Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Burning buildings, drowning victims.......and evangelism-- part 2

I remember clearly the calls to evangelize given by speakers as they used the burning building or drowning victim illustrations. As stated in my last post, I find stating unbelievers are in a burning building and it is the Christian's job to warn them of the danger puts the emphasis on the conversion, not on discipleship.
I also think these illustrations to motivate evangelism also inspire a "talk at ya and convince ya" type of evangelism.  I need to tell you from safety that you are drowning or in a burning building. I need to point out your sin to convince you that you are a sinner and you need a savior. The Roman Road approach. While I am certain there are many who have been converted by this manner, I just don't see this in Scripture.
Philippians 2 tells us to have the same attitude or mind that Christ had--who was God but didn't claim hold to his rights as God but instead humbled himself as a servant even unto death. The picture I see in Philippians is Jesus jumping into the water or running into the building. God didn't shout how sinful we are from heaven then jump down to die on the Cross and rise again. Instead, as John's Gospel states, The Word tabernacled with us. God made his dwelling with us, walked among us so we could see his glory.  And swept a bunch of people along for the journey of salvation. I wonder if Christians adopted the Philippians 2 attitude in their evangelism if the world would look a little differently.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Burning buildings, drowning victims.......and evangelism

In a conversation on Facebook, a person stated he believed he must point out people's sins in order to love. He then used the illustration of a burning building. If a person was in a burning building, is it loving to tell them everything is ok or to tell them to get out because the building is on fire? When I asked why are there only two options to love--pointing out sin or telling everyone everything is ok, he asked what the third option is in the illustration of the burning building. Perhaps the answer to that is going into the burning building and helping the person out. His response was the person doesn't believe the building is burning or that they need a way out. So his way to love is to tell a person the house is on fire. If they don't listen, he moves on to the next house.
I have heard this illustration before. A preacher attempts to motivate his listeners to evangelize by employing the illustration of the burning building. The unsaved are in a burning building. You as the Christian must warn them of the fire and offer them Christ as the answer. Or the preacher used the drowning illustration. We Christians are in a boat and all around us in the water are lost souls drowning. Jesus is the life preserver. 
Is this the best illustration for evangelism? The emphasis falls on the moment of conversion. The object of salvation is to save someone from Hell. Yet when I read Scripture, I never find conversion to be central to the Gospel. I find discipleship to be the emphasis. I find God is interested in re-creating me from a self centered being to a God-centered being. I am reborn and must learn to walk again in steps of a peace which seeks everyone's wholeness and talk again using the language of self sacrificial love. 
In my experience, we are not in a burning building but on a journey. God wishes to join us on this journey, invade our space, and redeem all of the journey. I am not saved from my sins in some vague eternity. I am saved from sins now and forever. The journey is redeemed. That which would break me on my journey or break others through my journey, God offers healing and wholeness. At some point in this journey, I joined God's Story, not to get to Heaven, but to bring Heaven to me. The Presence of God is mine in the here and now.
So does the burning building or the drowning victim imagery inspire you to evangelize? What imagery would you use to paint the picture of what God is doing in your life?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

all you need is love.....part 3

So the last two blogs were about I Corinthians 13.  I find it interesting the love chapter is found in a letter to the church at Corinth, not Philippi. The Philippian Church was a persecuted church and Paul had very kind words for them as they lived the Gospel in the midst of hard circumstances. But the love chapter goes to Corinth--the church which is divided (I was baptized by Paul, I was baptized by Apollos) and a church which loved its rituals (spiritual gifts) more than people. They get the love chapter. And the Love chapter does not talk anything about agreeing with each other. Instead, it promises we will not see things eye to eye here. No we are reminded that right now, we are seeing things dimly. And because we see things dimly, perhaps a love which is patient, kind, not rude, seeks the best for the other person, does not boast in being right, rejoices in justice not evil is the kind of love which we are called to.
Interestingly enough, I have been in a conversation on my friend's facebook wall about responding to atheists who "blaspheme" God. One person insists the loving thing to do is to point out they are in a burning building, point out their sin and if they don't respond move on to the next house. I asked if love always has to point out the sin. He responded it was either that or embracing sin and saying all things are fine.
Is there a love in between those two extremes? Is there an act of love between pointing out sin or saying everything is fine? Have we lost our God given creativity if we can only see two sides to love?
Is this life really a burning building and we need to accept Jesus to get out of the burning building of sin? Or is life a journey where we are shaped by the encounters with a loving God who patiently waits for us, calls to us, walks with us until we respond? Perhaps I see things too simplistically. I know I only see things dimly.  But from my experience, God seems to take the scenic route. If its a burning building, God doesn't seem to be in a hurry in my life or the lives of anyone around me. The only answer I keep hearing is: love any ways.