Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lifestyle Evangelism (LE1)

Okay, this is an older book. Not ancient, written on papyrus, mind you. Certainly not vintage enough to have been published on one of Guttenberg's original movable-type presses (circa 1450).

Originally published in 1981, Joe Aldrich's Lifestyle Evangelism can be considered something of a classic. Spotting a paperback copy in a tiny used-book store a few weeks ago, I immediately (a) wondered where my original copy had gone, so (b) I bought the used copy.

Without blogging chapter-by-chapter throughout the book, as I re-read Aldrich's material, it prods and provokes questions, insights, and further reflection.

For instance:
"For many, evangelism is what the pastor does on Sunday morning as he throws the lure over the pulpit, hoping some 'fish' in the stained-glass aquarium will bite... Week after week the pastor evangelizes the evangelized." (page 17-18)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result
No matter how many times Lucy convinced Charlie Brown that -- this time -- she wouldn't pull the ball away, she always did. And unable-to-learn-from-experience Charlie Brown would, yet again, end up on his backside, humiliated and probably a tad bit bruised (and I'm not referring simply to his ego).

A decade earlier than Aldrich's writing, books like Brethren Hang Loose had lamented the exact same thing: people's expectations that evangelism was the pastor/speaker's job. All that was required of the average congregant was to invite people, and perhaps provide transportation to the church/event.

And another generation of Christians excused themselves from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

And, I am beginning to suspect, part of the fruit of that decision was that they (we) didn't grow in our own understanding of our faith -- or how to communicate it, either. In other words, we began to experience spiritual entropy by "letting the pastor do it".

Joe Aldrich wrote lamenting the same thing a decade later; Christians loved his book, just as they "loved" Bob Girard's ten years before. Apparently, however, little had changed in the interim.

Today, of course, we often read laments about the exact same problem. Apparently, we Christians are "all hard to teach".

Listen to Aldrich again:
"A [further] cause of a weakened evangelistic enterprise is an imbalance between the verbalization and the incarnation of the Gospel. Christians are to be good news before they share the good news. The words of the Gospel are to be incarnated before they are verbalized." (page 20, emphasis in original)
It almost goes without saying that we've all heard, read, or perhaps even said it ourselves: "We need to be incarnational". No argument with (as others have articulated it) "showing the gospel before telling the gospel".

But what stuck out to me as I read this chapter was: "Don't we already know this? Didn't Aldrich write this in 1981?!?"
So here's the inevitable question:
Why has nothing changed? Why are we coming to the same conclusions over and over, and yet nothing appears to be different?!?
There is more to unpack as I continue to re-read Lifestyle Evangelism, but I can't help but wonder if St. James might have already given us a very important hint about why nothing changes:
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do." (James 1:22-25)
Comments, thoughts, observations are more than welcome!

Other posts in this series:
Professionally Weak (LE2)
Wrestling With Radicals (LE3)
Now It's Getting Personal (LE4)
Bold Humility (LE5)

1 comment:

  1. Same thing I wonder about since I live and read history. Why indeed is it that nothing changes...? Why don't people/we dó what is said...?
    Why don't we grow mature...?

    thanx for bringing it up again, and I'm anxious and curious to read what's to come, dear friend ;)