The title of this post made me laugh, because it makes me sound arrogant and a know-it-all.
But, I find myself in a situation I never thought I’d find myself: pushing for evangelism.
I hate talking to new people. It drains a lot out of me.
The meet n’ greet line at the end of services, that, and the passing of the peace when I am not leading worship is my least favorite time in worship.
And then there’s all the negative association with evangelism that many are familiar with, that always led me away from evangelizing.
The blow horn guy.
The sign holder guy.
The tract passing people.
The ‘Believe or Burn in Hell’ message.
I got into a conversation with my brother about this topic.
He told me about how this one church went ‘fishing’ for people.
Immediately, I felt a shudder. I don’t know why. I know that this church had the best of intention, but to tell them let’s go fishing (though we are to be fishers of people, I get that) it sends a weird message. At least for me. Because think about when you go fishing. I rarely consider that fish have feelings. I’m only successful at that fishing trip when I catch more than one. After I catch the fish, I either leave them in a bucket (if we’re at a pier) or have them on a ‘leash’ (what’s the term for that?) in the water next to me. Either way, not happy time for the fish. And then what happens afterward the fishing trip? In my house, we eat the fish.
When we go fishing, it’s never about the fish really, it’s about the moment when you’re trying to reel in the fish. The fight. The struggle. Man vs. Beast… er.. fish. What happens to the fish after the struggle, it’s usually an afterthought. Or a meal.
And for me, that’s the first thing that came into mind when my brother said “they wanted the kids to go fishing.” It wasn’t about the people, but about the experience. I’m sure it really wasn’t about the people, because I don’t think we sometimes understand that people don’t want their meals interrupted to hear our interpretation of the Gospel.
I asked him what the goal was for this fishing trip. And he said “to pray over them.”
I thought that meant that the youth would gather names and then go to church and pray over them. Which is a really cool idea.
He said, “uh no. the goal was to pray for/over them at that moment.”
I was at a Starbucks earlier this year. I ended up talking to a group of youth pastors and sharing stories of ministry and God. At the end, they wanted to pray for me.
So here we are, outside of Starbucks. These three huge men surrounding my chair, all of them placing their hands on my shoulders.
I have to say, that wasn’t the best of times for me. It just felt really, really weird and I felt really, really uncomfortable. I don’t know why I felt so uncomfortable. Was it because it was such a public place? Was it because these guys I’ve only talked to for 10 minutes were touching me? Was it because these complete strangers were praying over me for something they have no idea about? I don’t know what it was. But I felt extremely uncomfortable. It’s not because I never been prayed over. I have the dad that places his hands on my head and as he prays over me, he shoves my head down here and there and after the prayer, not only do I feel blessed but I have a sore neck.
If I was this uncomfortable with a situation that happens routinely within the church, how would people who never been routinely in church feel about it?
As I feel God pushing me (against my will, and believe me, I’m kicking and screaming. The mental picture is of parents desperately trying to get their child out of the toy store) my eyes are being open to a different brand of evangelism: Listening.
In the few times I’ve mustered up enough courage (and caffeine, my version of liquid courage) to engage in conversation, I learned something real quick. Talking to already Christians is a difficult experience. Somehow, we just don’t listen.
And on the flip side, people love to talk and give their opinions. On almost anything. Yes. Even about God and Jesus, regardless if they go to church or never stepped into one.
And when you really listen to people give their thoughts about the Bible, Christianity, God, Christians, Jesus, etc. they’re willing to hear you out.
What I’ve been learning is that the main point isn’t that I’m right and they need to know why I’m right, but to sit and share stories. To listen to why God doesn’t make sense in their lives. Or how they were hurt deeply by Christians.
And another lesson I’m learning is humility. Listening helps you become humble because if you’re quick to listen, you’re slower to speak and slower to give your ideas, slower to correct, slower to argue.
This isn’t a fishing trip. You’re not going to get “results” in the first conversation. In fact you may never see that person again. I guess it’s more similar to letting the fish go hoping you didn’t harm it with your hook. And hope that in the conversation that just took place, God will do God’s thing in that person heart.
It’s an opportunity to learn. These people have something they can teach or show us, something that we may be missing because we’re so deep in church culture. It helps us sort of measure the pulse of the real world out there. Because let’s be honest. In our communities, especially in Southern California, the people who go to church faithfully every week are in the minority.
It’s not about how much I know and how much of that knowledge I want them to hear.
It’s just sitting and willing to listen to someone’s story. And that’s counter-cultural, in my opinion. We want to be heard. If you’re loud enough people will listen, even if you’re dead wrong. And in a culture where every opinion needs to be heard, taking the time to hear some those opinions can be a moment changer and even a mind changer.
As a pastor, I will always get heard. In meetings. In Bible Studies. Especially on Sundays.
I think it’s good practice to spend the other days listening.