Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Gospel Embedded in Community - Part 3

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5 NIV)

If you've been following, I've done two parts to this series. This is the last. All three have come out of this passage in Mark 2.

I have a couple of assumptions about the people in this story.
One assumption I have is that the paralytic wanted to be brought to Jesus to be restored.
In other words, this man isn’t coming kicking and screaming. He wants to be healed, to be made whole. So this isn’t about some men running around the streets of Capernaum grabbing someone, “Come on, let’s go! Whether you like it or not!”
That would just be obnoxious. However, before you think, "That's a ridiculous notion", I want to suggest that this is often what happens when we "do evangelism."
This is often how we try to bring people to Jesus; how we think about doing evangelism. Just today, the staff of our church found strategically placed in our lobby, a set of colorful tracts with the words "Repent! The Judgment is at Hand!" We might not be bringing people kicking and screaming to Jesus, but many Christians don't have a problem shoving him down others' throats.
I'm a little embarrassed by this, but I remember being taught how to evangelize people (Question: Should evangelism EVER be used as a verb? It may be better to just stay a noun.) Having recently graduated from College, and new to this Jesus stuff, I was given a book on how to evangelize. The book was title, Take Him to the Streets: Finally a Practical How To Book on Personal Evangelism and Soul Winning, which one reviewer called the "Bible of street ministry." One chapter teaches the reader about Tract Evangelism; a short course on writing your own effective tracts or if you'd prefer the ready-made kind, where you could purchase those realistic looking fake $20 bills that you could leave on the sidewalk so that when someone picks it up they read, “Is this what your soul is worth?” There's also whole chapters devoted to "Choosing and Using a Portable PA" and "A Car PA? Here's Why and How?"
Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up.
I remember an evangelism course someone recommended. The course taught you how to turn every conversation into a spiritual conversation and provided ready answers to every possible objection to accepting Jesus into your heart. You can't get a conversation going with a complete stranger on the street? Nothing to worry about. Just lead with the question: “Excuse me ma'am. If you were to die tomorrow, do you know where you would spend eternity?”
There's a real conversation starter for you. Or course, time is short, the person could be hit by a bus, and then their soul's eternal damnation and conscious torment in hell is on your conscience. You want to live with that?
Hopefully (please!) you're catching the sarcasm.
You might find this troubling coming from a Christian pastor, but that’s not about bringing someone to Jesus. That’s pretty much coercive and manipulative in my book; it’s just plain obnoxious; and I’ll just say it, the church really needs to stop that sort of thing. It’s offensive and condescending because it assumes you know where you are going and that you know where the other person isn’t.
Consider something: Speaking true in a world of crooked words is all we need to do. Sharing how Jesus has been good news for me, authentically and genuinely will light the way for someone else.
And that’s the other assumption I have about the people in this story: The men bringing their paralytic friend are bringing him because they have already heard and seen and experienced something in Jesus that has changed their lives and they want to share Jesus with a friend in need.
Now, that sounds like good news.