Friday, February 09, 2007

A Call To Radical Love of the Lost. (My Paradigm Shift)

Paratrooper evangelism...I have recently been going through what I would call a paradigm shift in how I live my Christianity out in the area of evangelism. This vision for evangelism has been almost as significant of a shift in my thinking as when I was convinced of the Doctrines of Grace and the absolute Soveriegnty and freedom of God over all of human history. This shift has come primarily throught a professor's lectures on evangelism/apologetics from Covenant Seminary, where I now plan to go to Seminary. They offer 20 free Seminary courses online and I listened and took notes on Jerram Barrs' course as if I was right there. I really found myself saying, "Yes, yes, that's what it should look like!" Jerram was close with Francis Schaeffer and spent a good deal of time at L'Abri England (I hope to spend some time with him at the L'Abri conference in Minnesota next week which I will be attending).


Anyway enough details, the change has really come in how I view witnessing to unbelievers. I had always heard talk of friendship style evangelism, but really had gotten the impression that it was a smooth way of calling your compromise in witness evangelism. My concept of friendship evangelism was a kind of blah message about Jesus' love with no judgement spoken of, coupled with numerous visits to the coffee house. So in light of this my approach had become more head on, purely confrontational. The unbeliever would say "X is my worldview." And I would respond by polemically displaying the problems (Don't get me wrong this IS good to a point. see 1 Pet 3:15 ). So my "outreach" would be a sort of parachuting into the non-Christian world firing polemical bullets at unbelievers and then getting out.

What I really have been undergoing is a tearing down of my barriers toward non-Christians. I never outright thought it but it just creeps in when you get into holy huddles enough, but I really have come to realise my "Them-ing" of unbelievers, thus really dehumanizing them. Don't get me wrong it's not that I wouldn't display love towards unbelievers, it's more that I was very impatiant with them, treating them like arguments to be proven wrong and thus be "won". What I really have been coming to see is that we have focused so much of our evangelistic efforts on "reaping" (leading people through sinners prayers) that we have lost the patience to dutifully sow seeds and let another reap.

What I have really been coming to see is that people really not only need to hear the gospel but see it (My emergent friends are rejoicing). To see us showing selfless love to them and REALLY expecting nothing in return. To see us REALLY care for them in their highs and lows. To display these things we need to be in people's lives, it will take more than drive by evangelism to display to a lost world the self sacrificial love of Christ.

And, no, this does NOT eliminate a Biblical message of judgement. Because if we truly love the lost we will tell them of God's judgement. Not merely as an intellectual fact they need to know, but with teary eyes and anguish of their souls. True friendship evangelism WILL have a message of judgement, a message of judgement mingled with tears.

This following Poem by John Bunyan gives us a picture of the judgement upon sin:


"UPON FIRE."

"Who falls into the fire shall burn with heat;
While those remote scorn from it to retreat.
Yea, while those in it, cry out, O! I burn,
Some farther off those cries to laughter turn.

COMPARISON:

While some tormented are in hell for sin;
On earth some greatly do delight therein.
Yea, while some make it echo with their cry,
Others count it a fable and a lie."


This is heavy truth, and shame on us if we can read this and not feel any anguish over the lost souls of our Jeremiah weeping over Jerusalem.unbelieving friends and loved ones who delight in that which has damned so many. I have also been reading through Schaeffer's "Death in the City" which is in part commentary on Jeremiah. Schaeffer uses Jeremiah in the midst of a God rejecting Israel to illustrate what our attitude should be towards men's unbelief, one of weeping. Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, he was in anguish over the unbelief of Israel. This should be our hearts attitude as well toward unbelief, and it will be if we love the lost and don't merely approach them in their lostness in a drive-by evangelistic manner. So my question to anyone who didn't get bored and has read this far is this: "Do you love the lost?"


