Tag Archives: evangelism

Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Sharing the Gospel

So, while I could probably write a whole book about this topic, I intend to keep this post short, sweet and simple because at the end of the day , the issue of sharing the gospel/missiology does simplify rather easily.

If you’ve been involved with campus ministries during your college years for even a minute, you would be familiar with the zeal and passion that engenders these campus ministries when it comes to “reaching our campus for Christ”.  As a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman involved in Cru ( when it was still called “Campus Crusade for Christ”…bleh..), I was taught the importance of having “spiritual conversations” with friends(relational evangelism) and “walking strangers through” the gospel with these vague pamphlets with interpretive figures and drawings to get them to think about spiritual matters/ God. Since I was a freshman , we were constantly pressed at the weekly large-group meetings to be having these conversations with friends/strangers, to be deciphering their world view and pointing them to Christ through words and wisdom. We were told that their eternal destiny may hinge on our willingness to share. In the on-campus International Cult Church of Christ para-church ministry, called “EPIC: Everyday People Imitating Cults Christ”, I have heard that their “bible studies” are sometimes really just sessions of acting out skits and anticipated situations for students to talk to students about God and the gospel.

You get the gist. Inherent with many college campus ministries is this calculated (and oddly imperialistic, often) notion of having “spiritual conversations” and evangelizing the campus through placing such a strong precedence of simply making sure students/friends know the gospel + convincing them that it is true ( and let’s not get into how problematic their interpretation of “the gospel” sometimes is..). When I was more involved with Cru, I remember feeling an immense pressure ( and I was not the only one) to have these forced, contrived (“spiritual”) conversations concerning the gospel with my friends or other strangers that I knew did not identify as Christians. The two main issues with this approach, that I have come to realize are: 1) This posits a morally/politically exempt and often naive student evangelical circle against a theoretically corrupt public student circle – this dynamic is problematic because a) it reduces the willingness ( and believe me it does) for honest dialogue between Christian/non-Christian student dialogue  because it tends to foster this self-righteous attitude as though we are somehow exempt from the same forces of life as everyone else and b) we’re led to believe that strangers/friends will be unable to pick up on our motives.. so in our naivety we treat them as though they’re naive.. ( kinda reminds me of colonialism..) But most of all 2) These calculated methods of engaging the campus for Christ places a greater precedence on telling people about Jesus , as opposed to BECOMING like Jesus. It prevents us from loving them as fully as we’re called to (ya know, that whole neighborly love thing?)

Christ said “Whoever says he hates his brother but does loves me, does not TRULY love me” (immense paraphrasing), but what he definitely did NOT say is “whoever does not have contrived spiritual conversations with friends but says he loves me dot not truly love me”….we need to rearrange our priorities. Of course, this has implications for even beyond/after college ministries. What I’ve found is that when place a greater precedence on being conformed to Christ’s image through the HolySspirit (calling the weak , poor , and dispossessed blessed and caring for the least of these), this makes more of an impact for Christ and opportunity for dialogue than a planned, forced conversation about Jesus. The gospel is supposed to actually be good news to the world ( imagine that), and so maybe if we allowed that to inform how we lived our lives and people saw that, more students would be drawn to campus ministries.

How Richard Twiss helped me to believe in revival again

Community Transformation

This post is my second contribution to the MennoNerds Anabaptist Missional Spirituality Synchroblog event.

Before discussing such a dreamy topic as “revival” or what others call “renewal,” I must come clean. Every time I hear or read the word, “revival,” I run and get my gun. Yes me a pacifist who desires to not own any lethal weapons, reach for my imaginary gun. Why you say? Because everytime I hear or read that word “revival” coming from conservative evangelicals, more often than not, its from an imperialist Dominionist point of view. Revival understood in this manner is when Christians are lead by white Conservative (more than likely Reformed) evangelical men, who give minimal head nods to Charismatics and multiculturalism with dreams of hegemonic, violent takeovers of the national culture (Conservative Republican political means). Two examples of this are the Acquire the Fire movement and Methodist but hardly Wesleyan Institute for Religion and Democracy.

