me that abortion and keeping people in poverty may both be sinful. There is also some correlation between poverty and out of wedlock births. Yet, my friend defined his truth on one issue.

You see what I mean? Is there ever really any black and white issue? Is there room for Christians to disagree on these issues and still be Christians? In fact, is there room for us to still be evangelicals and disagree? Black and White?

What do you think?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Argument or Antagonism?

There has been quite the debate and furor arise since the announcement of the resignation of Chick and Margaret Yuill. I have read many of the statements, looked at the blog entries and also talked with many people who have strong opinions on both sides of the story. I am sorry to see such good servants of the Lord and The Army feel they have come to the point where they cannot stay with the ministry to which they have given their lives.

This post though is not essentially about that situation. It really is about an underlying attitude in the church and it seems in our movement, in particular. That is the way we have degenerated into a people who have lost the fine art of arguing. There is a culture that has arisen and I think that it has really been in the church for 2000 years. One only needs to look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. It is the spirit of taking sides. In other words, it is the spirit of antagonism.

We can disagree on matters of doctrine, practice and theology. Actually, debate is good for the body of Christ. It keeps us from being flabby in our mind, thoughts and in our walk of grace. It is good for us to argue. It is good to do so even passionately. It is good, that is, as long as we are kind and remain friends.

Here is what has happened though. I think we have lost the ability to lead gracefully and disagree gracefully. Often, we are find ourselves trying to prove how right we are and thinking that we need to rub it in. We have DHQ/THQ officers who have never been successful in their corps, but do bring some other skill to the ministry who now become "experts" in corps operation. We also have people on the other end, who having no experience other than corps/institution who believe they know best how to run the headquarters operation. In our attempt to prove we are right, we no longer have ability to debate. We have instead adopted the attitude of antagonism. This attitude is so destructive to morale on both sides. It is amazing what happens when roles reverse though.

The attitude of antagonism, is one in which we must always win and never try to understand the other's point of view, or even care to. We then make judgment on people's character based on our evaluation of their opinions in a situation. For subordinates who try to debate or operate this way, it is seen as insubordination. From the other end supervisors who have not developed this skill are seen as bullies. Maybe both labels are earned. In fact, I hate the thought of thinking of the Body in terms of subordinates and supervisors.

This need to always be right, to have our own way, is basically one thing in my opinion; sinful. It also points to our own insecurity in who we are and are to become in Christ. This antagonistic way of living is something the world of politics in the US practices. It is polarizing and frankly, is sickening most and spreading apathy throughout the electorate. In some cases, it is causing people just to hate the very thing we have fought so hard in this country to preserve, because we have seen it as our birthright.

Could it be that our antagonistic way of living is doing the same thing in the church? 2000 years later are we much different from the Corinthian Church? Do we argue for the sake of growing in the Body or just antagonize each other most of the time?

What do you think?