Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learning from those who are different, but better

I'm in lovely San Diego right now. It really is lovely here by the way (you were right Adri). I'm attending the National Outreach Convention put on by Outreach Media Group. Unfortunately, one of the few presenters I'd really heard of and desired to see, Ed Stetzer, is speaking after my mother and I are leaving. Oh well.

I definitely feel the diversity of the body of Christ. I'm surely the only PCA person here (although I can't prove that), or at least that's what it seems to me. Lots of Baptists, Independents, Methodists, some Lutherans, but lots of other folks as well. There are a bajillion little exhibits, tons of books, publishers (I always dream of being published one day so I "networked" during breakfast with fellow exhibitors-though I'm really not one.....) and some great speakers here that have been quite challenging.

So why did I leave behind my wife and little baby for this trip? And it wasn't easy by the way. Other than the fact that my conference fee was completely funded by the ministry Somebody Cares to be an exhibitor (that feels a bit weird but as long as I'm not behind the table no one reads my name tag and asks me questions!) and my mother's purchasing the plane ticket, why would I come here and listen to folks who definitely have different theological leanings?

Because they have a greater passion for outreach than I do, along with greater applications for actually bringing people to faith and discipling them. That much is shamefully clear.
Someone already established at Hope-it's easier to criticize and actually be constructive when you are part of that which you're criticizing-gave some thoughts on my denomination the PCA. He matter-of-factly said, "It seems like the PCA is a Grad School for Christians. They come to a PCA church not because they've been converted to Christianity through a PCA church, but because they've been a Christian a while, are interested in theology, and read R.C. Sproul."

I laughed my head off when I heard it. Sad, but funny. Sad, but very true to life. Now I don't want to leave my denomination because I think I do think its the "best show in town." But it's not the only show in town. And it needs to grow in this area, among others. I will gladly learn from these others who may not agree with me on the non-essentials of the faith, but currently know way more and do way more in this area. They have much to instruct us on evangelism. More thoughts on that later. I hate (or rather don't) read long blog posts (hopefully I haven't lost you by now), and I assume you may be like me.


Randy Greenwald said...

Glad the time is going well. Should we prepare to institute an altar call? :-)

Here is the question: Why do those around whom you are now hanging have a greater passion for the lost?

BTW, I love your new picture.

And my verification word is 'behessi'. That's 'wings' in Swahili... :-)

Geoffsnook said...


Hmmm...An altar call? Someone whom I respect in our presbytery informed me that he was going to do one on a specific Sunday. Not really my bag.

The real question is quite good. Why do some people have a passion and others don't, or have less of a passion? They could love Jesus more, or are more aware of His love for them (Piper's whole thesis of we commending most what we cherish most). We have to be open to that. They might simply find more joy in sharing their faith (again Piper stuff). They might simply enjoy spending time with non-Christians more so than Christians. I can understand that. It might be somewhat theological-they see the church's responsibility to go forth and make disciples as opposed to hiding and hoping they come to us. Maybe they had someone involved in their lives who lived it out before them and they just caught the vision. Maybe a combination of the above. Just some thoughts.

I have some folks in my life who have a great passion for those outside Christ. Maybe I should just ask them myself? That's a novel thought, eh?

J. Wesley said...

It is weird -- the PCA is off-the-charts when it comes to missionary work. And we're awesome with the urban church planting. But we seem kinda feeble at times with the personal evangelism.

PCAers admirably avoid shotgunning people with the Gospel. They emphasize lifestyle and relational evangelism, which is cool. But I think we sometimes take such a go-slow approach that it becomes almost glacial.

Having seen a lot of PCA churches, I think another problem is that personal evangelism is simply not on the radar for a LOT of our people. I include myself in this -- I'm not nearly as faithful in my outreach as I should be.

Social groups create norms which members then use to regulate their behavior. It should be the norm to have at least one or two unbelievers you are faithfully reaching with the Gospel. It should be the norm for mature Christians to be discipling new believers. I think sometimes the PCA does a bad job of creating this generalized sense that OF COURSE you should be evangelizing on a regular basis.

Don't get me wrong. I adore the PCA. And we feed Jesus's sheep better than any church I've seen. I think, however, that we're sometimes a bit weak on bringing new sheep into the flock.

Geoffsnook said...

J. Wesley,

I totally agree with you bro. I move slow. Probably too slow usually. I did jump the gun with a neighbor once, and he was pretty much weird to me from that point on. Of course he was weird to most folks, so that may have had nothing to do with it.

People ought to have one or two people (not 15) in whom they develop relationships with in hopes to share the gospel and bring them into the fellowship of believers. This really goes without saying, but it is NOT on people's radars.
This should be NORMAL, not abnormal.

We need to love God more. And we need to love people more.

How will this change? I guess prayer, modeling it before others, challenging others, involving others, and getting those who actually "get it" to challenge others. Hopefully it can become contagious.

Ultimately there is far more joy in reaching out than just isolating yourself from non-believers.

Feel free to critique the PCA. I like it, but if we think we've arrived, we're not being true to our Reformed (always reforming) roots!