Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Being genuine

Let me be transparent for a moment - i hate the word transparent, i'm fed up with people saying that they are being real, and i think i'll puke the next time someone tells me that they are genuine. current catch phrases that's all they are. they're the words that are current right now and ministers, speakers, and other various youth worker wannabes say them so they will sound good. but to me they're basically just words with very little meaning behind them.

the reason i think this is because i actually do have a theory on being "real" - kind of ironic isn't it. my theory is this - we are most real when we admit how fake we are. we are all pretty much a bunch of posers. i screw up regularly and i want to keep those screw ups as well hidden as possible. even though possibly the best thing that could happen to me would be for you to know each of my sins so that i would no longer have to pretend, that's not what i want to happen. i want to hide my sin and keep on pretending like i'm perfect. i am one very fake person. in fact, i am so fake that when i begin to become "transparent" i am usually thinking in the back of my mind about how secure in myself i am to let people see my weaknesses. i'm not secure. i'm pathetic.

the good news for me is that i'm not alone. i'm surrounded by pathetic people. people who desperately want to be "real" but don't know how to because we are so completely fake. in my heart i want to live the life of the velveteen rabbit but in my mind i don't want to go through all the pain and anguish of getting rid of all the layers of fakeness within my life. what if under all those layers of "fakeness" i find out there's nothing real in the center - the equivalent of a fake onion, simply made up of layers.

thankfully JESUS loves fake people if only we recognize that we are fake. hypocrites don't realize that they are posers, hypocrites think that they are "real". JESUS loves fake people who understand how "unreal" they are. one day JESUS will take all of us "posers" and make us real.

i'm not trying to offer up a cheap, little, sunday-school answer here. i'm not trying to just cover a very difficult problem with the simply phrase "but JESUS will take care of things in the end." i know life has difficult problems and the answers to these problems aren't easy. it's just that there's not another answer to the problem of how fake we are. if JESUS doesn't love us as a group of wannabes then we are all basically out of luck. there's nothing else we can do about it. none of us are real enough to find an answer to our fakitivity (my wife's word). either JESUS loves us in spite of our fakeness and helps us to become real or we're doomed to live and die in a world that only pretends to be genuine

so let me be as transparent as i can be - there is nothing transparent about me. i am so fake that i even trick myself into believing that i'm being real. yet there is still hope for me. that hope is found in the only ONE WHO is real.

am i as clear as mud?

(In the spirit of being completely transparent: I ripped this off of Robert Terrell's blog. Unashamedly. His is way better than mine, anyway. You can check it out here.)

Thursday, September 9, 2004

An offer they can't refuse...

So I've got this freaking class called Supervised Ministry I. It's a "personal evangelism" class. Basically they teach you how to sell Jesus door-to-door. And then they make you go do it, and grade you on how many people get saved. Kind of like the Fuller Brush man, or the Rainbow, or Kirby Vacuum cleaner guy. You get graded on commission.

Okay, so it's not really like that.

I actually told the professor on the first day of class that I didn't have any interest in selling Jesus door-to-door. And whatever happened to relationships? And that referring to people as "prospects" made me sick to my stomach. Actually told him that stuff. In those words. Felt pretty good about it, too.

In the class they actually teach you a model (yeah, ANOTHER model) for "witnessing" (whatever that means). Supposedly it just helps to prepare for, and get into situations where you can start a conversation with people, that may or may not lead to you talking to them about Jesus. Our assignment is that we have to spend an hour and a half a week, for the next ten weeks, involved in some kind of personal evangelism effort. Not by myself, though. I'm in a group. Group of 4. That's not intimidating to people or anything. It would freak me out to look out my window, or be at the coffee shop, and here comes the "God Squad" to cut off all my exits, read my nonverbals, and launch into a conversation that is only designed to lead one place.

Modern evangelical witnessing is a one-night stand. It's cheap, and it's impersonal. Think about it. It centers around knowing the right lines to say, and the right situations to put yourself in so that you can start a conversation with a predetermined target of your choosing. A conversation that has one purpose, and one purpose only - to get you to the point where you've softened them up enough to hit them with what you really came for. Then its all about "closing the deal". If you can't - then you just walk away, mumbling something about how they just weren't ready for what you had to give them, and then what? You pick a new target and start over. Even if you are "successful" - you don't stick around long after the deed is done. You're out the door, hoping they don't need any kind of long-term commitment. After all, you got what you came for, right? You didn't have anything invested in that prospect to begin with.

That being said - tonight is the first assignment for my group. We split up, and me and another guy are going to the coffee shop, and we've only got one thing on our minds. All day long I've been trying to come up with a gimmick. Something to get me in the door. To start that all-important small-talk exchange that will lead to the conversation that will change someone's eternal destiny in a single evening. Maybe I will bring a puppy with me. Or a baby. People love to talk to/about babies. Then again, puppies don't usually cry and poop during the conversation. They do slobber, though.

Seriously, though. What does it mean to "share your faith" with someone? Does "share" in that context mean to make a presentation? Does it mean to share, as in, you divide it up between you? Can someone share their non-faith with me? Maybe it means that you come alongside someone in their life, and let them come alongside you, and you do life together. No matter how different those lives might be. In the end, hopefully they see you making choices different than the choices that they have made, and they want to know why. And it's not because you're better, or smarter, than them. It's just because you've found something that actually works. It's one beggar telling another beggar where he can find some bread. There is relationship involved. Community between 2 or more people. There is history, and there is future. There is an investment.

I realize that the thief on the cross received salvation instantly. He had never met Jesus before. He was never discipled. He didn't even "bear any fruit". Yet that very day, he was with Jesus in paradise. At the same time - I really have to ask myself whether or not I believe that someone today can be "saved" in a single encounter. Most of the time I think I would say not. I honestly think that we do people a disservice when we try and distill what it means to be "saved" into a nice little package, give it away to strangers, and then walk away. It may be that we have a country full of people who think they are Christians because they have made it all the way through a gospel presentation, felt too uncomfortable to deny the person giving it, and ended up repeating some silly prayer after them.

I think the Chinese would disagree with us. The church in communist China is blowing up! It's illegal to be a Christian there, except in formerly British-controlled Hong Kong. The Chinese meet secretly in house churches, and fear for their lives - but not so much that they would be dissuaded from Christ. At the seminaries here, we have classes that teach you how to play games with teenagers, and how to plan a budget for your megachurch youth group. In China, the seminaries have classes called "How to get out of handcuffs in two minutes or less, if you ever get caught being a Christian" and "How to jump out of a second-story window during a raid without breaking your ankles". I don't think you can convince someone to choose that kind of life with a single conversation about the "4 Spiritual Laws". This Christianity thing really means something to them. And if it means so much - can I really justify how cheap we have made it? No. I guess that, like life (as the saying goes), salvation is a journey, and not a destination.

I'm sure you needed to hear all of that. I guess that yesterday I shouldn't have wished that I would be inspired toward more substantial thinking. Although some visitors to this site won't know what to do with something like this. Most of them probably won't even read it. If you do read it, leave a comment. Nothing big, just "I did." or something. Anyway - wish me luck tonight, that my convictions about faith, and my responsibilities for this class will somehow be reconciled. Maybe tomorrow will bring something less cerebral for both of us. Maybe it will be a story about a new friend.