Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Engaging People in Our Communities

Whenever we speak about evangelism we inevitably have to talk about how we relate with people.  One of the criticisms of United Methodists today is that we are very nice people who are generally friendly with neighbors, store clerks, and co-workers.  But we have not done a good job of talking with them about our Christian faith.  It is almost as if we are riding the pendulum swing to the other side of "Are you saved?" conversation.  We have a strong distaste for manipulative, Bible thumping questions that will not guide a person towards faith in Christ.  And this is a good thing.

But we live in a time when the pendulum needs to swing back to the center.  And United Methodist Christians need to ponder the kinds of questions we ask the new people we encounter each day.  We are okay with weather questions, natural disasters, sports teams, and construction delays.  But how are we with God questions?

If you tell a neighbor that you are part of Alaska United Methodist Church down the road and that neighbor responds, "I used to go to church, but I don't believe in God anymore," ask them this question.  "Tell me about the God you don't believe in."  Chances are you don't believe in that God either! 

Part of what we are doing in such encounters is honest theology.  People have so many misconceptions about God and the Church.  They have an understanding about Christians that we are all alike and that we draw distinct lines between good and evil.  Some of what we are doing with such honest conversation is helping people know they can trust us with their questions.  And the door is always open for future conversation.  It is possible that such a conversation will be the one that removes the final barrier for another to come to faith in Christ.

Consider this an encouragement to you to think about a couple of God questions you could be prepared to ask someone in your mission field.

Grace Always,


Bob Jones said...

One of my favorite things to do down in the Homer area is go to the Salty Dawg or Anchor Point lounge, sit at the bar, it opens you up for conversation. You get to hear buckets full. Another place to hang is the cleaning stations around the spit.

"Napartaq" said...

Excellent post, Dave. I attended the "lay servant" training session at Annual Conference. One group member asked us, "Why are Methodists so timid (about their faith)?" I would venture to say that this timidity extends even to church leadership (the pulpit). Sermons seem crafted to leave out the harsh realities of the Christian life, instead lulling us to complacency with generalities and banal platitudes ("God loves you!" rather than "Repent"!). The feel-good, make-no-waves conversations of the church need to find "balance," as you write. Confrontation isn't necessary; how about "engaging" in meaningful conversations as God brings them to us during the course of our daily lives? Thank you for calling us to care and reach out to Christians and non-Christians alike.