J.S. Park

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Posts tagged with "jesus"

jspark3000:

You know, us Christian bros need to stick together.  There’s enough hate and envy out there.  We need loyalty and fist-bumps and long talks about Jesus.

— J

Do Christians Have “Stockholm Syndrome” And Make Excuses For Their Abusive God?

eternallyforevereverythinglove said:

Hello! What do you think about the statement that Christians (and generally believers) have Stockholm Syndrome? I’ve picked this up somewhere and did some research. It’d make sense and it makes me feel weird about my faith now. Thanks and God bless!

 

Hey there my friend: I took some time to read about this, and it seems to be a new form of the argument that “Christians are brainwashed into unquestioning belief and indoctrinated to their oppressive church institutions and cultures.” 

Like all accusations against the Christian faith, there is always an element of truth to them because people are people, and we cannot perfectly reflect a perfect God.  We’re messy creatures with mixed motives in a gray-space struggle. 

What I mean is: Any argument against the Christian faith will make some kind of logical sense, because it will make sense against everyone regardless of their affiliation. We can blame religion just as much as we can blame human stupidity.

When someone says, “The church is full of hypocrites” — I always say, “Well that’s why you should go.”  Not in a mean way, but I’m saying: There are hypocrites at businesses, schools, hospitals, fraternities, non-profits, and the White House (gasp!), but the difference is, the church is the one place you can admit it and find healing.  Yes, hypocritical Christians have harmed many of us, and we need to confess that.  But as a tactic to dismiss faith, this is a cheap unthoughtful argument that’s a fluffy insubstantial defense mechanism.  Most of these arguments have NOT gone to the bottom of themselves, at all.

So when someone talks about “Christian brainwashing,” here are a few thoughts to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.

 

1) It’s true that the mainstream church has damaged people with cult-like behavior, and we must absolutely be aware of this and apologize.

If Christians can’t admit this, there’s no point to having this discussion.  When someone slams the church, I always end up agreeing with their criticisms.  I don’t mean that it makes me doubt God: but their feelings are valid and they’ve been genuinely hurt by the church.  We have to start there.  We need to talk about it.  We can’t defend all our behavior, because some of it has been atrocious, and we must apologize. 

Also, here are Five Signs You’re Probably In One Of Those Cults.

 

2) We are all indoctrinated, into a particular system of belief, no matter where we roll.

Most Western individuals don’t realize that they live inside a Post-Enlightenment individualistic “rational” mindset that’s Pavlovian-conditioned to reject anything outside of naturalistic explanation.  Our dear brother C.S. Lewis called this chronological snobbery, in which we believe our current slice of time is far more advanced than other any other time in history. 

We’re largely a product of our times.  We have ALL bought into paradigms that enforce certain restrictions on our values.  Even the value that “I’m above these values” is still a specific constrained worldview.  So when you accuse someone of being brainwashed, you’re just as brainwashed into the opposition of whatever view you’re accusing.

Of course, most Westerners who disagree with Christianity will say “You’re a narrow-minded intolerant bigot.”  A Westernized brain will instantly dismiss the spiritual realm and conservative values.  But dismissing an entire group of people because of their ideology is still an ideology.  To say, “I tolerate everything except intolerance” must deny its very own rule.  

If you’re beholden to your own particular views in fear of betraying your camp or being ridiculed, you’re being held hostage, and this takes a blinding self-rationalization that’s — oh right, just like Stockholm Syndrome.  This happens with both the very religious and the very secular: and if you deny that it happens with you, you’re proving this exact point.  Everyone is a captive to their own particular set of beliefs, no matter where you turn. 

I know what I’m saying will bother the typical Western person (and if you’ve been indoctrinated by secularism long enough, you’ll feel you’re superior to all this too.  You’re not, and neither am I).  But when I was an atheist, I became weary of atheists because they thought they were so enlightened.  When I was a Reformed Calvinist, I became weary of Calvinists because they thought they were so enlightened. 

Really, they were both nearsighted and full of retconning, fanwanking, and preprogrammed defenses for their own little gods.  And as an Eastern-Western hybrid, I recognize the arrogant self-important myopia of both sides.

