[Why are we right? Why are they wrong?]
Does anyone remember the Heaven’s Gate cult? In 1997, in the name of Jesus and evolution, they conducted a mass suicide among their members by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid. They were so utterly convinced that this is what “God” wanted them to do. They even used excerpts from the Bible to back up their convictions.
I got to sit in on the DTS lecture on worldview, and speaker Rick Thompson prefaced the week with that story and this question: Why as Christians are we right and Heaven’s Gate wrong?
Most of us could not find a respectful answer, but here were some of the topics brought up:
Answer: We follow the Bible and the Bible we know is true because of Archeological evidence.
Rick’s Response: The facts about the Bible do not prove that it is true, just that it is reliable. And what difference does that make when some people use parts of the Bible to defend the terrible things they do.
Answer: Jesus is the only one who can bring a life of peace, I just know because I have experienced relationship with Jesus Christ and it is great.
Rick’s Response: There is a stereotypical Christian thought that “unsaved” people are not happy, and “saved” people are happy. The fact is, being a Christian does not make you any more or less miserable than anyone else.
The classroom was certainly uncomfortable as Rick, in all respect and love, continued to tear apart everyones answer. I love wrestling with questions like this because I have reached a place in my ministry where sunday school answers are no longer endearing. There are people in the world who I think are brilliant and kind, but do not share my same faith in Jesus. And as my life becomes less and less explicable to these people, I feel the urgent need to explore even deeper why I believe the things I believe.
[The Great Commission]
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We are instructed to tell people about Jesus. It is amazing the arrogance and misunderstanding that has come out of that little sentence. Can you imagine? Me traveling to a different country with only knowledge of my nice American experiences with Jesus and telling someone that I am right and they are wrong and they should believe what I believe because it will make them happy? The fact is, it probably won’t make them happy, it will cost them their job, their family, sometimes even their life. This doesn’t mean we do not go. We just need to be going with a different perspective.
[The Foundation of All Christian Ministry]
There is only one reason to be Christian; that is if it is true. Not because it makes you happy, not because it is what your parents believe, not because your values coincide with Biblical values, etc. God, if He exists, is who God is whether I “like” him or not. And just because I “like” God does not prove that he is true. And there is no way to ever possibly prove that it is true. Likewise, there is no possible way to prove that it is not true.
As for me, I do like God. I like Him a lot. And I have wrestled and doubted. I still wrestle and doubt, but it seems as I come out of each season in life, I understand little bit more about who He really is.
So here is the foundation of all Christian ministry. We are finite. We must never have the attitude of “I am right, you are wrong.” If we enter into a religious conversation with this mindset, we instantly commit the biggest hypocrisy of the modern Christian faith. The fact that we expect people to consider they are wrong when we never consider it for ourselves. With this new mindset, a fruitful conversation is not somebody “receiving Jesus into their hearts”, but rather considering the possibility that the things they believe are not true. Ministry is finite creatures coming alongside other finite creatures and humbly facing questions together. I love this quote by Tozer in The Purpose of Man:
“Christian ministry is based on the assumption that there are some serious minded people who want to know who they are, what they are, why they are here, and where they are going.”
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. (Isaiah 1:18)
Jesus challenges us to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:36-39)
An infinite God, wants to engage with us finite creatures, and challenge us to engage intellectually with Him.
[How do we love God with our mind?]
I think God just wants us to know who He is apart from our feelings. He wants us to know His name. Like I said, I cannot prove God exists. But I can prove that if He exists, He is good. I think He just wants us to introduce others or remind others of His name. It would be weird if someone kept calling me by a name other than Erin. If my friends were around and heard, they would kindly remind people that my name is Erin.
I love this dialogue between Jesus and Peter as they casually went on their way to some villages around Philippi. (Mark 8:27-29)
Jesus asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
If someone is calling God angry, distant, irrelevant, judgmental, unloving. I would kindly say, that through my questioning, I have actually found God caring, brilliant, father-hearted, open-armed, full of grace, and jealous to know us and for us to know His real name.
That is all “evangelism” is really. That is all I ever desire to do in these nations I have traveled to. Not force belief systems, but rather just tell people who I know God to be. Take it or leave it, but I am going to love you regardless. And so is God.
[My first effective ministry conversation]
I am really really terrible about doing The Great Commission. I have lots of fear that people will think I am judging who they are and “shoving the Bible down their throat”. I let this thought paralyze me more than I am proud to say. But as I was thinking through all of the above, God highlighted the one and only effective ministry conversation I have had. He wanted to give me some confidence for the future I think.
It was while I was working on my senior project on barriers to global health care worldwide. I was in my professors office doing an interview. We were talking about politics and political mindsets and world issues. She was from China and I thoroughly enjoyed her perspective on the topic at hand. After all my questions and our discussion, she noted I was very passionate about this topic and asked what got me interested in pursuing something like it.
I told her I had spent time in India and Thailand and gained perspective on the very great divides in well-being throughout our world. And I came back to my Kinesiology major, thinking that most of the stuff we focus on like obesity in America was comedic in contrast with all the starving orphans and widows in the world. I told her that I am a Christian and I feel like God wanted me to pursue that topic because God cares about suffering people and about justice.
She responded, “Wow. In China, I did not grow up with any religion, and I’ve never seen much point to it, but you’re the first Christian I’ve met that’s actually doing something good for the world.”
Maybe I do not have the boldness to share the gospel right now, but I will always have the ability to explain why I am doing what I am doing. And my hope is that it will always be good or loving or strange things that God has inspired me to do.
[Side note: Ministry Mindsets]
I want to correct two ways of thinking I find myself falling in to. The first is an over zealous attitude that wants to go and tell everyone to believe in Jesus without ever considering why it believes what it believes. I think I covered that above.
But the second, and most common, is to see faith as a separate and nice american aspect of life, but irrelevant to the way the world actually works. The mindset that ministry is for Sunday, and real life is all the rest of the week. If our definition of ministry does not include both spiritual and secular worlds we are lacking a biblical worldview and correct understanding of ministry. Ministry simply means service. The practical dimensions of life should be no less spiritual than common ministry expressions. I am not a “full time” Christian now because I am in YWAM, and I wasn’t a “part time” Christian when I was working and going to school.
The only important question is “God, am I doing what you want me to do?” And there is nothing more “spiritual” than being obedient to God. My goal for all the students coming through YWAM seeking truth is that they would see no distinction between spiritual and secular, and not be chained by definitions of this world. The goal is not for there to be more people in “Christian ministry” but rather people asking God questions of purpose. “Why am I a business man?” “Why am I a teacher?” “Why am I an architect?” “Why do I love computers?” and so on.