Have a look at this great clip from Sesame Street (spot the Groucho Marx reference).
My name is Ryan. I am evangelical. It’s been many years since I tried to convert someone
A short while ago I was told I am very evangelical. This was not a reference to a political or theological stance (as the word Evangelical – note the capitalisation – appears to mean these days) but to the fact that when I find something I like or I think is good I won’t shut up about it. In this particular case they were referring to the way I enthused about my new ‘phone and other gadgets but as I thought about it I realised it’s something I do as a matter of course. When I discover something I think is good I tell others (as anyone who follows me on twitter will probably testify to). Movies,’phones, software, services, cable ties: I’ve noticed I have a habit of recommending to others the things I find good, useful or just plain fab.
I’ve noticed this trait in others too. Sometime ago I was at a party. One of the people there has Scottish heritage – specifically the west of Scotland. They are also a lover of Whisky. I don’t mean they drink too much I mean they are a connoisseur but not in a look-down-the-end-of-their-nose-at-you way. They not only knew how types of Whisky tasted or should best be poured and sipped but they knew about why that was. They explained why a certain kind of Whisky got its flavour from the water and preparation methods. They also managed to do this without being an anorak about it too. I think I have some lessons to learn there.
So what does this have to do with the video above?
I’ve noticed that too many “outreach” and mission projects I’ve seen in the church appear to take the approach Grover (he’s the non-frog) does in the video. He has something to sell and he is determined to sell it to Kermit regardless of whether it is suitable. It gets to the point where, rather than admit defeat, he changes Kermit to fit what he is selling. How many times have we done this is the church? How many times have we expected people to change before we let them have what we are selling? And we wonder why it proves unsuccessful or doesn’t last.
Every recommendation in life I have followed has been from someone I knew and trusted (or at least was trusted by someone I trust). They’ve been from people who have demonstrated rather than told me the appeals of the item in question. They’ve been from people who have allowed me to ask questions, allowed for the fact that my experience may not be what theirs is and – most importantly – have been prepared to admit the item is not perfect. Okay so we have a problem here when it comes to Christianity because traditionally we believe God is perfect so how do we marry that with being honest to people when we live out our faith in front of them? Perhaps we need to remember there is a difference between God and Christianity. God may be perfect, Christianity most certainly is not. For a start the very fact that we need to clarify what we mean by “Christianity” detracts from any “one faith fits all” message. Unless we are prepared to admit that what we believe may not fit another person we will never be honest about our own faith and it could well prove to be standing on a shaky foundation.
The old adage says “Christianity is meant to be caught, not taught”. It’s pretty much spot on but we need to remember that not everyone is in a place where they want to catch anything just now and some will equate “catching” something with a virus which ends doing nasty things to you. Yet we talk about people catching the bug and we speak of viral videos. Not everything that catches on is bad for you.
I went to Spring Harvest this year and the theme focussed on being the gospel, saying the gospel and doing the gospel – as Jesus did. The interesting thing was that – considering many call Spring Harvest an Evangelical Christian event – the message wasn’t “Get out there and start knocking on doors”, it was more “Learn about Jesus, study your source, be prepared to show that in your life – with words as well as actions”. This resonated with me – as I hope you can see from above. I’m sorry if this disappoints but I can’t remember the last time I actively tried to “convert” someone. I’m not sure I ever want to. I’d rather live out my life in a way which befits what I believe and let people “catch” the bits which help move them in closer to God (for want of a better term). Both of those are moving targets and that’s the way it should be if you ask me.