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Monday, January 15, 2007

The Gospel at the Door

A missionary came to my door Saturday morning. He wanted to tell me about the peaceful life to come. He wanted to assure me that in this troubled world, Jesus could eventually bring a peaceful kingdom. Look, here in Revelation 21. He shall wipe away our tears. How nice. He was not invasive. He didn't ask to come in and talk to me. Nor was he connective. He didn't ask my name. At no point did he ask how I was, what I thought, anything at all about me. He didn't know if I had my own beliefs or even if I was married. He was there to shed light on his beliefs and then leave.

From the day of his visit and the tract he left I knew he was a Jehovah's Witness, but that was irrelevant. I thought, "Is this any way to spread the good news?" I thought back over other encounters with missionaries from all faiths and thought, "Is this any way to spread the good news?" I can't recall a single one who cared about the person to whom they were speaking. I can't recall a single one who wanted to know me, who gave even a hint about concern for my condition, state of mind, or well-being. Despite the fact that we all know that the singular tell-tale sign of being a disciple of Christ is our love for one another, I can't recall a single missionary I've encountered (I mean the ones who have come to my door) that gave a hint of love for one another. Is this any way to spread the good news?

I don't wish to design techniques or diminish approaches. I'm sure that God has the ability to use a whole variety of methods. I'm sure that there are actually people who are saved at a crusade surrounded by thousands of people intent only on making converts. I'm sure that there are people who come to Christ because someone knocked on the door of a stranger and handed them a tract. I'm not saying, "Don't!" I'm asking, "Is this the best way?"

I think that the best way to share the good news is to earn the right. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He didn't start with "Woman, you're in need of living water." He started with a conversation. He engaged her. She didn't believe because He told her what she needed. She believed Him because He knew her. In fact, one of the prime differences between Christianity and other religions is its relational aspect. According to Jesus, eternal life is defined as knowing God (John 17:3). According to Paul a Christian is one who is known by God (Gal. 4:9). The problem the false prophets had in Matt. 7:15-25 was "I never knew you." And yet, the good news we try to offer is so often devoid of relationship. We want to impart information and run rather than engage in relationship.

It's a lot harder to earn the right than to throw a tract and a canny line. It's work. The result, however, is discipleship rather than conversion. And we are not called to make converts; we are called to make disciples. I'm sure that God can use a variety of methods to achieve His goal. Paul spoke of people who were sharing the gospel in Rome. "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice" (Phil. 1:15-18). And so will I rejoice when Christ is proclaimed, even with less than good methods. But shouldn't we be aiming at the good rather than "envy and strife" or "selfish ambition" or any other technique that falls short of good?

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