As a Baptist Christian, as a continuationist with Charismatic tendencies, I do hope for a Spirit-led, Christ-centered renewal of our national culture in general. As James Cone called for in Black Theology and Black Power, there needs to be an exchange in value systems. See the problem with the popular versions of revival is that they resort back to the days of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finley, and imagine that God will move the same way. We Christians commemorate these revivalists and year to year go on hoping that revival/renewal will look like it did in the past. We hope for a cycle, we know this only as a cycle that happens naturally. And that’s part of the problem. Revival is about cycles being broken, with the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit arriving anew in fresh and unexpected places, and God’s standards for holiness being revealed in the lives of some of the least ideal persons.

I like what Micael Grenholm has to say about revival, that we can’t separate peace and justice from conversionist modes of religion. Reading through the late Richard Twiss’ One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus The Way God Made You, I once more found a hope for Christian renewal in the USA. Twiss’ challenge to Evangelical Protestantism is still a much needed word, and his contention that we should start viewing the First Nations as a mutual party when it comes to missions, and that Native culture has something to offer (AND NOT JUST RECEIVE). There is something rather impossible when you read Twiss’ words because what he wrote, we have not yet witnessed with our eyes. While folks talk about revival, relying on things seen, by faith, Twiss taught me once more to believe in revival, the likes we have never seen.

Twiss’ post-colonial vision of widespread renewal reminds me of David Walker’s Appeal in the lone footnote in chapter one:

“It is my solemn belief, that if ever the world becomes Christianized, (which must certainly take place before long) it will be through the means, under God of the blacks, who are now held in wretchedness, and degradation , by the white Christians of the world, who before they learn to do justice to us before our Maker–and be reconciled to us, and reconcile us to them, and by that means have clear consciences before God and man.–Send out missionaries to convert the Heathens, many of whom after they cease worship gods, which neither see nor hear, become ten times more the children of Hell, then ever they were, why what is the reason? Why the reason is obvious,they must learn to do justice at home, before they go into distant lands, to display their charity, Christianity, and benevolence; when they learn to do justice, God will accept their offering, (no man may think that I am against Missionaries for I am not, my object is to see justice done at home, before we go to convert the heathens.) “

For Walker and Twiss, the missional and just YHWH of Hosts requires the righteous fruits of those who have been justified by Christ, and just relations between people groups prior to  worldwide revival, and not vice versa. 

Are Altar Calls Biblical?

Recently I read a, well, interesting post on the questionable practice of pastors doing altar calls at the end of church services. As long as I can remember, as a Baptist, that almost every single church service has ended in an altar call or an invitation to respond to the Good News. Even when I identified as a 4 point Calvinist, this practice I never really questioned this ritual.

One of the “dangers” critics say that Altar Calls can cause an “easy beliefism,” that a person believes in Jesus after the invite, but then goes on with their life living unsaved. And the other scarecrow I often read or hear about is the manipulation of human emotions. I am very well aware of the latter. Once at a Christian rock concert, I saw people’s feelings being misused as this huge guilt moment without any talk of hope, sanctification or resurrection. I was a little distraught and let my friends know how I felt.

However, myself being familiar with conservative Reformed concern-trolling about human emotion, there is another way of looking at emotions and manipulation. What about people who argue from the standpoint of fear about people’s emotions getting out of control? From Jonathan Edwards to Reformed cessationists like John MacArthur, the cases against revival-oriented/ Charismatic Christian traditions depend on this very fear of human emotion, something that is natural, something that is neutral in Scripture. David is praised for his passionate worship. Anger is only condemned if persons let it control them. God Himself cries with Mary and Martha. This denial of human subjectivity by feigning “objectivity,” “freedom from bias” is just another way of policing people’s various expressions of worship.

The term “biblical”when it used, as I have argued before really just means that a teaching or practice aligns with that person’s and her community’s INTERPRETATION of Scripture. As for myself, I could easily argue that my own affinity for the Nicene and Chalcedon Creeds are not strictly “biblical” just as any other tradition. With a tradition that regularly dismisses the implications of Jesus’ teaching ministry, his calls for repentance [inviitations], for example, it’s no wonder that members of the conservative Reformed tradition find the notion of an altar call disagreeable.