"Francis of Assisi is alleged to have said, 'Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.'  That may be a great medieval sound bite, but it falls short of what the Bible teaches about evangelism."

I used to like that quote, and the evangelism models it leads to, and felt comfortable in thinking that the street preachers (and other more direct evangelism models) had no place in actually making a difference in people's lives.

But, while spending the summer at the Ocean City Beach Project (speaking of community in my last post, OCBP was a good community experience for me, not perfect, but perhaps that is what real community is) in 1997, we went to New York and traveled on the Staten Island Ferry and there was a lady who was (almost) yelling at the people, talking about heaven, hell, God, Christ, etc. and I couldn't see anything good in what she was doing - various people were turning away from her and making comments about Christianity, etc.  Apparently, none of the other students that I was with seemed to care much, and my original tactic was to avoid her by going to another part of the boat, but she ended up in the same section I was...  At one point our eyes connected, and I asked her if she thought she was doing any real good in anyone's life.  She sat down and we talked for a while.  She said that she didn't always know if it was any good, but that "[God's word] shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)" and that she didn't always preach, but some days she felt a prompting to bring her bag of tracts and speak to the people on the boat. (She worked in the city, and so rode on the ferry every day).  I was not at all convinced that God was pleased with her actions, though I did appreciate that she didn't simply preach every day, but desired to follow God and believed that He had certain people for her to talk to.  But, as we were talking, a rough looking guy came up in tears, (Rob, from last week in the Dominican would say that he "had his skirt on") and said how much the words had struck him, and talked about circumstances that he was going through, and how life looked hopeless in different ways. I don't know about the long term effects on his life, but at least the short-term, we prayed for him and his wife and his job and I believe that God did speak to him that day.  And to me too - as I no longer look disdainfully on people preaching on the street.  I am still not convinced that it is the "best" way, and I don't really ever expect to find myself preaching, but definitely God uses those that do.

The second thing that God taught me about evangelism was when a number of us went to a "Contagious Christian" conference put on in Pittsburgh by the evnagelism director of the Willow Creek Church.  There were various things that were good that weekend (including a strong validation of the gift of discernment that God has given me - I look back on that weekend whenever I start to doubt that maybe I'm just crazy and probably just making up things when I see into people's (particularly the "random" people on the street) hearts and minds), but as far as evangelism goes the only quote I remember is "there are all kinds of Christians to speak to all kinds of non-Christians".  He gave various examples of people in his church, from the praying 90 year old woman who hardly ever made it out of her house or spoke to anyone to the street preacher to the guy who was the most relational guy he ever met, etc.  The question the workbook asked was, "What kind of evangelizer are you?"  I think it is probably stated a little strongly, as I do believe in diversity of gifts, and that while we should all seek all gifts, in the end, God gives different gifts to different believers.

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many." - 1 Corinthians 12:4-14

Back to Total Church:

"Before they are preachers, leader, or church planters, the disciples are to be lovers!  This is the test of whether or not they have known Jesus."

The authors go onto say that though doctrinal orthodoxy, ingenious strategizing, commitment to preaching, innovative approaches to planting, are all important and necessary in their own way, it is "our cross-love for each other than proclaims the truth of the gospel to a watching and skeptical world."

We were talking the other night with some friends about church splits and why does that even happen at all and particularly "ugly" conflicts.  Certainly, there will be differences of opinion, and even differences over important and essential truths (is there any truth that isn't important?  Maybe.) But, why would it ever have to be ugly?  I suppose the easy answer is simply "sin", but I think to trivialize sin is a dangerous course of action, and we shouldn't expect sinful actions to drive our community, but love, forgiveness and walking out our faith in holy fear.

One challenge to the street preachers is the example of a street preaching friend of the authors:

As the conversation began, it was clear that George thought we were selling out in some way.  But as we talked about sharing our lives with unbelievers, about evangelism that was 24/7, about opening our homes, George's tone changed.  At the end of our conversation he admitted, "I'm not sure if I'm up for that kind of commitment."

