Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Evangelism derailed?

I was wrapping up discipleship time with Mary (our pastor's oldest daughter, a fabulous sophomore in HS) with prayer when I was interrupted by a stern knock on my door. I'm always surprised by unexpected visitors, because I rarely ever get one outside of a delivery man. I see a 19-year-old-looking guy and a dude in his early twenties, both decked out in suits but not matching. So I ruled out Mormons but not yet Jehovah's Witnesses.

I'll preface the rest of my story by saying there's no telling what I'll actually describe of this encounter. I've had so many conflicting thoughts all evening following it that it should be interesting to see what floats to the surface during this alotted timeframe. That's what I love about blogging: I plan all day what I should communicate, sit down to type, and then a whole other beast ends up on the post. So here goes...

They start by inviting me to their church, Liberty Baptist, and then ask me if I attend a church here. I explain my church is about to have their grand opening this Sunday. Their church actually used to meet at Giaudrone years ago, so we spent a few min connecting about the woes of the mobile church before they launched into a spiel I was toooo familiar with: "If you were to die right now, would you go to Heaven? Why or why not?"

Having been through multiple evangelism training sessions and whole mission trips devoted to this method, I was equipped with my answer: "Yes, because Jesus Christ died for my sins." I was met with an unexpected amount of distrust.

"Yes, but He died for everyone's sins, that doesn't mean everyone is going to Heaven." Or something along those lines. I was a bit flabbergasted at this point. Immediately I'm at the crossroads of many options: Do I start taking this kid through the Roman Road to prove I can do what he's doing right now? That's how VALID I am in my salvation? Do I start ripping off verses to prove my spiritual-ness? Do I pull out my church resume to prove that I am a true believer shown by works? It all seemed like an opportunity for a spiritual whizzing contest if you know what I mean. AND Mary, my mentee is looking on. I factor all this in quickly and respond with:

"Because I have a personal relationship with Him." Again, I must have sounded too rehearsed because the boy wasn't convinced. At this point, his lack of social graces was showing, and his whopping social blindspot was getting annoying. He continued with "Yes, but was there a specific time you asked Jesus into your heart, and you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that you were saved?"

"Yes" was the calm response I was able to muster before I calmly wrapped things up. I was floored. I turned to Mary with a "can you BELIEVE that?" look and possibly those words. I started running through all the options I could have thrown at them like calmly mentioning doctrinal taboo such as predestination, speaking in tongues, or snake handling just to throw them off. That would be absurd, and I'm glad I chose against those responses.

But I was definitely left with so many questions. Never had I been on this end of one of those "church surveys". Isn't that the PC name for those things? As a receiver, here's what I felt:
  • Who did this dude think he was to question the validity of my salvation?
  • It's not his place to delve into the depths of my heart just because he ended up on my doorstep?
  • What exact phrases was he needing to hear to be satisfied?
  • As a fellow member in the Spirit, could he not at all sense the Spirit from me? Can't people tell a little bit of that stuff? I know people have in the past.
  • Was there not a practice run in their training session that could have curbed some of his linebacker evangelism tactic?
And the most concerning thing I was left questioning was:
Do I feel that urgency to bring people to Christ? Is the reality of Hell THAT compelling in my own life?

I don't think it's a coincidence that the sermon I heard on Sunday was one that moved me tears at multiple points because I was asked what I would give up so that my friends and neighbors would come to know Christ. Is their eternal destination a reality to me? Big questions.

I was also left with a sense of guilt for being on the giving end of this method of evangelism, for thinking I could waltz up to someone's front door, coax them into the Sinner's Prayer, keep a tally of converts feeling a sense of victory, and then go about my merry way as if I'd truly done all that was asked of me. And I hope that these kids had plans of assimilation and discipleship for those that were responsive. I pray they did. But I also know that relational evangelism is most effective.

Father, may we be ever so sharp to recognize each and every opportunity to share with others about You and the grace You've so generously afforded us. May we walk around and live out the Truth that You are a God Who changes hearts. Make us vessels, candles, jars of clay. May we be foolishly on display and open books to show the beautiful story You make out of our messes. Pour us out. Loosen our ties to this world. Embolden us with Your LOVE that we might spill over. Be made much of through us.