October 23, 2017

Just in case you’re wondering . . . mission

Chaplain Mike preaching in Cuttack, India. 1997

Chaplain Mike preaching in Cuttack, India. 1997

Just in case you’re wondering . . . I believe in Christian mission.

One of the greatest debts I owe to my evangelical background is that it gave me a heart to serve others. To be sure, I have often been critical of evangelicalism’s priorities in the ways it goes about serving, and I have been particularly concerned that the movement’s pietism (see yesterday’s post), with its inherent impulse of separatism can take believers out of the very world in which they should be immersed and serving, but I have no doubt that the activist bent in evangelicalism is something its followers learned from Jesus. This activism is one of Bebbington’s four native characteristics of evangelicalism, and in my view, it is probably the movement’s greatest strength.

Just pondering this brings back a host of memories and thoughts. I think I will just share some of them with you today.

How evangelicalism gave me a heart for service and mission

The impulse to serve is strong in evangelicalism. There is an energy and concern for others that moves evangelicals to do a lot of good in the world.

The missionary force that grew out of the Student Volunteer Movement and the rise of faith missions in the late 1800’s was formidable. In the 20th century, leadership given by InterVarsity and the Lausanne Movement, the establishment of parachurch ministries like Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade, and Navigators, Bible translation ministries like Wycliffe, and mercy ministries like World Vision have flourished. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is synonymous with mass evangelism efforts. The “culture war” efforts of the Christian Right were not something new in America; in many ways, culture warriors have merely replicated the kind of moral concern and political activism practiced by 19th century social movements for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and prohibition. Many of the key leaders and participants in those movements were evangelicals.

Many evangelicals go by the slogan that Christians are “saved to serve.” We once attended a church where every person who joined the church was introduced as someone who had stepped forward to “roll up his/her sleeves to help us win our community for Christ.” Another church I pastored was instrumental in founding and supporting a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I know a church that, at least at one point, was giving 60% of her income to missions.

Washing the feet of our Indian brethren. 1997

Washing the feet of our Indian brethren. 1997

We have friends all over the world because of their obedience to the Great Commission, and because of them I’ve had opportunities to serve in places I never dreamed of seeing. I have had opportunities to preach Christ in suburban churches, on inner city front porches and downtown missions, in the hills of Applachia, and to crowds of youth at camps in Brazil and at schools in India. I once sat in a small house in a central Indian village and talked about preparing for baptism to the first group of Christians that ancient village had ever known. Even in my youngest days as a minister, I was blessed to give words of encouragement to pastors in Haiti, some of whom had walked for three days to get to the conference, and who slept on hard wooden benches or on the ground when they got there just to hear the Word of God.

Some of our closest friends have made choices through the years that made my jaw drop. Damaris and her family went to Kyrgyzstan, of all places, and reached out to their neighbors with both spiritual and practical concern. Another friend received a degree in international business, and then was challenged by a missionary to consider what God might have in store for him. A few months later, he and his wife and four young children got off a plane and moved into a home in Shanghai. While his company paid the bill for a few years, they helped start a Christian school. This is the same couple who once served their neighbors in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing development in inner city Chicago. I once played music for morning devotions while a friend preached to a group of carnies in south Florida. This was made possible because a group of loving Christian folks in RV’s follows the carnival workers for months to all the county fairs and sets up ministry stations where they can come for a hot meal, medical and dental care, haircuts, and a clothing tent — and a word of Gospel encouragement. I met a lady once who started a ministry to unfortunate folks who are deaf, blind, and mute.

The school where Michael Spencer taught, and where Denise and daughter Noel still work, was founded over a hundred years ago to help bring peace to families in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. It now serves students from all over the world, many of them non-Christians, who come for a quality, affordable education in a distinctively Christian community.

On a mission trip to Brazil once, I found myself weeping as I stood and surveyed the sanctuary of a small village church. This congregation lived in the poorest village in that part of Brazil. The members brought their offerings and put them in a big basket in the front of the sanctuary each Sunday, and little of it was money. It was usually food from their gardens or clothes their children had outgrown, all to be distributed to “the poor.” On the side wall, there was a bulletin board with at least a half a dozen pictures on it. These were the missionaries this church supported!

Some of the people I admire most are friends who are workers for India Youth for Christ. These lovely people, in the midst of growing economic opportunity and prosperity in that land, have signed up to live on about $100 a month to reach young people with the Gospel. Traveling to India over the years changed our lives. Few things have meant more to my formation as a human being and follower of Christ than developing friendships with fellow ministers in India and serving alongside them as we preached, sang, did medical work, and reached out in various ways to give Christ to others. One of those friends brought a tear to my eye when I met him a few years ago. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a small square of cloth that had been cut from a terrycloth towel. I had given it to him and a group of ministers many years before, after I had preached on John 13 and then we knelt and washed the feet of our Indian brothers. We wanted to let them know that we had come to serve them. I challenged them to carry that scrap of towel with them always, to remind them of Christ washing our feet and calling us to do the same for one another. Years later, my friend still carried it. He still remembered. I was humbled. I knew he had been faithful. Had I?

I am thankful for my evangelical heritage that stresses service in the name of Christ for a lost and hurting world. Frankly, on the congregational level at least, I don’t think there is another tradition that comes close to evangelicalism in encouraging people to serve, especially with regard to being vocal about the faith, sharing the gospel, planting churches, and pursuing distinctively Christian vocations.

There are aspects of evangelicalism’s activism and participation in mission that can be rightly critiqued. If you want to read about some of the problems I’ve encountered, a good place to start would be the post, “My Issues with Evangelicalism: (3) Mission.”

Today I just want to say that I am forever grateful for those who have taught me and exemplified for me the way of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.

Comments

  1. Another Mary says:

    Thank you.

  2. Rick Ro. says:

    “Today I just want to say that I am forever grateful for those who have taught me and exemplified for me the way of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.”

    Cool, Chaplain Mike. Very nice sentiment. Yes, we can all look back and be grateful for the people who helped shape our walks.

  3. It’s great to re-hear some of the positive aspects of evangelicalism; the kind of thing I had known about, but haven’t always properly appreciated. Perhaps starting with what’s good in evangelicalism will help bring some reconciliation if, like me, one needs to be reconciled.

  4. Robespierre says:

    Thanks Chaplain Mike. Refreshing and encouraging.

  5. There are several things in evangelicalism that can be criticized, but there are also a lot of good people doing good work in the name of Christ. Thank you for this post.

  6. This is what keeps me in the evangelical world. i can learn from other traditions but unless I am working it out in service it’s just head knowledge for me.

  7. Thank you for an all-to-rare positive post….especially as regards a favorite “whipping-post’, evangelicalism….on this site. This echoes my experiences, for the most part….in the more than 1/2 century I spent in a wide variety of “Evangelical/Charismatic” fellowships, before I opted out of “churchianity” some 5 years ago.

  8. Thank you, CM, for your positive comments. Much needed, much appreciated.

    PS: It’s 10.00a MDT and only 8 comments posted so far (counting mine). By contrast there were 135 comments posted yesterday in a less positive post. Association? Causation?

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Maybe everyone agrees with getting busy (mission), but we don’t agree on why (pietism)?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Pretty much. It is hard to have much to say on this issue without getting into the weeds.

        The first church of my choosing was Evangelical. They helped open a center for women, mostly about pregnancy, in a the crappy little town they were in. There is no doubt that was a need and it helped a lot of people in a place afflicted by poverty and a steadily declining industrial base leaving people with menial and agricultural work [both of which don’t pay a livable wage]. In those kinds of situations women fare the worst out of anyone. That church did some good things.

        It is hard to ignore the trailer park poverty when your church sits next to it.

        I do have doubts if this is a core value of Evangelicalism – or at least if it is a core value of *wealthy* Evangelicalism. In my experience Wealthy Evangelicalism has a different approach to Mission than hard-scrabble Evangelicalism – the later is forced to deal with the real world while the former can afford the luxury of dealing with it from a ‘safe’ anti-septic distance. It is very hard for me to decouple Wealthy Evangelicalism from naked, and often ruthless [at least in rhetoric], Classism.

        • The church I pastor (going on 21 years now) is located in a middle class community, yet “upscale” by New Mexico standards (we’re one of the poorest states).

          And yet, we managed to raise about $300,000 to build a Care Net facility which we lease to them for $1 a year. The bulk of the funds came from our own members. We’re about 200 (if everyone shows up on any given Sunday) and our average annual family salary is probably around $50K. Yes, it took us close to 10 years to complete the project. But babies are saved (physically, for now, and hopefully, spiritually as well in the future) and frightened and destitute mothers hear the gospel.

          We also help families in need, more often than not outside our church, paying off their utility bills, medical expenses, giving them cards for fuel, groceries, and such. We have also sent teams to Mexico to build houses, etc. And in this respect I find that we’re not a whole lot different than other Evangelical churches in our community, some of which do more than we do so in certain areas.

          Oh, I forgot to mention… I seldom hear anyone in our church criticizing anyone from another tradition.

          • “babies are saved (physically, for now, and hopefully, spiritually as well in the future)”

            Now, hopefully those babies are part of the elect, Calvin Cuban.

            ”I seldom hear anyone in our church criticizing anyone from another tradition.”

            That’s good to hear. I really think, as it relates to this topic, that getting our hands dirty in serving others in light of our common humanity is one of the best ways, if not THE best way, for those who have profound disagreements to put them aside and join together.

            I’ve found that most of the criticism happens behind closed doors (or online) where it’s “safer” to do so though. And I wonder how much the average layperson is even aware of the (at times) profound differences between traditions. I think it’s fair to discuss these profound differences and their practical impact, even when it’s harsh, and this site has a more diverse set of active participants than any other that I’m aware of. That’s a strength. No doubt the majority of readers here are probably “post-evangelical” in some capacity (that IS the self-described perspective on IM, just like other sites have their own distinct approaches). Some things are too important, too personal, and come with too much pain and baggage to not have heated and emotional disagreements.

          • “Now, hopefully those babies are part of the elect, Calvin Cuban.” I’ll have to add that one to my repertoire of Calvinist jokes. Seriously, thanks!

            I think perhaps there is a misconception here between constructive criticism and destructive diatribe. The former is mentioned as wisdom in Proverbs in several places, both the exercise of it by the reprover and the benefit to the receiver. It usually goes something like, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9.8) But such wisdom must also be “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3.17)

            But the latter is simply useless–worse than useless, actually–as it has as its end not the benefit of the one being criticized but his/her downfall. If I understand the teaching of Christ correctly, especially those with regards being a good servant, it appears to me that in God’s economy one advances in the kingdom (so to speak) by assisting another to get ahead (is this not what Christ did at the cross?). This is unheard of in the marketplace where competition necessitates that one promote him/herself even at the expense of another. You may have heard it said, “there is no grace in the marketplace.”

            It’s somewhat similar, albeit absolutely useless, in the blogosphere as the expected outcome is more ego related than the acquisition of wealth and power. Consider, for example, the focus of much of the criticism on this site. It is usually aimed at Evangelicals, first and foremost, then within that tradition the diatribe reaches a crescendo if the person is also a Southern Baptist, Calvinist, Complementarian and/or Dispensationalist (I’m sure I left something out–oh yeah, social conservative). By attacking and pointing out the faults of Evangelicals some here feel better about themselves. Especially when it can be dome by remote control rather than looking at them in the eye. Is this not true?

            Or perhaps some here think that everyone outside of Evangelicalism s*** marble!

          • StuartB says:

            Anyone want to talk about the connection between Calvinist depravity theology and the Pearl’s child raising methods?

            Anyone?

            Nah, save that for a rainy day…

          • OK, I’ll take the bait. What is this so-called “connection between Calvinist depravity theology and the Pearl’s child raising methods”?

            I have a fairly good grasp on the doctrines of grace, but I’ve never heard of the Pearls or their child raising methods.

          • CC,

            That certainly wasn’t a joke. I have a 2 year old and I take that particular teaching and it’s implications very seriously.