I love the end of Ephesians 3, particularly the King James Version, that so clearly shows how big God is, and how much He desires for us.  He doesn't merely pray that "Christ would dwell in your hearts by faith, and to be filled and know the love of Christ," nor merely that God can "do anything", but he prays much bigger statements than that:

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." -- Ephesians 3:17-21

 

Posted by Jon Daley on March 23, 2010, 12:00 pm | Read 8249 times
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Jon,

I was intrigued by your story of the woman who preached on the ferry. I have often felt the same as you once did, that preaching in that way just isn't effective. But, you know? God can use anything to bring people to Himself. If a person is called to that type of evangelism, who am I to say they are wrong?

Thanks for sharing.

How's your family?

Your "sister",
Lisa

Posted by Lisa on March 23, 2010, 6:56 pm

I'll add my thanks to Lisa's: that was a good story to share. It'll help me hold back my disdain in the future, and to look for the good in that type of evangelism.

I'm intrigued by your rabbit-trail question. Is there a hierarchy of importance for truths? Is truth always important enough to warrant an all-out debate? And if yes, when do we engage in that debate? Immediately, to nip it in the bud? Or should we wait patiently for the right moment (assuming there is such a thing)? I don't think I have thought-out answers for that.

It's sad that most Christians our age can look back on and discuss ugly church splits. It has made me wonder, too, why sin often seems to carry the day. I think it's important to acknowledge that sin is a driving factor, but by the time we've engaged in conflict, I think it's too late. Either side sees the sin of the other side writ large, and we often (especially in free churches) don't have any mediator to step in and help steer the oonflict back in the right direction of love and forgiveness being the determinants. We just keep knocking each other black and blue with the beams in our eyes.

I'm looking forward to your next chapter summary.

Oh, I almost forgot: Would you mind sharing on how your gift of discernment works? (Disclaimer: I'd love to have it.) Is it something you have with all people, or only with a few where you have a clear prompting? If the latter, how do you distinguish it from regular gut feeling?

Posted by Stephan on March 27, 2010, 5:02 pm

Now that I've finished the brake lines, I have some more time to get back to blogs...

One guy I talked to about how to distinguish "important" truths (and I do lean towards all truths are important) is to see if the application of that truth influences how you live your life. And if that belief leads you to live/act/pray in some other way than seems good, I think a discussion is worth pursuing.

I haven't read the book in a while - I'll need to get back to it.

As for the discernment thing - I probably should write up a whole post at some point. But, I'll write a little here:

It doesn't happen all the time and there are various things that influence my ability to see into others thoughts and feelings. Primarily my own sin and separation from God, and being distracted by my own things. Some people can hide well, though, unless the person is used to hiding all of the time, it is usually obvious that they are working at hiding, so while I might not know what is going on, I know something is going on. I can also turn it off, in some sense, particularly if I am being overwhelmed by lots of emotion - I discovered that I could turn it off when I was leading Joyful Noise, and I was having a hard time directing some nights due to all of the stresses going on, and since we look at each other as we sing, I couldn't figure out how to lead well without ignoring people's thoughts. But, I discovered the downside of doing that is that I can't simply turn it back on later, and one time as we left a rehearsal, I asked Heather how she was doing (just chatting - I didn't know anything was going on) and she burst into tears and I realized that I had turned off completely, so couldn't even see Heather.

I think it is different than a "gut reaction" at least in some cases for a couple reasons.

Sometimes it is with completely random people that I've never talked to, and in some cases, when I can't even see their face (faces and eyes are good indicators). I was at a conference once, and after agonizing over whether it was weird to talk to a random lady about her personal issues in the middle of a seminar, I passed a note to her (the other people in the row were amused by that). I simply asked how she was doing and if she would like to eat lunch together. She started crying after reading my note and turned and mouthed "yes". We had a great conversation - she had been debating about breaking up with a guy and was quite stressed about it. She ended up breaking up with him that night, and we talked the next day as well. It was kind a weird relationship in a way, since we didn't know each other at all, but we did see each other from time to time, and she came to a birthday party that Heather threw the next year and was with a new boyfriend (and it seemed like a much better match to me).

