Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Side Effects

Drugs.com lists the possible side effects of vioxx as: abdominal pain, tenderness, or discomfort; nausea; blood in your vomit; bloody, black, or tarry stools; unexplained weight gain; swelling or water retention; fatigue or lethargy; a skin rash; itching; yellowing of your skin or eyes; "flu-like" symptoms; or unusual bruising or bleeding. The side effects for other prescription drugs are very similar. In fact, most drugs come with a complete list of miserable sounding side effects.

I sometimes wonder if Pastors should be required to affix a warning label of side effects on all of the new believers they send out in to the world to convert the lost. I sometimes wonder how many non-believers are missing from the kingdom of God because of something stupid a well intentioned, but ignorant convert said in the name of Jesus. I sometimes wonder how much crap has to be unlearned before any new non-believer can be converted.

While it is certainly true, Jesus is the best medicine available, there are many who have bought the generic substitute and there are many more non-believers who have decided they want nothing to do with the cure. I’m not claiming my theology is pristine and everyone else’s is rancid, but I have talked to enough non-believers to know, Christ is nowhere near the hurdle to a belief in our Savior that Christians themselves have become. Most people who I have questioned about their beliefs want to believe in God, but they don’t want to have anything to do with Christians; especially Christians who won’t stop pestering them about Jesus.

Another side effect of sending new believers into the world to proclaim the Gospel is the effect it is having on the new believers themselves. Most of us have known plenty of new believers, including some we have led to Christ, who were on fire for the Lord, only to find failure and disappointment when they approached others about their new beliefs. Their fire is always dimmed and in some cases, it is extinguished altogether.

If we continue to do evangelism the way we have done evangelism for the last 50 years, we won’t get better results. As time goes by we are getting fewer results. Blaming disobedient believers for the lack of success will only make the problem worse. Leaders who send new believers into the world to proclaim the Gospel are the ones who need to be shamed, not the new believers who are doing their best.

Well meaning Christians have done an admirable job spreading the Gospel for the last 50 years. But it is time to change the paradigm if we want to accomplish more in spreading Christianity. Individually, we don’t represent Christ and we never will because we never can. At best, we can represent a single attribute of Christ. The Church, all of us working together, is what Christ left to do his work. All of us together represent our Lord. In order for non-believers to see and experience Christ, they need to start seeing more of Christ in our Churches. Our Lord is an easy sell when we start becoming the Church he intended us to be; not the multi-level marketing organization we have become.

10 comments:

Hammertime said...

David,
I ask you this - does your salvation depend upon what I do? That is, is your eternal destination a function of how effective another person's witness is? Do you, in fact, have very little to do with the decision to come to Christ, and it depends instead upon the performance of others?

Or is the answer quite different?

That will determine the direction you go with this - predetermines it, I think.

I tried to respond to your comment on my blog, but I seem to have temporarily broken at least my (if not everyone's) ability to comment there. The crux was that I enjoy the anonymous character of my blog, and am loathe to abandon it to someone I have just "met". I hope you aren't insulted - it isn't personal.

Teresa said...

OK David, you energize me to fight you even when I'm sick! Oh, David, no,no,no--I love you brother! I understand where you are coming from-I was there at one point. I will ultimately answer your questions in my blog as it unforlds. New Believers are like children. Children tell what they know and no more. That is all that God expects of us. Go back to the story of the woman at the well (read John 4). You're right, we should not presure anyone! The Holy Spirit will lead them-but we should encourage them. Children believe that they can do anything until WE tell them they can't. Let Christ use their new zeal in HIM to share "what they know". Children are extreamly resilient and easily able to decern right from wrong. It's only when we become adults that we become jaded. We should not squash their zeal. Encourage them!

David M. Smith said...

Teresa,

Children poop in their pants and they sometimes get it all over the place. God expects us to use our minds as well as our hearts. We have to acknowledge the side effects and try to prevent them.

Buz said...

Dave,

You have a very valid point. I have heard some who have been in church for weeks or years tell others all the do's and dont's that one must follow to become a Christian. I don't think that it is so much a lack of training on evangelism, rather, just the opposite ... too much "training" ... training in the doctrines of that particular church, rather than in the basics of Christianity.

To the end that we must show the face of Christ to the world, just what does he look like? (No, not the skinny guy hanging on the cross with the scraggly beard ...) The face of Jesus, and indeed, the face of God is the face of Love. Quite often, we show them the face of our church, or the face of our pastor, which may be quite different than what they are looking for. But everyone is looking for unconditional love and acceptance - and that is the face of Jesus.

I have heard some of your argument about the basics of salvation before, and I disagree with the "just believe in Jesus, that's all" part of it, but only to the extent that I would add "and surrender completely and unconditionally to Him", as an integral part of that belief. One cannot trifle with God.

However, past that, I think that all the other requirements which churches add on to the basics (thou shall not drink, thou shall not go to movies, etc.), while they may be well-meaning, initially serve as barriers to non-Christians. Beyond that, they also serve to divide the body of Christ (I remember a time that the Baptists in our area shunned our Catholic brothers because they drank alcoholic beverages, we were better than that! ).

I was going to say, "I have no problem with churches having certain rules, BUT it should be made completely clear that they are peculiar to this church or this denomination," but as I began to write that, I realized that if a non-christian decided that they wanted to convert, again, they might be disuaded by the petty rules of that church.

A church that I went to previously (Evangelical Covenant) had a wonderful doctrine. Your doctrine was yours to practice, as long as you could cite a valid biblical basis for that doctrine. The problem was that, for many, it meant that you were free to do nothing, and you needed no biblical basis for your lack of doctrine.

(I apologize for rambling on ... it is your blog, after all.

Buz

David M. Smith said...

Buz,

Anytime you start a post with, "You have a very valid point", you can just ramble on all you want. :-)

I believe what I write, but I am satisfied when others think about what I write, even if they don't agree with everything.

Having said that, I'm glad we did find an area of agreement. You earned my respect a long time ago and I continue to value you and your perspective.

Bonnie said...

Buz, I find your comment about your former church interesting -- I attend an Ev. Cov. church. I wouldn't say that, in the 2 I've been a member of, anyone was allowed to get away with "doing nothing." But I can also say that sometimes, out of respect for their Biblical freedom, members are not challenged enough.

David, I agree with you that spiritual maturity is very important for a proper witness. As per what Buz said, the essential characteristic is unconditional love.

I came to God while in college. My initial encounters with the campus Christians gave me the impression that a) they were more show than substance; b) they felt they had all the answers and were superior; and c) I "had to believe" or I was toast. Real inviting, huh?

Enter two people: a) another Christian classmate, and b) the man who would become my husband.

Person (a) was different: she befriended me, invited me gently and non-threateningly to examine faith in Jesus, and treated me as if I had real value in and of myself, not just in believing and doing (or not) all the right things. This freed me up to examine myself honestly.

She also introduced me to person (b), who was and still is one of the most unpretentious people I've ever met.

Shortly thereafter, I reached out to God, for real, for the first time in my life. The rest is history :-)

Steve said...

David,

I short, very good, go with this one!

Hammertime said...

David,
I was hoping you would address my question above. I trust it was merely an oversight, as I assume my 'rookieness' would not disqualify me from receiving a response, based upon the heart you show here. Thanks!

David M. Smith said...

Hammer,

Yes, I will address your point. I really want my blog to be interactive, not just my thoughts. However, I am not the most spontaneous person in the world. I have to think about the right way to say and write what I want to communicate. Thanks for the question. Stay tuned..

Hammertime said...

OK! Thanks - I'm staying tuned!