22 May 2007

How to Share Your Faith, volume I

I grew up in a congregation somewhere between a moderate-conservative and conservative ABC church, it wasnt a fundamentalists joint but it wasnt a hotbed of higher criticism or the place you would hear edification on our religious apriori either.

Out of the some of the 100s of sermons I heard I can only recall 1, it was on evangelism. The pastor really hit a home run with his use of metaphors, rousing language and unction. The theme was well repeated one, but I have to give him creative credit: change or go to hell. The avoidance of hell was the sole factor for evangelism.

Somewhere during my senior year of high school I stumbled onto a reference of the book Prayer by Richard Foster. Looking back, it was a surprise that my pastor had it in his library. He loaned it to me and I devoured it. From there I found Merton, then Hinson, then Kelly, then Steere, then Rauschenbusch, then King and Thurman, then McClendon, then Underhill and the rest is history. I found out about experiential religion that was not based on avoiding the heat of eternal damnation. Nevertheless, I have yet to discover the proper way to share this form of Christianity. I believe Thomas Kelly has come the closest, I would describe him as a mystical evangelist.

Jump to May whatever day it is 2007. Here at L. R. Bapt. we have a great church, good music, okay facilities, an open bunch and lively discussion. Yet we cant seem to get over a critical hump for energy, giving and people. We kind of hover around existence but havent got around to a ministry phase. My gut tells me that the folk need to discover a way to talk about their faith, get to know Jesus a little more and get involved in something bigger than 1075 Great Road.

I am now reading and boning up on evangelism from a liberal perspective (not too many resources here folks). I imagine our church in this situation. We are an old VW bug, neat looking, even fashionable if it had a new paint job, that wont start. We could buy a new a battery, clean the posts, maybe even buy some new cords, but we aint got time. So till we can manage an overhaul we decided to jump it on the run. One person gets behind the wheel pushing the clutch in while a few folk push the thing till we can get to speed so we can plop the clutch and turn the engine over.

My hunch is that if the folk here can start sharing the good news with themselves, each other and others it will jump start the spiritual life of the congregation. It is just a hunch...

Current Resources:
Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism by Martha Grace Reese
Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian by Thomas Long

My pastor also was the one who once asked me about what method of inspiration my seminary was teaching me. Never heard it mentioned. He then went on and on about the Verbal Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The other day while going to Yale I mentioned this to my buddy (he grew up in a more conservative joint than I did and never heard of it).

The pastor before this guy received his ThD from Princeton - he was the moderate conservative to conservative person.


Tripp Hudgins said...

Check out some of Diana Butler Bass' stuff on "vital" congregations. She publishes through the Alban Institute. It's worth your time.

But I struggle with the same thing. How do we put wheels on Hinson's ideas? Steere's? Their work was so much more a reflection of an existing Christian tradition and not about full-on evangelism.

Interesting, Theo. Interesting.

Ron Short said...

I recently got grilled by a parishioner about verbal plenary inspiration. I too had never heard of it. I can't find it mentioned even in the conservative Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. It's amazing what people worry about.