There was one time in Joyful Noise that Heather asked why I was sad, and I hadn't realized it was visible on my face, but I said, "It's not me, it is this other girl." But, I didn't know whether she wanted to talk about it, since she wasn't saying anything when there had been opportunities for her to speak. I don't remember the situation at all, other than she burst into tears and the group had a good discussion and prayed for her, etc.

When I was in the Dominican, I realized (again) that one reason I really like college-aged people is that they are more open than older people - and generally don't mind being asked what is going on in their lives. Certainly there were people who avoided me so I wouldn't ask them about stuff. . But, some things someone taught me about this gift (she has it too, but is 20 years older than me and has had more time to figure things out) is that one, it is a gift (I used to hesitate calling it a gift, since sometimes it seems like a burden) and two, it isn't my responsibility to "fix them" or even talk to them if they aren't interested in talking. This woman is way introverted and so I suspect she rarely talks to people who she sees, but she encouraged me to simply pray for them, in specific where I know things, and in general where I don't, and be released from the "burden" of knowing things and not being able to do anything about it.

And I guess that leads into another reason that I think it different than a gut-feeling or something - that I originally assumed everyone could see these things and just had their own issues to deal with or were too introverted to strike up a conversation, but at some point, I realized that most people don't see/feel these thoughts and emotions.

A couple weeks ago, some said, "You can see what I'm thinking???", and it isn't exactly like that, and I can't do ESP tricks, "You're thinking of the number 37", though Heather now does double blind holding of Settlers cards, since I could quite reliably pick the card that I wanted if she knew where the cards were, but I suppose that might be more general intimacy with a person than what I am talking about.

Posted by Jon Daley on March 30, 2010, 10:54 am

Ha - if that was "a little," I'm curious to see what the unabridged version looks like! :-) But I see your point: despite answering several of my questions, what you've written has me curious to ask more.

I'm having a hard time organizing my questions, so I'll just go one by one, and start with a question of clarification. When you say someone's hiding, what does that mean? Does it mean that person's simply withholding information, perhaps because they don't wish to share right now? Or does it mean that they are volunteering fals information in an attempt to smokescreen the truth? Or can it be both? Be it as it may, I can see how it might be a burden to know something's amiss but not knowing what. I mean, what does one do with that kind of information? (I guess the woman you spoke with answered that question, actually. But I can imagine the discomfort of the situation.)

Then I'm curious: does your gift work with your children? I guess this question's prompted by our impending arrival and my thinking it'd be brilliant to know what baby wants even before he can talk!

But of course even if I were to receive this gift just in time for Little One Stücklin, I'd probably doubt it more often than it'd be useful. After all, I'd have no way of knowing if what I "saw" I was in fact true! I guess when you're dealing with grownups that would be easier, so I'm wondering if there have been times when you were quite certain that you were reading a person correctly and then later it turned out to be inaccurate. I'd agree that it is a gift you have, and in my experience temptations either prey on our greatest weaknesses or play off our greatest strengths, so I wouldn't be surprised if you had to fend off quite a number of temptations on that front. I'd be curious to know more about that, if you don't mind sharing.

I'm sure I'll think of more questions, but that's it for now... ;-)

As to the question of the importance of truth: I'd agree that all truth is important, but submit that it's not all equally important. Perhaps it's a silly example, but bear with me... One truth is that you can't have a pleasant Sunday drive without gas in your tank. Another is that you can't have a pleasant Sunday drive without air in your tires. Both are true, but I'd say the former is more important: it's the truth that determines whether your car moves at all. At the same time, ignore the latter at your peril!

Posted by Stephan on April 2, 2010, 8:13 am

One guy recently wrote that he was sorry for the "long" email, and I responded that he obviously hadn't gotten emails from me, since I am not particularly known for being succinct.

I've never considered it for children, particularly ones that cannot speak. One thing that is hard is that I still assume that everyone can see what I see, because at least in some cases, people can. Now that I am analyzing it, I wonder if it is related to me being able to push the kids farther in whatever task they are doing than Heather can, in terms of being able to sense if they will tolerate more pushing, or if they are done for right now.