To close there is much more to the vision for ministry God is shaping in me. I have really focused on this issue of Christian love, because it is central to true outreach and it really is radical. This IS RADICAL, it is radical (by that I mean it goes against every selfish and sinful desire of ours) to love somebody enough to lay down your personal preferences/comfort to genuinely love them. This IS CHRISTIAN LOVE. Again this is radical and if you don't think so you don't get it, you don't get what I am talking about at all. What I am talking about is what Schaeffer called "The Mark of the Christian", which is selfless love displayed to a lost world in an unfiltered compassion for others. I want to live this way with every Spirit born fiber in me.

7 comments:

Richard Dawkins said...

Bob, I would suggest that you would be well-served by engaging with literature of an unpartisan variety to a greater degree. Indeed, one of the core problems with societies across the globe, is a tendency, inculcated through the educational establishment to selective reading, to inevitably focus on one particular ideological construct, be it religious, sociological, ethno-centric et al.

One of the supreme challenges of education I would surmise most prominently within the US, although an undoubtedly ever-increasing concern in Britain, is the fostering of a truly critical, objective mind. In reality the idea of a truly critical, objective mind is as illusory as the concept of homogeneity, ergo it is an ideal, as noble and notable as the diversity of humanity.

My question to you, (which would contain the presumption that you regard all achievement, studies, and breakthroughs, as in essence proportionate to the extent of the impact they have on the progress of understanding) is whether you regard an open-ended education which pre-supposes no ideological construct, whatever, to be over-arching, and privileges no thinker, writer or philosopher whether it be Milton, Rousseau, Homer, or Orwell over another, to be of more benefit to the critical faculties of the mind, than the rigid espousal of a form of theocratic education? Essentially, what I am referring to is the obligatory (in the UK) teaching of religious studies, which inevitably is taught by a Christian proponent who actively disregards the existence of numerous other religious, theocratic discourse from the strands of Islam, from Wahhabism, to Suffism, through Hinduism, Bhuddism, and the whole gamut of culturally-prescribed formulations on supernaturalism, and makes a mockery of the appelation "religious education teacher". The teacher becomes through the ommision of religious thinking disparate from his fundamentally partial perspective to be a propagandist vessel for his particular set of prescribed doctrine.

To reiterate my previous comment I regard, and this is continually substantiated by the information given to me by teachers in various sectors, the core skill for the student is critical faculties, and the ability to analyse through diverse, and often vastly complex ideas, and perspectives. To this end, I believe that religious education per se, should be replaced by the introduction of the study of philosophy, an intrinsically more multi-faceted realm of studies, and one which tends to have more disinterested parties as the facilitators of this key tool for the expansion of the undeveloped mind.

natamllc said...

Bobby

I too have been having similar feelings.

Especially after reading 1 Thessalonians chapter one and these words:

1Th 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
1Th 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
1Th 1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
1Th 1:5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
1Th 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
1Th 1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
1Th 1:8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
1Th 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
1Th 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Tim said...

Bob, at the risk of being lumped into your "emergent" friends, I, too, rejoiced at reading about this transition God is taking you through. I want to encourage you that the more you live out your faith in active love, the more you will see that the gospel message is being preached, but by God's words through your love, not of your words of intellect and study.

melissa f-b said...

Hallelujah, Bob. May you, we, all of us continue to grow up in his love.

And congrats on your new baby!

THIRSTY said...

dang man, that's pretty intense, and very heart-revealing of how fallen we are, yet the great call that God enables us to do, and even more the privelage that the Lord provides us

greater is He that is in you....

Bob said...

I just want to say this is a truly wonderful season I am in right now, although I see how much of my past actions need to be repented of, yet seeing this has been a blessing because I am excited about presently living more consistently.

I am just really exited about seeing all men as truly made in the image of God. The application and reality of the doctrine we can mouth.

E. I. Sanchez said...

Hi Bob,

Let us know how you like Covenant Seminary.

Perhaps you could write a blog specific to the distance learning stuff.

Edgar,