Monday, October 08, 2007

Evangelism, part 2

Part 2 of David Fitch’s critique of evangelism, american style has been posted. Here’s a snippet:

Our churches are organized to meet the spiritual needs of individuals, and our salvation is incredibly individualistic. Calling Jesus “a personal Savior” sounds like Jesus is in the same category as my personal barber, personal trainer, or personal dental hygenist (BTW, I don't have a personal trainer). The danger is making salvation all about me.

I know it didn't start out this way in evangelicalism, but it was latent in the structure of our soteriology. And so we have almost romanticized our relationship with God; created a narcissistic experience of it. And churches become all about preserving, maintaining, and nurturing this experience in their parishioners.

But the gospel is not about getting something, it is about participating in something—God's work of reconciling the whole world to Himself. And yes, we do have a relationship with God which becomes personal but it is inseparable from His mission.

<idle musing>
I have seen a good deal of the romantic view of our relationship with God; it tends to make one chase more “experiences” and spiritual highs. If the “manifest presence of God” isn’t felt, then something must be wrong. A good healthy dose of some of the mystics would be a good cure for that. How about a chapter or two from St. John of the Cross on the “dark night of the soul?” I think he goes too far, but it sure is a healthy corrective to the false highs of “worship” that are common in some circles.

By the way, what is “worship?” Is it just singing? Or, is it much more than that? Pull out your handy-dandy concordance and do a quick scan of worship. . .
</idle musing>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The comments about a "personal Jesus" remind me of the Depeche Mode song that I discovered through Johnny Cash's cover (on "American Recordings IV"). Here are a few of the words:

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there

Feeling unknown
And you're all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I'll make you a believer

You can find the entire lyrics on the web; this song has tended to confirm the belief that some of the most offensive and cogent criticisms of contemporary Christianity come from "outside."