If you’re still not okay with this, let’s try an experiment.  Stockholm Syndrome says, “I understand why he abused me, it’s probably for the right motives.  I get why he’s correcting me, because there must be a good reason.”  Those are bad rationalizations that could get you killed.  But let’s take that to the opposite extreme.  What if every time my future spouse did the slightest thing I disliked, I suspected a false motive?  And what if every time my future spouse contradicted me, I shut her down?  That wouldn’t be a real marriage.  I’m demanding a robot.

Someone who says, “I don’t want a God who could ever do something I dislike” or “God can’t correct me” really just wants a robot-god.  And someone who is enslaved to Post-Enlightenment Western thinking has already determined their own robot-god too.

 

3) The old argument that “God will send you to Hell if you don’t worship Him, so He must be a terrorist” is a tired argument used by only the most earnest first-time philosophers.

For that, I will point you here:

- Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post

 

4) God’s heart for us is that we freely choose Him.

Christianity in its purest form will invite questioning.  It’s open to deconstruction.  If you’re frustrated with God, you can yell about it, ask about it, shake a fist and vent.  You can disagree and stomp the ground and throw things and yell “Why.”  Just read the Book of Psalms or Jeremiah or Lamentations.  None of the writers were rationalizing what God did, at all.  There was a ton of unresolved tension, and some of my first questions in Heaven will be about that crazy Old Testament.

But really, I believe the God of the Bible is open to our challenges.  He’s okay with all our fist-shaking.  As I’ve said before, I would much rather be mad with God than mad without Him.

Also: Our entire world of false dichotomies forces you into one fixed viewpoint or another.  Most people get upset if you try to re-arrange their bottle of dogma.  Most systems of belief are self-contained dominions where nothing goes in or out.  A Democrat is expected to act one way, a Republican another. 

Which is why Jesus was so wholly unpredictable and angered both sides.  Jesus himself was a safe haven who is not defined by dogmatic party lines, but by his gracious solidarity with real human beings caught in the messy crossfire of a broken world.  There are no clean-cut solutions here.

I’ve managed to piss off both conservatives and liberals with my stance on homosexuality.  Take that how you will.  The Christian is able to keep multiple viewpoints within tension because true Christianity does not usurp our identity, but at once draws out the true self while creating a unified ground. 

In the end, God is not holding us at gunpoint here. He wants us to think for ourselves.  He also has our very best interests at heart, so of course, He would want us to choose Him.  If God was the most glorious being in the entire universe, He would be wrong not to point to Himself as the most worthy of all glory.  But neither He will ever force that upon us, because He gave us the free will to choose.  That’s what makes us human, and not hostages.  God wants the purest relationship with us, without coercion or agenda or even a mutual exchange.  How could we ever give to God more than He ever gives to us?  When we are with Him, it is always an abundance of grace.

I’ll leave you with two wonderful quotes by C.S Lewis once again:

"The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free."

"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

— J.S.

About Mark Driscoll and Idolizing Celebrity Pastors

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It appears Mark Driscoll keeps getting in the news for (mostly true) accusations of plagiarism, misogyny, sneaky use of funds, and being an overall poopy-face who needs a good spanking from John Piper.

Usually with these kinds of public lightning rod meltdowns, the followers emphasize all the great things their leader has done, while the bashers keep bringing up the terrible awful stuff — and so you have one side that’s blind to the obvious flaws, and the other side blind to obvious grace.

Yet the one thing I don’t understand is how Mark Driscoll’s church members get labeled “idolaters” or that they’re “idolizing” him.  Because all this online bashing of Driscoll and blasting other flawed celebrity pastors already points to a problem of idolatry and pedestal-platforms, whether it’s positive or negative, and anti-idolatry is still idolatry. 

There is zero difference between either the blindness of fanboy-ism or the blindness of tacky tabloid cheap shots.

This obsessive fascination with Driscoll’s personal shortcomings, whether you’re attacking him or defending him, points to a pre-existing issue with our encroaching celebrity culture.  The second you jump a Driscoll-defender for protecting him, you yourself have elevated Driscoll to the poster-boy for everything that’s wrong with Christianity, which means you’re legitimizing his pedestal from the other side of the fence.  Just think of how crazy this is.  It’s completely nuts that we’re even able to know about some random pastor in Seattle who messed up a few times and we have a voice to share our opinion. 

I can’t be the only one who thinks we’ve done a terrible job of speaking about this with any kind of thoughtful, productive discussion.

