Do YOU have something to say? You could be a guest contributor, too. Here is a piece from Howard Pinder struggling with how to make connections when his Christian friends have strict rules of engagement.
I remember the first time I got thrown out of Starbucks for trying to post a “religious” flyer. I was devastated. I thought I was a bold person, but being rejected like that got to me. The employee wasn’t particularly rude but all sorts of feelings rushed to the surface as I awkwardly left, until I was practically in tears on the sidewalk. I was suddenly awash in doubts and thought I might just be too afraid to put myself out there again. I took heart though. My mentor reminded me that evangelism is about looking for people who are looking for Jesus. And they are out there. I had been out there once too.
Lately I have been working on an events team. Hosting events is another way I am trying to put myself “out there.” Our team has had some good ideas. I loved advertising the “unorthodox art” show we had last Saturday. It’s fun. There are a lot of reasons we’re doing it, but the main reason is because we want people to find out about Circle of Hope and we want them to know Jesus. We’re not screening them at the door for receptivity, but we’re making friends and we’re friends with Jesus. It is a simple connection. At least I think it is obvious. Recently someone questioned my wisdom because I wanted to promote Jesus and Circle of Hope in our own events. They were afraid we’d offend somebody. Their questions offended ME! They’d promote any unorthodox artist in the neighborhood, but don’t let Jesus get in there because promoting him would be offensive.
I explained why I thought we should promote Circle of Hope and Jesus in all of our events in one way or another. My main argument was: “Knowing Jesus and helping others to know Him is the most important thing about life.” My friend told me that my thinking puts me in the minority. (Is that true?) Their main argument was that bringing out Jesus was not being sensitive. They said if I was really conscious of others I would see that dropping Jesus on unsuspecting people was not the best way to express my faith.
Well, I can imagine having a problem between Jesus and people. But why would I predict that? Besides, sometimes when we claim we are being sensitive we are actually being fearful – fearful of being labeled, fearful of rejection, fearful of turning someone away from faith because we are fearful we are just that bad! It’s not like I was suggesting I get on a soapbox and preach condemnation and promise people hell (I’m not even sure where one gets a soapbox, these days!). What’s the problem with being who I am?
I hear a lot of fear when I talk about revealing my faith right out there in public. We have all heard about the stereotypes of Christians causing more harm than good. Maybe we don’t want to be associated with that type of expressing. But I don’t want to live my life as a reaction to misguided Evangelicals, either. I want to live through my relationship with Jesus. My fears run deep, but I want to take heart and overcome them with Jesus, not just get run around by them. I want to act out of a deep assurance that I am safe, and out of my new security in the fact that I will spend eternal life with God. What could make us afraid after knowing that?
Let me be clear here. I’m not saying, “Let’s get out there and see how many people we can coerce into being a Christian!” I’m talking about speaking freely about the truth of Jesus as it has been revealed to us. How does your relationship with Jesus make a difference in your life? What, exactly, are you protecting people from by never talking about that? Do you really love the people you claim you are being sensitive to if you aren’t willing to tell them the truth?
Maybe my experiences are a big anomaly; maybe they aren’t indicative of the state of your faith. But what do you think? I think we’re too afraid to get out there. I’m afraid, too. I don’t want to condemn anyone who is digging in their heels, since I suppose there are more reasons than I could imagine for that behavior. But I do feel held back when you hold back. I feel out on the limb when you tell me I shouldn’t get out there. I think we need to confront this compulsive fear in ourselves.
Jesus does not condemn us for messing up his mission. When I came to Jesus after feeling like a failure outside Starbucks, he was tender with me. I felt like He took my hand and said, “All will be well if you keep following me.” That’s the Jesus I want to show people. I feel compelled to get out there and show them. I echo Paul when he says that he must express what he’s received and express it boldly. We are all grappling with this in our own way. When, in our grappling, we tamp down someone else’s enthusiasm, we might be acting out of fear and blocking Jesus’ mission. The only way through our fears is to get out there, with Jesus right beside us.
These older posts might interest you, too:
Getting Out There in the Face of Fear http://rodwhitesblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/getting-out-there/
Henry Tanner Lets Jesus into PAFA: http://rodwhitesblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/henry-tanner-lets-jesus-into-pafa/
Winning the Right to Be Heard: http://rodwhitesblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/winning-the-right-to-be-heard/