Washing The Feet Of Evangelism

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings Isaiah 52:6

I recently spoke to a group of insurance agents about the art of approaching people. It was pretty natural for me because next to evangelists, insurance agents come in a close second as the group people most want to avoid.

Nothing against insurance agents (I have life insurance) but how did the sacred practice of giving out good news get associated in peoples minds with cheesy sales tactics?

Is this the best those of us who’ve devoted ourselves to the innovative creator of the universe come up with?

Really?

Like it or not, that’s where we seemed to have ended up.

The question is do we want to stay here?

I don’t and I won’t.

 

Evangelism is to me what worship is to others.

Evangelism is to me what reading the bible is to others.

Evangelism is to me what going to church is to others

 

Here’s a key differentiator…

Evangelism is the only spiritual practice that can’t be done alone.

 

I want to wash the feet of evangelism and make it one of the most beautiful spiritual acts a follower of Jesus can practice.

Until we put evangelism back on the same level of importance other spiritual practices enjoy, we won’t understand the beauty it has on the development of our souls or the souls of those we seek to convert.

Convert?

Did I just say I want to convert people to Jesus? Yes I did, but that’s really not so controversial when you consider that the attempt to change each other’s viewpoints is as common a practice among humans as breathing.

We can’t help ourselves. We’re hopelessly addicted to trying to get others to adopt our beliefs and embrace our biases. The only ones who’ve stopped doing this are dead people.

Which is another reason why I love evangelism. It makes us honest.

Evangelism forces us to stop lying about our intentions but it also forces us to be human. For example if we really obeyed our masters command to  “love your neighbor as you love yourself” it would functionally eliminate 95% of all evangelism programs.

Who wants to be targeted?

Who wants to be someone’s spiritual project?

Who wants to be objectified?

I believe the Holy Spirit has been the guiding force behind a highly effective resistance movement among the people of God. For fifty years leaders have tried to get Christians to adopt one evangelism program after another. And for the most part, Christians have effectively voted with their feet and said; if that’s as good an idea as you’ve got we’ll wait you out. Go ahead and call us spiritual chickens and cowards for Christ. We know in our hearts that our evangelism reluctance is less about our lack of courage and more about your lack of creativity. Sure Christians have written checks but that’s the lowest form of commitment known to man. What the bible tells us to develop is not check writers but disciples who participate, lead and create. Using that as our standard when it comes to the spiritual practice of evangelism, we’ve failed.

Interestingly the evangelism crusade wagon got rolling at about the same time as consumerism took off in America. And both seemed to run out of gas at the same time as well. Thank God, Christians resisted and refused to do as they were told, threatened or cajoled. Now the most interesting and creative evangelism practices will emerge and this time they’ll come from the people.

Three Steps To Beautiful Feet

Beliefs are important but not as important as practices. Beliefs are understood best as internal practices, mental work. They’re the principles that inform our actions. Beliefs are the in-formation that lead to our-formation. Jesus was focused on our formation way more than he ever was on information. With that in mind, here are three things we need to do to wash the feet of evangelism and make them beautiful again.

Stop Us/Them Thinking – Start Thinking Us

Human beings resist being preached at or talked down to. We’re most open when we’re treated with dignity and respect. We don’t like parental, patronizing or contrived talk. Traditional evangelism requires a teacher and a student an us and a them. We’ve become expert at making people feel like outsiders. We need to find common ground with people, we need to become co-sufferers, and we need to admit, “what we don’t know.” We need to find the issues that make all humans hurt (including ourselves) and start the conversation there.

Renounce Conversionistic Embrace Conversionism

I openly identify as a conversionist who refuses to become conversionistic. I stop claiming that I can objectively “prove” that my beliefs are real and openly embrace mystery. I invite those with other views to admit the same. I stop pretending that I’m neutral. I admit my biases and encourage others to do that same. I lead with my life. I host the conversation but refuse to control it. I challenge my own assumptions and invite others to do the same. This shifts the nature of our interaction from debate to dialog.