I just wonder what Pastor Mark is going through right now.  He has five kids and a wife.  He’s a fellow brother in Christ, no matter how much we disagree with him.  He’s in a position that no one could ever possibly understand.  His ministry will be tainted forever.  He’s been looking half-dead.  He tried to fess up and apologize, but both the church and the outside world ate him alive.  I wish I could just label him and be done with it: but I can’t.  I can’t so casually dismiss a father and a husband and a fellow pastor with a black-and-white judgment.


I’m not defending his actions.  I’m not saying plagiarism and misogyny are okay (and if you even thought I was endorsing them, then that’s part of the problem of our presumptuous blogosphere).  I just believe that if we think Driscoll is this bad, then this ought to drive us to our knees to pray for him.  It ought to move us to grief and grace, by both acknowledging his wrong and rooting for his restoration. It ought to bring us to question ourselves:

Why do we place such a spotlight on big-name pastors with big churches and big platforms?  Why am I adding this one more voice to a sea of mad voices?  How can I contribute constructively to a dying church culture that needs grace more than ever?

At times I think we’re so intoxicated with the romantic idea of grace that we forget it actually takes a real grit to hang in there with a messed-up brother, and it’s not only for the pretty people worthy of our social redemption.

If you criticize but do nothing, you sort of revoke your own right to criticize.  Anyone can blog from a basement; the true fighter brings love to the trenches.  While we’re all having arguments online to questions that no one is asking: there’s a real world dying out there who needs the hands and feet of Christ.

I could type angry on a keyboard and preach to a blogging choir.  Many bloggers build their fanbase this way.  It’s easy to jump a hater-bandwagon, even if your motives are right.  It’s easy to find something wrong with everything.  But until we are offering a way forward with our sleeves rolled up and our minds full of Christ-driven truth, then we’re only adding to the darkness of a directionless world.  We would only be tightening the strangle-hold of our strange celebrity voyeurism instead of remembering that people are just people, and anyone can lift them up or tear them down, but it takes a special heart to get in there side-by-side in the dirt.  I have failed so often at this too, and I only hope I can examine myself before I throw down the gauntlet on anyone else.  I would hope you do the same for me.  And maybe then we can turn this all around.

— J.S.

Community & the Matter of Comparison

This is important.  Also, Lauren is awesome.

yesdarlingido:

I don’t know much, but one thing I can say with confidence is that the Lord desires for us to experience the beauty of community. He wants to use relational dynamics to engage and grow our hearts. I’d like to acknowledge that many people really struggle with the concept of community. Whether it…

True grace is our rest and resolve. It’s to know that our desperation for validation, approval, and significance is already found in all that God has done for us. It’s work from God’s approval and not for. We can rest. We can quit playing these games of achievement and status and the Olympics and American Idol and Viagra. We can quit squeezing expectations from others which we could only receive from God. We can quit living for ourselves under the weight of a self-absorbed egotistical tyranny. We can quit trying to pay off the gap between who-we-want-to-be and who-we-really-are. Yet — grace also motivates us into the true versions of ourselves. It is the motivation of no-motivation, because we are not trying to “get better” for the sake of improvement, but rather we become better by being loved for the sake of our own essence. We are motivated by beauty rather than practicality or function, because God loves us just-because.

- J.S. from this post

Why I Stopped Helping Porn Addicts

The realest thing I ever wrote.

jspark3000:

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It’s been a few years since I quit porn, and I’ve written and podcasted tons about porn addiction.  I still get random emails and an assortment of friends who ask me for help to quit.  I used to reply eagerly, get in their mess, ask them tough questions, keep them accountable, and keep track of sobriety.

But I had the feeling that most of these dudes were just using me to feel better about their failures and I gave them permission to stay addicted.  I handed them a clean conscience and a delayed adolescence.  I pampered men into whining first-world blame-shifting boys: and it was really my fault.

Inadvertently, I became an enabling cheerleader, a co-conspiring accomplice to their crimes.

I got jaded.  I started thinking it was helpless.  And while I still press in to help, I wave a flag upfront: If you’re not serious about quitting, you’re wasting our time.

 

This probably sounds mean.  But I’ve learned that if you keep saying “Jesus loves you” over and over and over again, it gets old.  It gets abused.  Not because the love of God is inadequate or incomplete, but because our definition of it is so lazy and lacking. 