As for being "sure" there are times when I am not, and so I can ask questions, but I don't remember a time when I was sure and it ended up being wrong.

I think I'd define hiding in either of the two ways you define it, either by omission or by falsification.

As for what one does with the "information", I think the best and easiest answer is to simply pray for him that God would comfort himand that he would have someone in his life to talk to about it and not try to deal with it on his own.

Temptations: Years ago, I would be frustrated at the person if they weren't willing to talk about things that so obviously were troubling them significantly. But, I think I have gotten over that; I can't recall any recent occurrences.

As I'm trying to think through this what I keep thinking is that this "strength" seems to be different than other abilities God has given me, in that I don't really have any misconceptions about it being of my own strength, which I do (sometimes at least) about other gifts God has given me. And it is so easy for this gift to go away completely, and so if I am sowing seeds of sin, the gift is gone, and so I think any temptations to sin are quickly squashed out - I don't think it is possible to walk in sin and have this gift bear hardly any fruit - and when I've tried to consider my life objectively, I think I am accurately able to measure my "distance" to God, or closeness in my walk with Him based on how much insight He is showing me. Some people have disliked and argued against my use of "distance to God", which is why I put it in quotes, and certainly I believe Psalm 139:7-8 "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." But, it seems to me that there is a physically being present, and an actual closeness. I suppose similar analogies could be made about being indwelt by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, or being present with my wife (in the same room, doing a project, or reading a book) and being with my wife (sitting on the couch talking or being together).

I am undecided on the importance of truth(s), and are there multiple truths, or simply one truth that every other "truth" is a part of?

To try to take your analogy back to the bible, can the sentence, "You aren't living a Christian life if you..." be finished in different ways that contain a truth that is less essential than another?

"...aren't walking according to the Spirit."
"...are dead."

I suppose the second statement is perhaps more essential in terms of "living" (though I'm thinking about some arguments regarding life after death...)

Posted by jondaley on April 2, 2010, 11:14 am

Just enough time to squeeze in a brief comment...

I appreciate your altering the analogy I made. I think it works. Here's my stab at a few endings with varying importance of the truth contained (if any - but that depends a lot on whom you ask). I've tried to make them more concrete than your examples:

"You aren't living a Christian life if you..."

"...don't believe in Christ as Lord and Savior."
"...don't confess Christ as Lord and Savior."
"...don't read the Bible daily."
"...don't go to church every week."
"...don't have an accountability partner."
"...aren't on fire."
"...play cards."
"...smoke."
"...drink."
"...hang out at discos."
"...join a fraternity."
"...practice birth control."
"...send your kids to public/private/home school."
"...are rich."

That's all OTTOMH, so perhaps not the best list ever.

And I hope to get back to you with another question regarding your gift, but now I need to start the day.

Posted by Stephan on April 9, 2010, 12:46 am

I guess so, though I don't think most of that list is biblical, and so not true on first principles.

And if you are on fire, it is probably a good time as any to decide whether you believe in Christ or not... :)

Posted by jondaley on April 9, 2010, 10:54 am

Oh, the "on fire" phrase is merely one of my peeves. I know we are supposed to not be lukewarm, but the "on fire for Christ" phrase gets thrown about like so many rah-rah high school cheers and sticks in my craw because as a less excitable person I often feel left out.

But anyway, I'm happy you don't think the list is all biblical - it wasn't meant to be, though I daresay I could find someone for each statement who'd say it was biblical. I guess the relative importance of truths would show up if someone mentioned three criteria, such as "You aren't living a Christian life if you are rich, join a fraternity, or practice birth control." Which one would you argue against first?

As for my questions:
- Does your gift help you at all when it's "not working," i.e. when you're dealing with another person and the gift is not "turned on?" In other words, does it help you learn non-verbal cues to certain emotional states?
- Does your gift also reveal the absence of emotion? For instance, if a person asks you for a dollar because of some sob story, do you know whether the story is true? If someone at church says you've hurt or offended them, can you tell if it's true? Or are you left to make your own judgment in those situations?

Now for taxes and concert programs and travel prep and dinner at Diana's...

