Friday, February 07, 2014

Mission and Collateral Effect (Intended Consequences)

            Postmodern culture is adverse to philosophical challenges or confrontation as a rule. Thus you have tolerance policies in corporate America and laws that assure diversity at the expense of biblical morality, competency, or merit. For years most church evangelism programs were designed to help individuals learn how to share the gospel and offer answers to certain responses. This worked well enough in a modern culture that had some biblical knowledge, Christian terminology and biblical morality. “As the culture becomes more biblically illiterate, it is necessary to provide a framework of the biblical worldview,” writes Keith Davy of Campus Crusade.[1] Postmodernists are disconnected from Christian language and culture. As a result, the effort to evangelize must become “pre-conversion discipleship” much like Jesus did with Peter, James and John.
            Each heart can be viewed as a domain to be conquered. There are three barriers to overcome. The emotional barrier is overcome by building a bridge through a genuine relationship. The intellectual barrier is overcome by accessing the mind with truth through honest conversation and answered questions. The third barrier is overcome as the will surrenders self and recognizes Christ as Lord over the conquered heart. The following stories illustrate the collateral effect of creative engagement as a means of “bringing a new flag to the heart of the castle,” as described by Ron Bennett.”[2]
            One of our church members suffered an event of debilitating illness. As the church family learned of the John’s condition and the subsequent struggle his family would endure, they began to do what church families should. We arranged meals, rides to the doctor and even helped him keep his business moving.  This display by John’s church family stood as an example in our community, especially in John’s neighborhood. In one instance, a neighbor who is hostile toward evangelical Christianity came to John to talk about some business. During this conversation, this unbeliever commented to John, “My wife told me that your church was bringing you meals and helping with the kids. Now that’s not like any church I ever attended growing up.” The sense of community was new to him. His previous church experiences had jaded his thinking about all Christians. Later on this same man had a crisis in his life, our church helped John and his family reach out to his neighbor.  The hostile neighbor’s heart and mind is grappling with a new understanding of the Gospel. None of our acts of compassion should be viewed as wasted if they are carried out in faith or Gospel intentionality. This is the collateral effect of John’s church ministering and John being on mission even in his illness.
            Bob became a janitor at the high school to reach students and teachers for Christ. And Bob has reached students and encouraged believing teachers to boldly stand for Christ. However, the collateral effect of Bob’s service is that other older adults have made radical life decisions to pursue reaching others for Christ through their vocation. When the whole narrative is considered it paints a beautiful picture of authentic service and sacrifice that pushes past the emotional and intellectual barriers of the postmodern mindset and weakens their temporal allegiances. Jimmy Long writes concerning the use of story, “We need to live the truth out in our own lives, our own life story… can’t just talk the talk—you’ve got to walk the walk.”[3] Bob’s story is God’s story and 1800 people are reading it each day as he empties trashcans and cleans urinals.
            The group from Austin Stone had envisioned drunks getting involved in recovery programs and coming to Christ through their outreach to the bar scene. Pastor Matt Carter told the story of this team at a recent conference I attended. The team has seen few drunks get saved but they have seen several bouncers and extended family members become believers. The bouncers had watched the team assist many inebriated men and women. The team had cleaned up vomit, picked up trash, befriended destitute and hostile people and the bouncers had watched it week after week. The collateral effect of their service to the drunks was to see several of the bouncers give their life to Christ. It was unanticipated by the team but no accident to God.
            Reaching a postmodern culture is going to require believers to engage relationally and move from event oriented evangelism to process discipleship. The members of a team that are reaching and ministering to a particular group are genuinely displaying compassion and holding out hope. However, oftentimes the real work is being done in the hearts of those that observe the acts of compassion. These acts create curiosity and conversations that lead to overcoming intellectual barriers and barriers of the will.

            [1] Keith Davy, “The Gospel for a New Generation ,” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 360.

            [2] Ron Bennett, “Authentic Church-Based Evangelism in a Relational Age ,” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing  Postmoderns, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 26.

            [3] Jimmy Long, “A Strategy for Reaching a Postmodern Generation ,” in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing  Postmoderns, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 330.

No comments: