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Too Busy for 'Presence'

19 July, 2004 9:06 AM

Thanks for the well wishers and encouragement that people left in the last post. I appreciate your kind words.

Last night I spoke at the church my brother and sister-in-law work at (it does run in the family). It was a good night. I spoke about Mission using the 4 P's of mission material that I have previously posted about here.

Last week I was speaking to someone about this approach to mission and they told me that it was an 'interesting' way to look at it, but that they just didn't have time to develop 'presence' with any new people. They said that they were in so many relationships with people that they couldn't possibly commit to any more. We unpacked the relationships that they were in and soon found that every single one of them was with other believers. The other reason they were so busy was that they were so heavily involved in church activities (2 services a week, one bible study, worship team practice, occasional preaching duties, prayer meetings, deacon's meetings and a men's breakfast once a month).

They simply didn't have time for mission because they were so busy in deep relationships with Christians and doing Church activities.

Something has to give doesn't it? Either we excuse ourselves from the great commission or we perhaps need to make some room in our lives to actually respond to it and develop significant relationships with those who do not belong to our communities.



This is a really important point Darren. But it is not just about making room in our lives for 'mission'. It's also about making room in our lives for people - especially non-Christians - in the first place. It is so much easier to fill up your time with 'activities'. I think most of us have fallen into the trap of building-centred and program-centred church life at some time and mistaken that for being a 'committed Christian'. *run away, run away*

Nevertheless, some Christians I know don't want to associate with non-Christians unless there is some sort of aim to 'convert' them. The possibility of just being friends seems to be out of the question. You know, we will get tainted an all that, bad influence on the kids etc. Not sure how that reasoning works given that most of us work, shop, go to school, etc etc with non-Christians all day every day and watch TV, movies, read books, newspapers etc by non-Christians as well. To me that sort of mindset suggests a very one-dimensional view of what it means to be part of the people of God, of doing mission, of us being salt and light, of us being human participants in the divine action.

I also can't understand Christians who are perfectly normal, balanced people who socialise well and yet, when they are put in a slightly more intimate setting where they have to relate to a non-Christian (e.g. when invited out for coffee with 2 or three people who may be non-Christian), go all ga-ga and get tongue tied. I have seen this time and time again and I don't know what gives.

I also need to tell you that according to some Christians I have met down here, I am a total heathen because most of my friends are, and nearly all of my socializing is with...non-Christians. And I never invite them to my "church." *gasp*

So my opinion above should be taken with a very large bucket of salt or discarded altogether.


saint » 20 July, 2004 3:18 AM

Interesting, saint. I'd guess that the reason you see Christians "go all ga-ga and get tongue tied" around non-Christians is because they feel this obligation of guilt to "share the gospel" -- meaning, of course, to forcibly alter the conversation so that they can expound points of doctrine. I used to feel this way, especially when told from the pulpit about a great evangelist of the past who said, "God forbid that I should share a carriage with a person for more than 15 minutes and not inquire as to the state of their soul." Never mind that the social context is utterly different today -- if you weren't "sharing the gospel" every time you were in the same room as a non-Christian, you were obviously a failure.

Thankfully I have had my mind stretched about what it means to "share the gospel", or even what the gospel is to begin with. A pastor friend of mine said, "If your evangelizing isn't working, stop evangelizing." I decided to stop "evangelizing" my friends, to their relief and mine -- and have shared many more interesting conversations about spiritual things as a direct result.

Jon Reid » 21 July, 2004 4:54 AM

"..because they feel this obligation of guilt to "share the gospel" -- meaning, of course, to forcibly alter the conversation so that they can expound points of doctrine."

You may have nailed it Jon...and on thinking about what you wrote some more, I also wonder too if part of the problem - with making room for 'presence' and with Christians going ga-ga - is not just the guilt bit, but the fact that we don't really understand what the gospel is. It took me many years for example, to realise that the good news of Christ is not about how to get saved or a system of doctrine which you must believe. Or that I myself can't 'save' anyone - that job's already been done. And like you I noticed that things happened once I let go of that misconception.

At the same time, I don't want to let go of mission done in community. There is a way for example, that a good Christian marriage, or a Christian community - whether it consists of of three people or three hundred - proclaims the gospel in a way that no individual can.

saint » 21 July, 2004 6:56 AM

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