Recently my very good friend Daniel, who happens to be a practicing Jew, sent me a direct message via Twitter:
“FYI, I’m reading your @motleyevangel posts. It’s not my place to comment but I find your thought process in that area interesting.” [emphasis added]
Daniel and I have had lots of great conversations about life, relationships, family, Judaism, Christianity, and roleplaying games. We’ve broken bread together, drank Guinness and cider together and snored into each others’ ears in hotel rooms during gaming conventions. We’ve been mutually involved in highly-charged character-based roleplaying scenes that, for geeks like us, are essentially the emotional equivalent of the moments in most peoples’ favorite films or novels where the message transcends the medium and tears & laughter emerge.
We are brothers from different mothers, Daniel and I, and I trust him with my life. Ours is one of the most profound friendships I’ve had.
But still, when it comes to discussing that peculiar aspect of Christianity involving The E-word, Daniel says it’s not his place to comment, because he’s not a Christian, and doesn’t proselytize.
Folks, what have we done to the Gospel? How did we come to a place where people who follow Jesus and people of other faiths/beliefs can become close friends, sharing one anothers’ joys, fears and burdens, trusting one another with deep emotional stuff, and even talking openly about religion, but still feel reluctant or uncomfortable talking about anything concerning evangelism?
Or more to the point, in my opinion – How did we come to a place where we don’t embrace or even recognize that friendships of such quality ARE evangelism? IN BOTH DIRECTIONS, by the way.
I have never, not once, ever considered the notion of trying to convince or tempt Daniel into ‘becoming a Christian’, whatever that means. Why would I? I already know that he has more regard and admiration for Jesus than many people I’ve encountered who PROFESS Jesus. In fact, Daniel has taught me more about the Jewish nature of Jesus’ teachings and given me more appreciation of the Hebrew prophets than I ever had before. And he’s given me context for why a practicing Jew can ride an elevator on a Friday night, but can’t push any of the buttons.
My friendship with Daniel has deepened my faith and enriched my life. I’m just confident enough to believe I may have done so for him as well.
So why would I want to mess with that by shifting into prostlytizing mode? What would be the point?
Of course I know what some might say at this juncture. “The point would be to get him ‘saved’” or, “He’ll go to Hell if he doesn’t profess Jesus as Lord and Savior and get baptized as a Christian.”
To which I say, Bullshit.
On this blog, and in my life as a growing, seeking evangelist, the issue of selling people Hell Insurance was pretty much roasted and tossed aside several posts ago. We can certainly talk about that stuff here because I don’t want to shut down avenues of conversation, but I will not accept it as an a priori condition. It is not “what the Bible clearly teaches”, and isn’t going to be treated as such in this forum.
I want to see if we can bring evangelism back to a place where it is seen as a dance, a conversation, an ongoing and authentic friendship. I want to put forward a notion of being an evangelist that looks more like what Brian McLaren suggested in his book, More Ready than You Realize:
“Let me offer a better vision of good evangelism and good evangelists: Good evangelists are people who engage others in good conversation about important and profound topics such as faith, values, hope, meaning, purpose, goodness, beauty, truth, life after death, life before death, and God.” – Brian McLaren, More Ready than You Realize: Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix
So being an evangelist, in McLaren’s words, is to make spiritual friendships with others. It is a mutual building of a relationship where both parties are encouraged and strengthened toward living into their authentic selves and becoming more than they would otherwise be.
And in my very strong opinion, these kinds of friendships, these kinds of conversations, can and SHOULD occur between people across lines of faith, ideology, culture, and status.
Do you have spiritual friendships? Do you have people in your life you can talk to “about important and profound topics such as faith, values, hope, meaning, purpose, goodness, beauty, truth, life after death, life before death, and God”?
If so, I suggest you are an evangelist. Put on your motley and go dance with anyone who’ll dance with you in honest love and mutual respect.