Why I Don’t Need To Apologize For My MissiologyPosted: December 2, 2014
When I first began doing prophetic evangelism, or whatever it was I was doing (after 25+ years of hating evangelistic outreach programs – and feeling terrible guilt about it), I was already acquainted with the tension between any real revelation of Jesus and the perceived Jesus that many non-Christians had. I blamed the media, mostly, for purposely (I supposed) portraying Christianity in negative and false ways. But I also knew that the institutional church had much to answer for in the matter. I had only met Phil Wyman and the folks at The Gathering a short time earlier before having a conversation in Salem MA with a man who was a Pagan (He may have been a witch. I don’t remember) who said to me, “Yeah, I know you guys are cool. But to me, you aren’t Christians”. In his mind, the Christians were the people who shunned him, who attacked his beliefs, who preached at him without ever having listened to him, who showed not a scintilla of respect for or interest in him – only judgement. At least, that’s how he saw it.
At that point, I felt the weight of what I felt needed to be overcome in order to share what I know is good news, but which, in the minds of the people I wanted to reach, contained only bad news. It was as if I was, to them, presenting a new gospel as opposed to the gospel they had heard. It seemed like there was much to be undone before construction could begin.
Somewhere along the way, unconsciously I suppose, the ministry styles of myself and the dozens of fellow ministers I get to work with from around the world seem to have adapted to a methodology that leaves the responsibility for all of it where it belongs – to God. That methodology is very simple and is without an agenda other than to love and to serve.
That is the key! No agenda. What? Don’t we want to make Jesus followers out of them? Sure we do. But I talk about that only if I’m invited, or given permission. I know this is almost blasphemous to the average evangelical mindset, which believes you must push for SOME kind of commitment for Christ. That approach, from what I observe and have experienced, produces results that range from a very few conversions (whether on good soil or not) while alienating most everybody else, to alienating EVERYBODY within earshot. I can honestly say that I and my fellows rarely alienate any of those who come to us. Now, I can hear the church folk saying that, if you’re not offending anyone, you’re not preaching the true gospel, because the bible says that the world will be offended by it. I would counter that the fact that you are offending people is not proof that you are preaching the gospel. Besides, we constantly offend the religious establishment who accuse us of being drunkards and friends of sinners (the first charge is not true. The second is), which is what Jesus was accused of by the religious establishment of his day.
I have tools which people find helpful to their pain, which are gifts given to me from God for that purpose. My ministry, and that of my fellows, in nearly every case, involves getting people to commune directly with God as they understand Him to be. Would anyone be surprised to learn that God meets them precisely there? In the process, it’s often possible to solidify at least a little bit their understanding of God. In other words, their understanding of God improves. They feel closer to God than they did before they came. They go away having experienced for themselves that God is a person who cares about the things that matter to them. Often, having experienced the goodness of God for themselves, they want to know what is behind our spirituality, or what it is we believe. They ask us questions. This is an open door. They may express a desire to have what we have, in which case we walk them through that, or they may have no interest. That is their choice. But rarely is anyone offended. And so, that door remains open for someone else to speak into in the future. My prayer in that case is always that some Pharisee doesn’t cause them to kick the door shut.
The harvest is ready! I find people are willing, even eager, to talk about spiritual things, even – sometime especially – Jesus! So many of them are enamored with Jesus, but wary of the “church”. What are we to do with these? Turn them away because they reject the traditional expression of our faith? Is no other expression other than the one we’re familiar with possible? What if God were to raise up a generation of Jesus followers who don’t meet in designated buildings, don’t have a hierarchy of leaders or paid pastors, and whose vocabulary differs from ours? Will we embrace them? Or shun them?
Being at Burning Man each of the last four years has taught me the joy and exhilaration of burning down structures which have outlived their usefulness. It creates a blank canvas on which to do something else, possibly to improve on the old, or to do something completely new. Evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a post-modern age. Why hang onto forms that don’t work and may not be necessary? New forms will be explored and tried, if not by the establishment, then by those outside it. I would propose that burning down the old makes finding alternatives more immediately necessary.
I’m not suggesting that everything be jettisoned. That which is true must be retained: the nature of Jesus; the two greatest commandments; the Word of God itself. Will the new generation of believers navigate these waters properly? (They’ll almost certainly get the second one right) The Kingdom of God is like a householder who brings out of his storehouse treasures both old and new. The tendency in building something new is throwing out all of the old. I want to be around to help preserve some of the old. My prayer is that there will be enough of the old guard who prefer change to irrelevance, because those may be the only two choices.