Saturday, January 10, 2004

Friends, Not Projects

Here's some thoughts that have been running through my mind this past week: as Christians, we are called to "do the work of an evangelist" (II Timothy 4:5); not all of us have the gift of evangelism, but we are all called to be "witnesses" (story-tellers) of what Jesus has done in our lives.

We often conceptualize "witnessing" as a prepackaged presentation of our "testimony" (what led up to us becoming followers of Jesus) that has solid theological and doctrinal content to hopefully lead someone to "pray The Prayer". But the word "witness" simply means to tell what we know, have seen, or experienced. Some people immediately cringe: "I've never been all that bad, so I don't really have much of a 'testimony'..."

So what?!? God doesn't get more glory if we screwed ourselves up more in the world's (or the church's) eyes than someone who (like my little sister, who I'm very proud of) becomes a Christian at an early age and never looks back.

Many people have advocated, and I agree, that we re-learn how to tell our story. I seldom refer to my pre-Christian days any more, for two reasons:
  1. I've been a Christian since 1977, and God has done a lot in my life since that time, so the more recent stuff is, frankly, more interesting to me (and probably to those who I'm talking with, too)
  2. There's no real "gory details" to satisfy the weird vicarious-voyeurism that some churches seem to delight in, and churches/Christians aren't the ones I'm trying to communicate with anyway. I'm trying to communicate with people who don't know Jesus all that well -- at least, not yet! (Although we need to be careful that we don't arrogantly assume they have no understanding, because God has often been speaking to them in various ways before they meet us).
Another thought: How would people feel if they thought that they were a "missions project" to us, rather than just being their friend because we like them? I'm not befriending people in order to convert them, but as a true friend, I can't not at some point share with them the One who has made such a difference in my life. I pray for them, and pray that God gives me opportunities to show them the Gospel even before I tell them the Gospel. I ask God to alert me to divine appointments to pray with them, and to give me creative ways of telling my story in a way that does not instantly cause walls to come up because of peoples' bad experiences with religion (Jesus probably had the same problem!).

With this in mind, you will notice that I've removed the name of, and links to, the Celtic band that I've just joined from all my posts. The reason is simple: this band has a large following all across Canada and the US, and "Google" brings up their site -- and mine. I don't want anything I write here to suggest to my new-found friends in the band that I'm viewing them as "projects" or "potential converts". There's too many stereotypes of Christians out there that could cause offense -- I want to share my spiritual journey with my friends in my own words, in my own time (as God leads, of course), and not because I'm having to defend a misunderstanding or knee-jerk reaction to this site.

A vision statement we had in one of the youth groups we led in B.C. was "Normal People, Full of God" -- it spoke of our heart desire to strip away "churchianity" and "religion" and just be people like the disciples:
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13, emphasis added)
Aside from being with Jesus, there was nothing obvious to demarcate these men from any of their peers. That's the kind of follower of Jesus I want to be (which is also why I stopped wearing Christian slogan t-shirts back in high school -- I want my life to say it, and if it doesn't, the shirt won't help).

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