We easily distort God’s love as some kind of loophole for any kind of behavior, and I’ve seen it used as a get-out-of-jail-free card too many times. Some of your favorite Christian bloggers and pastors are actually a-holes because they treat grace like a cheap dress.  It makes me sick, but really just sad.  They’re the people that Apostle Paul talks about while sobbing, those who live as “enemies of the cross of Christ.”

If you keep saying “God has grace for me” while you stay the same, you have not even begun to understand the implications of the cross.  It’s still just abstract doctrine.  You couldn’t possibly have met the man who carried the cross up a hill to die for you.  You need more grace then, and not less. 

I’m saying all this not because I love you less: but because I love you more.

I know it’s mostly subconscious: almost no one wants to abuse God’s love.  But if you do not define God’s love as a relentless, furious, soul-shattering power that rescues you from death, then you’re left with a tiny two-inch keychain-god who fits in your pocket and can be tossed at your convenience. 

 

So if you ask me or anyone else for help to break your addiction, I exhort you: Please do not ask for help unless you are serious to quit and move forward.  Everyone is willing to help you: but you have to want it for yourself more than we do.  This isn’t some kind of prerequisite.  I will love you anyway, and so does He.  But no one can make you want to quit.  God gave you the gift of free will to choose.

If you’re not serious about it, then go find out why it’s so bad.  Go meet some porn addicts who have destroyed their marriages, families, careers, and their own bodies.  Find them.  Meet the porn addicts who now suffer from ED, have gone bankrupt, and destroyed the lives of young women.  And when you hear enough horror stories, maybe then you’ll really want to quit.  Maybe then you’ll see the depth of God’s love, who loves us even in our worst depravity.

This probably sounds harsh right now.  But that’s the problem, isn’t it?  That we’re not willing to hear the truth about ourselves.  That we’re so entitled to positive thinking and self-esteem that we can’t confront the ugliness inside.  That often times we only ask for help with all the benefits of help, but none of the change.  That we’re willing to be honest, but not do the hard work of leaving sin behind.  That we like all the nice parts of Jesus, but we skip all the difficult things he said. 

 

It’s also easy to forget that the Christian life is not just about running from sin, but running to Him.  That means if you quit porn today, you suddenly have 15-30 hours that just opened up every week.  What will you do?  Because God didn’t merely forgive you, but He gave you a mission.  He made you for something.  The spiritual walk isn’t just sin-avoidance, but walking intentionally into God’s purposes.  Lust is not the problem: but a lack of direction.

Jesus does love you.  He also said it’s better to get into Heaven with no eyes and no hands then you get into Hell with both.  We can abuse God’s love without ever changing, because His love is inexhaustible: but why would we even want to?  Why settle for a halfway grace?  God is offering a glorious life of freedom ahead.  I’ve tasted that freedom and I can’t go back anymore.  I wouldn’t trade that joy now for anything.  I hope you’re desperate enough to find that joy, and that you really mean it.

— J

The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind
J.S. Park

Perhaps the one sermon I ever preached that could be my last one.

About grace, upon grace, upon grace.

— J

jspark3000:

Hello lovely wonderful friends!

This is a message I had the privilege to preach at an amazing college ministry in Gainesville, FL. 

The message is titled: The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind.

Some things I talk about are: My time at the mental institution with drug addicts and sex addicts and recovering mental patients, the awkward harrowing nerve-racking experience of bringing your friend to church (and it happens to be sacrifice-a-live-animal day), the cringe-inducing moment when the preacher goes political, finding out what percentage of the church is actually God’s intention, the recent trend of movies where bad guys are not really bad but have a tragic back-story, what saying “I do” really means, that time I fought a pastor in a parking lot, and sculpting a real eye-to-eye face-to-face friendship over coffee.

Stream above or download here!

Here are other messages from the podcast.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Grace is not so much any one action or rule or attitude, but grace is more of a story about broken people being loved and healed.

Let me tell you about my first pastor. When I first came to church over ten years ago, I was a stubborn thick-headed horny atheist who was looking for hot Christian girls. I hated the sermons but I kept coming back: because there was something about this pastor.

He endured with me. I asked him tons of annoying questions about God and the Bible, but he answered them patiently. I screwed up a lot: I slept with a few girls in the church and confessed them all, but he never flinched. He called me and texted me when I never replied. He bought me lunches, dinners, books, and sent cards to my house. He spent hours praying for me. He never once lost his temper with me.