            Would you say there’s something in-between constructive criticism and destructive diatribe? It’s either one or the other?

            The vast majority of the time, discussion is targeted at specific ideas and/or the effect of ideas, not people. Ideas that, at times, people believe to be fundamentally wrong. Yes, ideas and the people who espouse them are often inseparable, but I still think that the comments are mostly tied to the idea. And to the degree that they aren’t, IM certainly isn’t unique to the rest of the blogosphere. I just don’t get why IM is all of a sudden being singled out for this. I’ve never seen any voice silenced for having a particular opinion. Debated and disagreed with, of course.

            I rarely see anything cross the line personally though. Anything overly personal is moderated. But it does happen and goes both ways. Some of the stuff on Rachel Held Evans was the nastiest I’ve seen.

          • Well, if it wasn’t a joke it sure sounded like one. And I am glad that you take the doctrines of grace seriously. I, too have children, grown now, and a grandchild on the way. I take comfort both in my children’s Christian faith and God’s mercies towards my unborn grandchild. You and I apparently have a different perspective on this. And that’s OK with me. I guess I would need to know what your concerns are in this case so that I may address it with more clarity.

            Is there something in between constructive criticism and destructive diatribe? I suppose there is. And although I cannot speak for anyone’s intention, I can pretty much tell one from the other by the way an position is stated.

            For instance, when a particular tradition is berated as much as Evangelicalism is on this site, especially when other traditions are generally given a pass, I would say that wisdom, as described in James 3.17, is generally lacking. So yes, some of what is posted here is over the line. Lots of bitterness, in my estimation. I could say the same about my experiences as a former Roman Catholic, but I won’t.

            But today’s post was refreshing.

            And I’m puzzled as to why you would think I’m singling out IM. I am aware of other sites equally, if not more, critical of Evangelicalism (e.g., patheos.com).

            As for Rachel Evans, I’ve never said or written anything about her one way or the other.

          • My comment related to the “L” in TULIP and the entire predestination schematic surrounding this “doctrine of grace”. I could provide plenty of quotes, but not something worth discussing in a blog comment.

            Patheos has about 500 blogs of all theological stripes.

            I’m not singling you out, but moreso the general idea of your “berating evangelicalism” framework.

          • And are you referring to the posts themselves as “berating evangelicalism” or the comments?

            As far as the # of comments are concerned (from one of your other comments), I think anything controversial gets more hits. Not as polarizing a topic here.

          • The “L” in TULIP, “Limited Atonement” is disputed even among Calvinists. Some believe that Christ died only for the sins of the elect while others believe He died for the sins of all but only the elect benefit from it. The end result is the same, i.e., only the elect are saved, but the means are not the same.

            I must admit I do not visit Patheos frequently, but I what have seen is either neutral or critical of Evangelicalism and mostly progressive in nature.

            The IM posts themselves are good and not directly “berating Evangelicalism.” However I find that whenever someone is singled out it is usually an Evangelical and a Calvinist at that (e.g., Albert Mohler, Matt Chandler, Jon MacArthur, Mark Driscoll). Now, all of these guys are sinners, and I suppose that some criticism is warranted is warranted now and then. But it seems to be an opportunity for folks with all sorts of ill feelings towards Evangelicalism to pounce on them.

            But here’s my question… When was the last time you read here about a RC, EO or Anglican priest or higher up or Lutheran minister singled out for something they said or wrote or did? I’m sure there’s something in the archives to that effect but in the three years I’ve visited this site I haven’t seen it. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it appears to me that Evangelical leaders are mostly (exclusively?) singled out here for scrutiny.

            And yes, it’s in the comments where one finds the greatest amount of diatribe against Evangelicals, Calvinists, Southern Baptists, and so on.

        • StuartB says:

          Good points. I see some mission work from the upper/classist types of churches, but mostly through donations…Habits for Humanity in Haiti, that kind of thing. It tends to be a very foreign mission field focused work. Whereas, locally, “missions” tends to mean “let’s plant more satellite churches to reach more people for Christ”…and that I can never get behind.

    • StuartB says:

      I don’t know, I caught the snark from the comments earlier on today and just wanted to stay away.

