I read a story on my friend’s facebook yesterday that saddened and angered me at the same time. His story of two middle aged men coming to his door wanting to talk about God and then proceeding to tell my friend that He was going to Hell when he politely asked them to leave, really pissed me off.
It did not however shock me.
Two people who claim to follow Jesus. Jesus, who spent his time hanging out with people who I’m sure these two men would have told if they were with Jesus, were going to Hell.
I don’t understand the reaction of my friend’s visitors. It’s not the Christianity I was brought up in and the experience I have today. It’s so far away from anything I know personally of Jesus. My friends wouldn’t act like this and I wouldn’t act like this. I could only apologise to my friend for their behavior.
It’s this kind of thing that hurts the loving and hopeful message Jesus came proclaiming. No wonder so many people are put off by Christianity and Jesus and God and the Bible and Church. They are all connected and so when one Christian or two turn up and start insulting you at your home it doesn’t exactly stir enthusiasm for the other parts. It’s this kind of story that makes me cringe at the word Evangelism. So where are we going wrong? Are handing out tracts or posting facebook status’s about Jesus or yelling at people in their own homes the best way to get the word of Jesus out there?
Or do we need saved from ourselves as much as anyone else does?
When I read the New Testament and stories about Jesus one of the things that strikes me the most is how often Jesus spent time with the people that were deemed unlovable. Who were on the fringes of society. Who were passed by with a sense of fear. But fear is simply a sign that we don’t understand something.
Those two men couldn’t understand why my friend didn’t want to listen.
But maybe we’ve missed something.
For the past two and a half years Britt and I have been part of a new church plant called Village in Belfast. It’s been a completely new experience of Church for me. A place where our gatherings on Sunday and Tuesdays are almost an extension of what we are already doing every day of the week. Being in and out of each other’s lives daily then joining together to worship.
A decentralization of Church almost.
And it’s been amazing. And without hopefully sounding like we have found the secret to church (we haven’t); I feel like we are doing something more akin to the early church than I have ever experienced before.
When Britt and I move to the US in November my heart will be with our friends here and I will not feel apart from them. Simply because we have been living together for 2 and a half years
That’s all lovely but what has that got to do with my friend’s experience?
As Christians we have a message of such beauty and freedom that we can’t simply expect to get it across through one off interactions. The freedom that we have found in Jesus needs to be lived out and the only way that people can see that in us is when they have the opportunity to see it in real life.
Knocking on someone’s door to tell them that you are right and they are not is hardly the way to do this. If people’s souls are as precious as we claim they are when we tell them they are lost then surely we need to spend time with them. Are they important to us or not? Do we want to know them or do we want to just tick them off a box?
Maybe we should reevaluate evangelism and mission as simply the visible outflowing of Jesus in our lives. In how we react to people we disagree with, in how we help a neighbor who needs the loan of a car, in the way we don’t push God on people or in the way we are open about our own weaknesses rather than pretend we are holier than thou.
My experience of Church in the last few years has not been found on a Sunday morning sitting in a pew.
It was found in conversations about God with colleagues. It was found in meals I had with people who have become family. It was found in the pub. It was apparent in the way friends have supported Britt and I through the hardest thing we have dealt with since married..
It was not on a doorstep yelling at someone.
And that could just be the difference between someone shutting the door in our face or welcoming us in.