Over time, I realized how much of a jerk I was to him. I didn’t listen; I was late all the time; I got drunk and went to strip clubs on Saturday nights before strolling in hungover on Sundays; I hardly asked how he was doing. BUT: he was endlessly loving. And the grace of this man completely melted me. I’ve known him now for thirteen years, and there’s no way I could be the person I am today without him.

I remember small moments. When one day I was horribly depressed, and he wrote me a letter right in front of me. When I got out of the hospital from swallowing a bottle of pills, and he listened without judging. When I was sobbing hysterically one day and he gripped both my hands and told me, "It’ll be okay. God still loves you and He will never stop."

Even now, my eyes glisten and my heart swells at his sacrifice. His grace fundamentally ripped away my selfishness and disturbed my ego. I deserved nothing and he gave me his all.

- J.S. from this post

I think about my life before Christ, how I used to live for myself and I would do good to look good and get good back.

I think about how something was always missing then, like I would find a particular interest and it would almost click but the edges wouldn’t catch and they’d just slide off the inside of my heart.

I think of how I objectified humans as blunt weapons for my secret dirty desires and planned out my next crime scene like an elaborate diorama: and all this to avoid the God who would speak to me at 3 am in the darkness when I couldn’t lie to myself about the futility of my deceit. I remember how the ceiling fan would accuse me of guilt with its every cut into the sides of my lying mouth.

I think of those moments when the veil of shallow shadow-living was lifted for a blinding second, and my reality was torn open to the idea of a Creator and how there must be more than just collecting toys to build an empire until I die. It was only a glimpse, but everything else around it would be sterile and insignificant in comparison. I remember the drawstrings of my cold protective fortress being tugged by gentle hands that plunged through my lungs, never too sharp, but just enough to know there was something else about this life that life was not telling me, that a cosmic problem existed with a solution that would click as easily as a key in butter.

I think of how even though I ran from Him — God still literally loved me to death and afflicted my selfish emptiness with a love that cost the blood of His only son.

I asked myself then, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew about?” Because before I knew Him, I knew Him, and I dearly missed Him, if only in dreams and whispers and longings I could hardly stand to utter. I was terrified to discover that life wasn’t about me. I was scared to find my Maker — but He found me, and now I cannot go back. I don’t ever want to. I cannot imagine any other way without Him, and He does not imagine His story without me.

- J.S.

The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind
J.S. Park

What grace looks like in action, resulting in the nuanced thoughtful faith that we’re all looking for.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

jspark3000:

Hello lovely wonderful friends!

This is a message I had the privilege to preach at an amazing college ministry in Gainesville, FL. 

The message is titled: The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind.

Of anything I’ve ever preached, this one is the truest message of my heart: that we would become a community of reckless honesty that gets entrenched into the mess of real lives with thoughtful nuance and that costly love called grace.  Whether you hate church or you’ve attended your whole life, I believe this is what God is after.

Stream above or download here!

Here are other messages from the podcast.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

How do you discern God's voice? How do you know when God is speaking to you, or pushing you to go in one direction or another?

Hey my dear friend, please allow me to share some previous posts:

- Four Thoughts About Finding God’s Will

- How Do I Even Hear The Voice of God?

- Was That God Or Me?

- Trying To Figure Out My Life

There are obvious things, like how God’s voice will line up with Scripture and the advice of mature friends.  Some other thoughts to consider:

 

- We often learn in hindsight.  God doesn’t always work in neon lights and flashing signs.  Sometimes looking over the course of your own life — where you shined, failed, flourished, grew — can be helpful.

- God speaks with simplicity.  Like Ecclesiastes 6:11 says, “The more the words, the less the meaning.”  If we start to rationalize a decision with a lot of words, you can almost guarantee that’s not from God.  His voice is pure, simple, to the point, and often a whisper.

- His voice will contradict you.  Prayer will humble you.  I don’t mean despair or self-pity, but you’ll sense God is turning your head the right way to a better direction, and it won’t always be the easy one.  Loving people, being patient, sacrifice, and finding a meaningful purpose are not easy things.  Prayer won’t always lead to positive affirmation, but often loving rebuke.