      Those who think iMonk has nothing good to say about evangelicalism do not pay attention. You see what you want to see.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        +1.

        Agreed. It’s a blog-site devoted to people in the post-evangelical wilderness. It’s frequented by people damaged by churchianity and religiosity. Criticism of evangelicalism will be natural here, but as an evangelical myself, I never find it offensive. It’s good to hear the voices of the damaged and think about how we can do things better and avoid the bad things. And I think there are plenty of articles and comments supportive of evangelicalism.

        • StuartB says:

          Amen.

          I know I speak my mind on things, but it comes from years of being silenced and beaten down for having a differing opinion. It’s freeing to voice questions and concerns and random thoughts, although the tone always needs work and checking on.

      • Yeah, I can see how the comments section can be off-putting sometimes with the snark and intense dislike and negativity that some people express. But on the whole, this site is just as strongly calling people TO a better evangelicalism (notwithstanding the “post-” prefix), quotes a myriad of evangelical thinkers and leaders positively (Peterson, Willard, Wright, et al), has had evangelical writers writing for it (Mike Bell, Jeff Dunn), and frequently points out positive aspects of the movement. It’s actually pretty balanced in its view, I’ve always thought.

        • StuartB says:

          But on the whole, this site is just as strongly calling people TO a better evangelicalism

          And that’s key. But for some, any criticism is abhorrent. Why can’t we all just get along, etc…which means doing things my way or else.

          No. We can grow and be better.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I didn’t see yesterday’s post as less positive at all. In fact, I saw a bunch of agreement.

      • StuartB says:

        I installed some site blocker software on my work computer, so I’ll see such agreement in 30 minutes or less per day, lol.

  9. Oldprophet says:

    Some nice words about Evangelicals? Wow, maybe I should reconsider my decision not to comment here any more.

    • Sounds as though you just did (i.e., reconsider posting here). Good for you!

      A while back I stopped posting comments here for the same reason but later decided that a minority voice (minority in this site, not elsewhere) needs to be heard, even if some of the comments are over-the-top–or better yet, down in the gutter.

    • We’d sure love it if you’d hang around.

    • StuartB says:

      Missions, like evangelicalism, is a very important topic with much good and much bad. Nothing is above criticism, and at times the criticism needs to be harsh in proportion to the harm it can cause.

      Stick around, OP, we’re all learning and growing together.

    • OP, you and I disagree on a lot of things – but I think it is great that you have commented here, and I hope you continue. Your voice is needed.

  10. StuartB says:

    I don’t think any of us would be here at iMonk, let alone identify strongly as post-evangelical, if we didn’t sincerely and powerfully love the evangelical church. Yes, we hate the parts we hate, and we want desperately to see the evangelical church grow and change, but we all still care deeply and strongly for what it could be.

    The snark is not appreciated. Don’t mistake our criticism and desire for change as bashing or hatred or bitterness. There’s pain, there’s also healing. There’s disappointment, and there’s also hope. We serve a God who makes all things new, who redeems, who lifts up, who purifies and fixes. Don’t bring the opposite spirit here, please.

    • StuartB, I can’t express how much I appreciate this one post from you. It’s so good to hear your heart on this matter. I have long thought that it is your voice that makes the comments section an unsafe place to comment in. Now I feel I understand better the spirit of your participation. God bless.

      • StuartB says:

        andie, there are also several people who I don’t feel safe commenting around on this blog either. It’s been a struggle to be heard at times, and especially understood. I apologize if I’m that person for you.

    • Stuart – yes to everything you said in this comment!

  11. CM, i take it you haven’t had much exposure to Catholic involvement in social services, working with the poor, etc.? Because that is a long-established thing in the RCC here in the US, and in many other places. I do not think evangelicals have a unique claim in this area, but that’s just me.

    • Numo, don’t mistake my praise for evangelicalism here with a dismissal of other traditions. I’m writing in this series about my own journey and how I reflect on evangelicalism now as a post-evangelical. The limits of the series are defined by those parameters.

      • Gotcha. Still, I think maybe a little more qualification re. “I think evangelicalism does this best”? (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting you – on phone.)

