Friday, March 23, 2007

Evangelism: One night stand or committed relationship?

Both, And? Scripture gives plenty of examples of brief encounters, but Jesus also calls us to "make disciples." Being missional, I suppose, includes both.

"An expert witness is just some guy from out of town." (Mark Twain reportedly said this). Unless the credibility of the expert can be tested, his or her testimony may be disregarded.
A few years ago, when I took EE for the second time, I found that going out in our teams of three felt a lot like trying to pick someone up in a bar for a one night stand. The means felt similar - a brief and shallow encounter - but of course the ends could not be more extreme: one depraved and the other to God's glory. I think of the one sentence sermon given by Jonah "Forty more days and Ninevah will be destroyed." There were also countless single, short encounters that Jesus had with various women, children, and men. His inspired Word, rightly placed and rightly applied, I believe, can accomplish the same life-transformation even among us today.

In our society, we tend to be really good at having 'brief encounters.' In the media, if you can't get your message across in 1 or 2 minutes, then it is assumed, that you have lost your audience. However, the media is also obsessive about its subjects, so they won't leave them alone. Who have been more committed than the media(albeit often biased and unfair) to Britney or the kidnapped baby or any number of other people in serious trouble or suffering?

In the book "Guerilla P.R." the author writes, "Human nature dictates that we feel for people one at a time." While I don't particularly like a lot of what this book encourages to be successful at P.R., I thought his example here was particularly appropriate. He speaks of the anonymous thousands reported killed by typhoons or tidal waves, who leave us with a momentary pang and perhaps a one time donation to a charity serving there, while that one child suffering with a serious birth defect to whom we are introduced through a more lengthy segment on 20/20 or some news magazine becomes in a way a part of our lives and our reality. It is an interesting justaposition for me to contemplate. Both/and.

So, while reaching out definitely means having a message that is broad and wide rather than ultra-technical (the Gospel!),, we should also assume that as connections are made, we are prepared to go narrow and deep (theology and application) to the marrow of scripture with the person. To me, that means discipleship -- investing time, committment, fellowship and a shared experience of studying God's Word with other believers.

Unlike the proverbial 'one night stand,' we ARE going to share all eternity together before the throne of God, Amen! So, I'm praying that I'll stay open, not only to brief encounters, but also to the hard work of long-term committed relationships when those opportunities arise too.