Friendship Circles

It all came to a head when Pete went to a men’s retreat. In the secure environment of that gathering, he ended up telling the entire crowd something personal about me. It seemed an appropriate issue to share—everyone was sharing at a deep level, praying for one another, and being encouraged.

But when he came home and told me what he’d made public, I was totally mortified: “You told them WHAT?!” How could I ever again face anyone who had been on that retreat? It was humiliating. Who else would they tell? How many of our friends would find out? I hadn’t done anything sinful—it was just an intensely private issue.

Pete was totally apologetic, and I forgave his innocent mistake. As a couple, we had never before considered what was appropriate to share with others, and what was just between the two of us—or at most a trusted friend or counselor. Until that point, we just sort of assumed the other person would somehow intuitively know what could be said in public.

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Gullible

Are Evangelicals more gullible than other people? A friend recently shared a blog article claiming that, among the blogger’s Facebook friends, it’s the Christians (and just this particular kind of Christian) who most frequently re-post “news” that turns out to be a hoax. Share this post and some company will donate to a kid’s heart transplant fund. Warn your friends that their hot dogs are about to explode. Don’t drink coffee/milk/water/juice/soda because it will ruin your health and cause you to be dead!

The blogger then went on to suggest four excellent reasons why Christians should not re-post this tripe, and an easy way to find out if something is true or not (just Google the first sentence). I recommend his article highly.

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What Are We Missing?

When telling someone else about your faith, what do you think is most important? A clear, concise presentation of the Gospel? Good theology? Answers to all their questions? An exciting testimony?

No question, all those are important. As the church, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we can explain the Good News in a way a non-Christian can understand. We have tracts, websites, and billboards. Churches and neighborhood Bible studies describe themselves as seeker-friendly. We take classes in evangelism, learn the “Roman Road” verses and memorize John 3:16. Fans hold up signs at ball games and players tattoo Scripture on their arms, crediting God with every win.

With all the witnessing going on, you’d think the church would be growing by leaps and bounds—but it isn’t, at least here in the U.S. Why not? Could it be that we’re going about evangelism all wrong?

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Making Converts?

Most Christians would agree that it is supremely important to win converts. We were rescued from hell, and it is imperative that we share what God has done for us so that others can be rescued too.

Likewise, most Christians would agree that evangelism is one of, if not the, hardest job they’ve ever faced. Just the thought of it causes our pulse to rise and our stomachs to churn.

I’ve struggled with the issue of evangelism for every one of the 39 years I’ve been a believer. Maybe I remember too well how disrespected I felt for all those years before I met Christ, when Christians tried all sorts of ways to convert me. I was misled, insulted, ridiculed, yelled at, argued with… and none of those things moved me one step closer to faith. In fact, they probably delayed my decision for several years.

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Another Way to Do Church?

As I mentioned a week and a half ago, I’ve been plowing through lots of books on how to “do” church. My most recent read is Houses that Change the World, by Wolfgang Simson. And I have to say he’s shaken my understanding of church.

The book has been around a while—maybe you’ve already read it. Published in 1998, a number of his predictions have failed to materialize, but that doesn’t diminish what he has to say. (He was merely analyzing trends, not trying to be prophetic, so we don’t need to take him out and stone him.)

In general, Simson argues against churches patterned after the synagogue, with a set routine performed by “professional Christians” in front of a lay audience, and in favor of small “organic” house churches where our faith is lived out in the context of real life. I certainly see his point. He’s very persuasive, and I tend to agree with him more often than not.

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