Posted by Stephan on April 10, 2010, 3:32 am

Oh, dinner at Diana's...now I'm envious.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 10, 2010, 7:18 am

Ah - I interpreted "on fire" to mean "burning in flames"...

As for your list of three, I wouldn't argue at all for the "Christianess" of either being rich or joining a fraternity, though depending on the fraternity, I might question the wisdom of such an action.

I would argue against birth control, as I don't see any support for it in the bible. But, since our culture (secular and Christian) has accepted that as normal, and it is probably on most people's "too sensitive to talk about" list, so there isn't much point in having that discussion.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 10, 2010, 12:23 pm

I don't know if I can answer the "not working" question. I was disappointed one time in college after having a long conversation with a homeless guy on Craig St, and then saw him a month or two later, and he told me that had a different number of kids that time. So, I guess that means the answer to your question is "no."

I don't know if I've ever even questioned that if someone tells me I've hurt them if it is true or not. That seems like a bizarre thing to lie about.

Someone at church recently told me that one reason they like me is that I didn't run away screaming after they told me some things, like most people do. I thought it was sort of funny, because we are quite different in lots of ways, but I figured I was more likely to cause people to run away screaming than she would be... I don't recall any screaming going on, but they might have waited until I was out of earshot.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 10, 2010, 12:28 pm

I mentioned the St. Francis of Assisi quote to someone the other day, and he said, "yeah, but of course, it's not biblical."

And that is a good thing to keep in mind. Sometimes we are (or at least I am) too willing to believe a "quote" because it sounds good, without thinking enough about what it is actually saying, or what Jesus would say if he heard that quote.

I'm thinking of what if after Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth
not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16), someone replied with Assisi's quote. In the words of the Contemporary English Version (which I guess I have less qualms putting words into his mouth in that version than others), he'd say, "Uh, no dude, you've got it, like, totally wrong."

Posted by Jon Daley on April 10, 2010, 12:33 pm

Like sound bites, out-of-context quotes, even Biblical ones, are only useful for reminding us of truths -- truth is to big to be encapsulated that way. That doesn't mean they're not helpful, only limited.

The truth represented by the St. Francis quote is that if our lives don't support our words, we're more likely to do harm than good by speaking, something I think Jesus would agree with, in any translation.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 10, 2010, 12:58 pm

I'd hope you wouldn't argue for the "Christianness" of being rich or joining a fraternity, because I don't think either means a person is living the Christian life.

However, in the present situation that is only partly relevant. Allow me to go into some detail, to make sure we understand each other.

The quote said that being rich or joining a fraternity mean that someone is not living the Christian life. Arguing against that means arguing that being rich or joining a fraternity do not mean that someone is not living the Christian life. Arguing against it does not mean arguing that being rich or joining a fraternity mean that someone is living the Christian life.

Arguing against one of the statements of the quote therefore means one of the three:
- "No, being rich doesn't mean you are not living the Christian life."
- "No, joining a fraternity doesn't mean you are not living the Christian life."
- "No, practicing birth control doesn't mean you are not living the Christian life."

And so my question really was: if you only had a few minutes with the person saying "You aren't living a Christian life if you are rich, join a fraternity, or practice birth control," which of the three statements I just mentioned would you choose to make first to make sure that person stood corrected?

Or would you perhaps choose not to say anything in a hurry and address them all at a later point?

I'm sorry if it feels like I'm nitpicking, but I suppose the way I initially formed my question wasn't clear enough, which led you to give a mostly irrelevant answer. And that's a shame, because I'm not interested in what Jon has to say to an unrelated topic, but to the topic at hand. I'm counting here on your tendency not to run away screaming... ;-)

Posted by Stephan on April 11, 2010, 2:53 am

I don't understand most of what you just said, even after reading it a couple times...

I understand the last question, and I think that would be my answer - that a couple minutes isn't time to talk about anything.

Of course, this is coming from the guy who didn't really mind when people used to say, "oh, it's Jon your having lunch with, I can't meet with you after lunch at 1, we'd better schedule for 3."

Posted by Jon Daley on April 11, 2010, 8:03 am
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