      • I also am unclear on what you mean by “mission.” Are you talking about social work-type stuff, or evangelizing, or both, or something else, or???

        Sorry; these are sincere questions. I read your post, but am still uncertain as to what you mean by “mission.” That might be because I have a ral allergy to conversionism and rah-rah evangelism these days.

        • I used the broader term “mission” so as to include a variety of types of service. You can see that in the specific examples. There has always been a lively debate within evangelicalism about the relative merits of evangelism/church planting vs. works of social justice and mercy. I don’t care to get into that today.

          • I wondered re. your choice of words, and can see why you might want to skirt the issue. That said, it’s the elephant in the room.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            There has always been a lively debate within evangelicalism about the relative merits of evangelism/church planting vs. works of social justice and mercy.

            And both a Social Gospel without personal salvation and a Gospel of Personal Salvation and Only Personal Salvation are both out-of-balance to the point of destructiveness.

  12. Stephen says:

    I remain conflicted about evangelism.

    There is a big difference between “ministering” and ‘missionizing”. The Church too often elides this distinction. No one would seriously deny the merit of feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and comforting the afflicted. But I am troubled by the way we equate that with trying to convert people to our way of thinking. And too often in the past the Church has held the needs of people hostage to their acceptance of our way of thinking.

    The most pious and spiritual person I know is a Hindu. She faithfully practices her tradition and tries to embody it as best she can in her daily life. If she was hurting I would try to comfort her. If she was thirsty I would give her drink. But I cannot see how her life would be appreciably improved by converting to another religion.

    • StuartB says:

      But I cannot see how her life would be appreciably improved by converting to another religion.

      This is where I’d snarkily say something by putting words into the mouth of the typical evangelical, something like “oh but what about her eternal soul, don’t you care about that?” I’d say that, in the hopes people would see what a kneejerk response that can be, and not see what you, Stephen, are getting at with your comment.

      In all practicality, no, her life would not be approved by switching religion. I’ve long come to the conclusion that most people’s lives wouldn’t be improved by switching to Christianity, but it mostly depends who helps them or which brand they join. Typically, however, they’d end off worse. The best parts of them would be changed and corrupted, and your friend would be gone.

      But there’s always hope. Many times, years later, that person comes back to who they were before their conversion. Amen.

      • StuartB, can you comment more on this bit: “In all practicality, no, her life would not be approved by switching religion. I’ve long come to the conclusion that most people’s lives wouldn’t be improved by switching to Christianity, but it mostly depends who helps them or which brand they join. Typically, however, they’d end off worse. The best parts of them would be changed and corrupted, and your friend would be gone.”

        I’m coming from this perspective–My parents were born in post-war China, and due to missionizing that colluded with the government, my paternal grandfather was severely allergic to Christianity and Christians. However, one of my uncles was converted to the Protestant strain of Christianity and when he asked his father about wanting to get baptized, he was run out of the house with a clever. Nevertheless, that uncle went forward with it and my father followed him despite attending a Jesuit school that was hostile to Protestants. So that is what that is.

        Fast forward to my childhood. It did not take long for me to notice that I was being raised very differently from my other Chinese-American friends. I attribute that to my parents allowing Jesus to shape their lives over their primary cultural impulse. I feel I benefited profoundly from their Jesus-oriented lives versus devout Confucianism which even my paternal grandfather turned from in his 60s.

        This is not to say my parents are perfect or my uncles all leaders in their evangelical churches. They suffer some of the blights of the evangelical tradition, nevertheless, I benefited from growing up under them.

        • StuartB says:

          I come from Baptist fundamentalism with way too long of a time in charismatic fundamentalism. I observed many of my friends start coming around and…change. At some point, they may make a profession of faith, get baptized, but overall their trajectory seemed to be to soak up as much Rush Limbaugh and abberant theology as they could. They became mean, whereas before they were gentle. Where once they thought for themselves, they started to check their brain at the door. They worshipped at the altar of Fox News and developed a Christian persecution complex.

          They were mature…they voluntarily gave up their adulthood and personal autonomy. And I was right there with them at times. Some of us found our way back to being normal, but not all of us.