- You’ll relent and repent.  I can be sure I’m hearing God’s voice when it brings me to a place of repentance.  I know I’m not right every time.  God wants to make sure I do something about that, because it’s how He can love me best.

— J.S.

Hi! I would like to ask you a question about the old covenant and the new covenant. Although I already know the answer to this, I would still like it if you explained this to me: Why is it that we no longer follow and do old traditions, rituals, sacrifices, and rules that the people did in the old testament?

Hey there my friend, please allow me to point you to some posts here:

- The Down-Low on The Old Testament Commands

- God Seems A Little Crazy In The Old Testament — A Mega-Post on the OT

The easiest way I can say this is: The Bible is an unfolding narrative of God’s activity with certain people, at specific times, with unique interactions throughout history.  God is the same, but people are not. God is outside of time, but we are not.  So God has given us a beginning, middle, and end of His revealing, and we’re somewhere near the end.  In this specific phase of God’s activity with us, the OT Law is like a foundational event for His people, just as Jews and Gentiles were a foundational people to flex His glory.

The OT Law was not a way to get “saved.”  It was a standard for the community of God’s people.  And it was put in place for the Israelites after they were rescued through the Red Sea; not the other way around.  God was trying to 1) guide His people, and 2) show other nations what that looked like.  It was a temporary system for the Israelites until the Messiah.

Many of the principles behind OT Law still stand today.  In other words, the spirit in which the law was written can still be applicable.  So when God says “Don’t put two strands of different fibers together” or “Don’t eat seafood from the ocean floor,” I’m guessing that He means we’re to steer clear of contaminating our spiritual lives.  I don’t mean to say that the Bible itself is only metaphors and allegories, but that God’s unfolding story needs to be read in its proper context.

My guess is that some of the OT Law looks silly because God was essentially saying, “Righteousness is pretty tough, even in the weird stuff.”  God is showing that we will constantly fail to achieve moral accomplishments on our own, and that when we stand before Him one day, our only response would be to burst into flames at the sight of His perfection.

When Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4), this doesn’t just mean “Okay you can eat lobsters and bacon now.”  It means Jesus did what we could never do: he satisfied the righteous standard of God on our behalf, so that our sin could be removed without destroying the sinner.  The Old Covenant was only a precursor or foreshadow for the New Covenant.  Jesus would uphold the Law in himself by both perfectly obeying the rules and completely paying off our sin.  The OT points to this all the time, with images of a Suffering Servant and Saving Messiah and someone who would be “crushed” as a “sin offering.” 

Our New Covenant today is that we’re a universal body of believers who have received grace and love Jesus and love people.  This is until Jesus comes back, and behold, that’ll be a whole new story.

— J.S.

One thing that's on my mind some days is about witnessing and living your life. Is it a daily thing, that you witness to others or in the course of your life when your led is it that way. It may be a crazy question, but seeing that I've never seen it done or have been discipled. It feels like most times I'm just guessing and when I have shares my faith it was like I felt I didn't say the right thing or I left something out. Idk lol

Hey my friend: I think you landed on exactly what’s so tough about evangelism.

There’s a secret fear with Christians that we’re somehow fooling people into Jesus, as if we’re selling a campaign that we don’t quite believe ourselves.  It could be that we’re never quite certain about the right doctrine or the best presentation.  Or we’re not exactly living up to the ideal that we share, and there’s a troubling guilt that we might be wrong about this whole thing, so it’s this awkward sheepish hesitation masked with an almost too-loud confidence.  Like selling snake-oil that we want to really believe in, but remain unsure.  And some of us just feel straight up unworthy or too unknowledgeable to speak up.

I think a lot of this is because of the way we’re taught evangelism.  In the mainstream church (which I love, by the way, and I’m not bashing), we’re mostly taught to package the Gospel with one-liners, retorts, psychological allurement, and a final deal-closing prayer.  I mean let’s think about this.  I’m going to tell you the truth of the universe about God in a five minute sale at your front door.  I’m cool with door-to-door evangelism: but is this really the standard for sharing our faith? 

This is a sort of “success model” in which we’re expected to “convert” people by numerical values and scripted responses.  In the end, it’s trying to turn the Gospel into one more program.  So of course, we get nervous that we’re not living it right AND saying it right, and it’s a double-fear that many Christians don’t talk about.  We just act as convinced as possible but we’re not willing to doubt our own product.

