Sunday, December 09, 2012
Evangelism in a pluralistic world
How do we do evangelism in a pluralistic world? Our communities are filled with people of competing and conflicting faiths and beliefs, and even those who clamor for their attempt at unbelief to be believed. Perhaps the first thing we need to remember is that Christianity came into the world in a similar setting—a pluralistic world where government and its leaders were deified, multiple, competing deities clamored for attention and allegiance, and in that fullness was a vacuum that sucked the life out the spirit of everyday people. We could even go back to the beginning of God’s story of self-revelation. It came to Abraham in a land of competing deities. Moses wondered if the messenger in the burning book was also a jurisdictionally limited being. David, a man after God’s own heart, saw the God’s of the Philistines, Dagon, seemed to have clout with people. Later, reviving bull worship at the high places from the Egyptian past edged out the worship at Jerusalem, leaving a people divided in their expression of worship. The second thing to bear in mind is to remember what also has not changed over the years. God’s story of how He is at work to redeem his creation has not changed. And humanity’s story of brokenness in relationship to the Creator has not changed. The competing religions then, as well as today, sought to find God and His peace, forgiveness, hope, a place in the afterlife, and in some cases grace. That brings me to today. How do we share faith? By bringing God’s story and a person’s story together. As Leighton Ford wrote, “The aha! moment in salvation occurs at the intersection of God’s story and the lost person’s story.” The 21st century witness needs to be equipped, not with some exotic theology or dynamic business-tested sales pitch. Rather, today’s person of Kingdom faith concerned about the people who need to know Jesus, need to know God’s story, their own story of experiencing God’s story, and to know how to listen and hear that person’s story that can only be self-heard in its encounter with God’s story of redemption. Knowing God’s story is knowing the stories of Scripture. Also, the person sharing faith has to be sensitive to seeing, hearing, and feeling the movement of God’s story toward the person with whom they are sharing faith. Knowing your own story means becoming comfortable and confident in what God has done and is doing in your life. Years ago Paul Little wrote in How to Gove Away Your Faith that if a person waked in the room with a fried egg hanging off their ear, saying it was the best thing to ever happen to that person, you could not argue with that. In fact, that dangling gift from a hen may be the best thing that ever happened to that person. You cannot argue with experience. And that is true for the Christian. No one can argue with you that what Jesus Christ has done for you is the best thing that has happened in your life! Well, some people will try to argue with that. Don’t let them. Quietly let them vent their wasted arguments. Your testimony has self-defined you as a person of faith. What you receive in their arguing is a change back reaction that happens autonomically—trying to change you back to the person you were before, not because they are right and you are wrong, but because they are uncomfortable. The balance in your relationship has changed. The third ingredient of 21st Century evangelism is listening. Helping a person who needs to find God through a relationship with Jesus involves knowing how to hear a person’s meta-story—that deep structure story that is driving to the surface of that person’s consciousness all the other stories being told. Many witnesses have heard a person tell the same story over and over again. Each attempt to lead that person to faith experiences resistance. That is not because you, as the witness, have not heard the repeated story. Rather it is the storyteller that has not heard his or her own meta-story. The resistance comes because that repeated story may be what is currently holding that person’s concept of faith or disbelief together. When the meta-story is heard, an aha! moment occurs, and the story usually does not get repeated. Most importantly, God’s story gets heard and salvation begins. A number of powerful skills can be used to assist the 21st witness to share faith. The Aurora Network has committed itself to being the go to organization for cutting edge training in what we call Story Listening Evangelism. If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate these listening skills into your witness, contact Ernest Izard at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have someone you have been sharing faith with and have run into resistance, contact Dr. Izard and he will listen and look over your shoulder to make some listening skills suggestion on what to do net in your witness. This approach to sharing faith was successful on the Gaza Road for an Ethiopian official and for some one time philosophers whose stories were heard on Mars Hill in Athens. The same can be true for those you care enough to listen to in order to hear their story. We will be looking for your email.