          That’s what I mean when I say it wouldn’t improve their lives. The Christianity I grew up in and was most exposed to, it tended to ruin and corrupt. No fruit of the spirit, no grace. Changed lives in the sense of following new laws, believing the “right” things, fighting the culture wars they were told were important.

          They lost themselves, and who they found was not Jesus, nor an idealized version of themselves.

          • Thanks, StuartB. That is awful, and I’m sorry it hear it for you and for your friends. Yes. It would be evil to invite even an enemy to that “Christianity”.

            To bend the conversation a bit, what does a Jesus-orientation or re-orientation look like for a devout, charitable member of a different religion? I’m thinking about people like a Jewish prof I had who, while having his faults, was an avuncular presence in my studies (in contrast to the emotionally abusive prof I worked for).

            Or my sainted aunt who is culturally Morman? (She married my non-Mormon uncle for starters, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t go to Sunday services and hasn’t for years although both her kids went to BYU and married Mormons,) She and my uncle are people I want to hang out with. I love my other 20-odd aunts and uncles, but these are the ones I’d want to take a long road trip with. What would “conversion” be for her? What would pointing to Jesus look like for someone like her?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “””I’ve long come to the conclusion that most people’s lives wouldn’t be improved by switching to Christianity, but it mostly depends who helps them or which brand they join. Typically, however, they’d end off worse. “””

        Ditto. I agree completely on this one.

        If I ever wrote a book – and goodness I have stacks of notes and research – it would be on this topic.

        However I would disagree on terms -it is not Christianity. It is what here is called Pietism, but I would prefer to call an Eschatological World View. EWV has a devastating effect both on individuals and their communities. It seems clear that EWV is linked to economic decline. The belief in inevitable decline and the concomitant distrust of institutions neuters people to improve their condition – as principally the only way to improve ones condition in the modern world is *via* affiliation.

        And Evangelicalism, wealthy or poor, is the principle barrier of the EWV message. For all the specific local good a congregation may do so much of the positive possible impacts are unraveled by EWV; it may help the struggling woman, but it also works to keep her world confined to the trailer park.

        As the communities of my youth crumbled there were two loud responses (a) Jesus will be returning soon! All the world is sin and despair. Wait patiently – or – (b) What can we do? Who do we call? Let’s think outside the box, get down and dirty with specifics. Which communities struggled more or for longer? Do we even need to ask.

        Love tainted with EWV is ultimately Love in shackles.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          However I would disagree on terms -it is not Christianity. It is what here is called Pietism, but I would prefer to call an Eschatological World View.

          “Eschatological” in the sense of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay, Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist and It’s All Gonna Burn (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)?

          That’s just Nihilism with a Christian coat of paint, Lindsay’s “Christianization” of the “Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War” expectations of the mid-to-late Cold War. Either way, There is No Future and It’s All Over But the Screaming.

          “Remember when we were young and We Had No Future? Well, THIS IS IT.”
          — Blank Reg, Max Headroom

    • Christiane says:

      something to consider about ‘missions’ and other faiths from ‘Redemptoris Missio’, this:
      ” The Church’s relationship with other religions is dictated by a twofold respect:
      “Respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life,
      and respect for the action of the Spirit in man
      . . . every authentic prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in every human heart.”

      Being human, we grow tired of waiting for ‘results’ and want to see our efforts come to maturity quickly.
      When we are too ‘impatient’ for our efforts to produce fruit, there is this to think about also:

      ““It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
      The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
      it is even beyond our vision.
      We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
      of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
      Nothing we do is complete,
      which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
      No statement says all that could be said.
      No prayer fully expresses our faith.
      No confession brings perfection.
      No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
      No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
      No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
      This is what we are about.
      We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
      We water seeds already planted,
      knowing that they hold future promise.
      We lay foundations that will need further development.
      We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
      We cannot do everything,
      and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
      This enables us to do something,
      and to do it very well.
      It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
      We may never see the end results . . . ” (from a prayer by Oscar Romero, Christian martyr)

  13. Nice post. Thanks