The Life counts more than The Talk

Anyone who’s raised teenagers knows about “the talk. Whole industries of advice givers abound regarding when, how and where to talk to your kids about sex. Parents nevertheless continue to make it up as they go, pass it off to their spouse or more often simply let others educate their kids. It’s amazing how similar this is to how we approach evangelism. Most evangelism training fixates on “the talk” or in parlance “the gospel presentation”. Evangelism experts tell us when, where and how to give “the talk”. We, the evangelism amateurs, like parents of teenagers feel inadequate under informed and ill prepared so we avoid giving the talk and let the experts handle it for us. How about this for a revolutionary idea? In the same way kids learn about sex by watching their parents love life or lack thereof your non-Christian friends watch your spiritual life or lack thereof. Any talk you give will be more like a soundtrack to a movie – it adds color but it’s not the movie. Your gospel life counts for more than your gospel talk.

 

What Did You Think? How Would You Describe It?

Tonight  we launched Stories From The Shack. Over 2000 people made it to downtown Seattle on a Sunday night and on Mothers Day. We needed to do this first show so we hear from people. Here are our questions

1. How would you answer the main question people ask – What is it?

2. What did you LOVE

3. What would you change

Please post your answers while they’re fresh and post photos and videos too.

It was a blast – thanks for all the love and support you gave us. It didn’t go unnoticed

Where is God When There’s No Happy Ending?

The dad with 5 young kids dies in a car crash
You don’t get the much sought after scholarship you prayed so hard for
The publisher tells you that your book proposal doesn’t fit their “voice”
A teenager shows signs of mental illness and doesn’t get over it
An atheist friend asks you to prove that God is real and you can’t

So often stories involving faith and God resolve to a happy conclusion. God intervenes or comes through at the last minute. It’s as if we feel obligated to protect his reputation. We hope he/she doesn’t notice our unbelief and eternally hold it against us.

But what about all the stories that don’t have a happy ending? Not just the dramatic stories but the everyday disappointments we routinely encounter. Where is God then?

Stories From The Shack takes this issue head on. We not only hear how Paul Young navigated abuse, disappointment, failure and rejection, we also hear how his readers did the same.

Sometimes a story is so big it demands a new way of being told.

Sometimes it’s too big for even a movie screen. And once in awhile a story is even bigger than the person who wrote it. That’s what happened with The Shack. The flood of over 100,000 stories coming from readers overwhelmed Paul’s capacity to respond. Lectures and speaking engagements could no longer express the emotions and capture the needs. Something new had to be created in order to catch the wave of response that was breaking in on Paul. That’s where the idea of a live show called Stories From The Shack came from.

Stories From The Shack is an exhilarating attempt to capture the interaction between Paul Young’s story and the thousands of stories that it triggered in people all over the world like this one…

“I am 28 years, i from brazil e don t speack engliss…sory, bus i want thankou very much for yours history…i m, gay ,aids, and today undersdod the love the jesus for me… i live your experience with you .God tuch me…i dont know speak more… kiss in your heart mac – thanks – thanks”

and this one…

“I’m 14 years old. My mom asked me to read this book because I had been getting into things that were bad for my health (mentally and physically). I would like to thank you for writing this book. For me, it changed my life. you probably get a lot of e-mails like this, but I would still like to thank
you. I have Clinical depression, and Like Mackenzie, i felt there was nowhere left to go. Your book was the spotlight shining onto the path the led the way to God. I don’t see him the way i did before. i saw him as an old man, wisdom in his eyes, and assertiveness in his voice. now i see him as a friend. always by my side.”

The emotions expressed in stories just like these are told using expressive dance, awesome music, aerial artists, humor and interactive conversations with the author and his guests. Stories From The Shack places the author inside a representation of the story and then follows him as he interacts with people who’ve also been moved by the story.

Stories From The Shack ultimately answers the most difficult question. Where is God when there’s no happy ending? If you’ve suffered a painful loss or know someone who has bring them to Stories From The Shack. If forgiveness for someone who’s wronged you eludes you, come to Stories From The Shack. If you’re tired of feeling alone and wonder if you’re the only one who asks this difficult question come to Stories From The Shack. May 8th at WAMU Theater in Seattle from 7-9 PM. Bring mom, its Mothers day.

100,000 stories… one is true the rest are real

Get Tickets here