 

Often my personal goal as a pastor (and a friend) is not to tell you what to think, but how to think about what you’re thinking.  I don’t want to drop faith at your front door, but I want to talk you through the things you believe.  I want to tell you about the person who changed my life.  That does require words and inviting you to church and telling you about the Bible and presenting the Gospel — but it also means sharing life with you, wrestling with doubts, asking the hard questions about suffering and purpose, being there with you to reflect grace and patience and honesty.  Without this, then evangelism remains a cold pamphlet with doctrinal facts about God, but it has nothing to do with Him.  Then we’re about recruiting people as projects to perpetuate programs: and bam, you have the modern church.

I think evangelism, in the end, overlaps with discipleship: which is life-on-life togetherness with Christ.  There isn’t some dichotomy where we “attract” people with witnessing and then “keep” them with deeper theology.  Both are fully active and pulsing in our daily lives.  And no one is looking for perfection, either.  I want a real human being, not a religious puppet who is spouting stock answers.  I want to see the moment after someone messes up. 

I want to encourage you, dear friend, that you don’t need to know everything about Christianity to be convicted.  You don’t need to wait to “get better” before sharing.  Sure, do your research.  Sure, keep growing.  Yes, know your theology.  But what I care about is that I love people with the same love I’ve been given.  If we’re going to talk about that, it won’t be a project or charity case or sale: but I can only say, “It’s only because I met someone who changed my life, and his name is grace.”  If they want to hear about that, then run tell that.  If not, that’s okay too.  Keep loving.

— J.S.

In last Friday’s sermon in Gainesville FL, I talked about the time I almost fought a pastor in the church parking lot. We’re now friends. This is last year in Seattle, with his awesome son Gunn. This is what grace can do. Love you Pastor Pedro!
[Message here: http://jspark3000.tumblr.com/post/92478534743/ ]

In last Friday’s sermon in Gainesville FL, I talked about the time I almost fought a pastor in the church parking lot. We’re now friends. This is last year in Seattle, with his awesome son Gunn. This is what grace can do. Love you Pastor Pedro!

[Message here: http://jspark3000.tumblr.com/post/92478534743/ ]

Faith Mosaic.

Your faith won’t look like the faith of your neighbor. We love Jesus and we love people: but beyond that, God has wired us with a colorful diversity of connections to Him. All the people in the Bible experienced God in different ways through their varying personalities.

Moses saw the back of God’s glorious rear, while Elijah heard the still small voice of God after a mountain exploded. Gideon was so doubtful he kept asking God to do weird things like burn up meat or throw water on a sheep rug; Jonathan was so confident that he provoked the Philistines to war without really consulting God. King David was a pensive, ferocious poet with an ear for music and lyrics; Jeremiah and Habbakuk wept loudly for their people with tons of uncertainty. Jonah hated ministry but went anyway; Isaiah said “Here am I, send me.” Ruth bravely proposed marriage in hopes that God would provide; Leah desperately begged Jacob to provide her offspring. Noah was a drunken slob after all his trouble; Joseph re-affirmed God’s sovereignty though he had been left for dead by his brothers. Peter was a brash thick-headed emotional hot-head who was ready for Jesus to unleash the Kingdom; Timothy was a sickly scared baby Christian who needed a lot of reassurance from Paul. Martha was practical and efficient; Mary was relational and affective. The Samaritan woman at the well needed a face-to-face encounter with Jesus; the Roman centurion trusted that Jesus had healed his sick servant from afar. Nicodemus the Pharisee went to Jesus late at night to avoid peering eyes; all the blind beggars went to Jesus in front of everyone to have their eyes opened. James & John expected Jesus to rain down fire on the enemy; Thomas doubted Jesus was ever the Messiah. James the half-brother of Jesus was all about God’s commands and obedience; Paul spoke of grace abounding all the more. Paul was the better writer but a weaker preacher; Peter was a fiery preacher for an ordinary fisherman. John was a loving patient sensitive man; Simon the Zealot was a political terrorist. Matthew Levi had been a greedy tax collector who followed Jesus on the spot; Mark was there when Jesus was arrested and fled the scene naked. In the end, Matthew and Mark wrote very different accounts of Jesus’s life and death, and so did Luke and John. Yet each one fills out the other, just as so many different hues in a mosaic.

— J.S.