do you eat with sinners?
Recently attended a church small group meeting, focused on evangelism.
The meeting included a nice prayer during worship, “Oh God, please be our rock and our protection in this time when our government is coming against all that we believe in.” I then prayed, “Oh God, thank you for all President Obama is doing to mend the problems caused by the last administration.” OK, I didn’t really say that…
We watched an evangelism course video. I imagine the content was similar to evangelism programs in other conservative evangelical churches. Make friends with people, be humble, overcome fears, preach the gospel rather than only demonstrating a Christian example. The lesson was on “becoming a friend of sinners.” I felt like I have a lot of experience in that, being apostate and all myself.
At one point the speaker asked, “When was the last time you ate dinner with a sinner?” He then qualified that he meant “unbeliever” or “the lost,” because “we are all sinners.” I wonder why he used “sinners” in the first place then. I have to think it is because that is really the thought process going on, separating the world into “sinners” and “saved”. My wife answered, “Tonight, I had dinner with my sinning, unbelieving husband.” OK, she didn’t really say that, but she could have been thinking it! We exchanged smiles a few times through the message, so she seems to have a peace with my not being on board with the content.
There was a part where Christians in the video were interviewed and asked why it was difficult for them to interact with sinners. They looked extremely uncomfortable. Some of the answers were, “not enough time, uncomfortable with people with a different life style, all my time is spent with Christians.” I would say it is difficult because they really want to be friends with them and not be forced to alienate them with their religion. Or maybe that was just me when I was a Christian.
The speaker asked why people “don’t want to be around us.” He said that people were friends with Jesus because he accepted them, so we should too. He then asked, “Why aren’t people more upset with us? Because after all, that is why Jesus was killed.” The answer is because we compromise and don’t tell people the truth about God’s wrath, because we do not want to offend folks. It seemed schizophrenic, do people want to be around Christians or don’t they? You can’t have it both ways to make two different points in your talk.
We were asked to write names down of people we could “reach out to” (meaning preach to), like friends, co-workers, classmates, people we once knew, etc. I thought that was too easy, I have lots of friends who are sinners. I just wrote down the names of everyone who comments here. Just kidding.
Overall, it was a relatively easy meeting to attend, but I ended up not sleeping well, feeling anxious, and I think the meeting was a part of it. It is stressful to listen to a large amount of material I don’t believe, looking to fit it into a cognitive framework I can understand, where I disagree or don’t and why. There are good reasons for learning opposing view points, but the intellect needs a break too.
So that’s a little insight into evangelism for those of you who have not lived it. Probably an unpleasant reminder for some. There is a great web site HERE about the alpha evangelism course, by someone who writes in great detail about what it is like to be evangelized in those meetings. The posts are quite long, but worth at least a quick read. They are insightful and funny, other-side-of-the-pond wit. I used to help out with Alpha meetings, so I read them with a lot of interest.