Sunday, June 18, 2006

Honest Feedback

Here is part of a letter from someone in Oklahoma, who had some people try to witness to him using this basic approach. He was brave enough to email me with some honest feedback. Is this what we are leaving people with?

a.) I felt that my space was invaded. I felt that the other two gentlemen were impersonal and quick to assume that my faith was in need of help. I understand religion and theology to be an extremely difficult subject for some people and I only have the intention to talk to people about it if they are dear and close to me or if they come up to me and ask. I will completely shut myself off to someone I have never met while try to tell me what I am doing is wrong.
His impression was that they were "telling" him what he was doing is wrong. While that may be the truth, we shouldn't have to "tell" people this. Their conscience should be more than capable if we ask the right questions.

b.) In this specific case, we were lured in by being told that if we could answer two questions right we could win a chili’s gift card—and that it would only take two minutes (we stood for fifteen).

I felt taken advantage of. I felt lied to. The two questions were if we could name 10 beers (we could) and if we could name the Ten Commandments (We could only name seven. I also should have asked which commandments they were referring to, as the Bible has three different versions…). Afterwards, one gentleman said to the other that they should give us the gift card just because we were good sports about everything. The other fellow said, “No, we did not get the answers right.” I suppose that this is the result of having a dominant divine right and wrong theology…
If the impression you are leaving people with is that you have just cheated them, you certainly have destroyed any progress you have made by presenting another example of hypocrisy from a Christian.

c.) I was not given any chance to defend my thoughts or beliefs and the conversation was completely one-sided.
This one is big. Are we so busy trying to get through a script that we forget that we are talking to a real person with real questions. If you don't have enough respect and compassion for people that you really care about their questions, you should rethink your motives.

d.) Also, in this specific case (which of course, may be a coincidence and/or may solely be in this case), the woman in our group was hardly looked at or talked to during the talk. This may be coincidence, or it may stem from the male dominant attitude rampant throughout the Bible.
Do you think the people doing the witnessing had any idea they were doing this? This goes to show that you really need to pray and be a good witness above reproach above all else. Something that they had no idea about was a sticking point for this person. What might you need to be aware of, or be better at, doing that might be destroying your testimony? People are really watching your actions, your tone, your heart, way above the words you are saying.

e.) I did see sincerity in the two gentlemen’s faces. I did see an honest concern for my well-being. They did say that they were not out to condemn people, but they lacked the understanding that based on their theology-they were condemning people. If they really wanted to talk to me in a constructive manner, they should have asked if I would like to talk and then have a mutual conversation with me over a Dr. Pepper they had just bought me.
He said he would have been open to a converation, if the premise had been a little more honest. And, just telling people you are not condemning them is not enough if your tone tells them otherwise. People need to be clear that YOU are not condemning them. You stand condemned as much or more than they are. Their transgressions are the thing that condemns them. God's wrath is waiting to pour out on them JUSTLY for their conscious lifetime of sin. YOUR message should be to explain that they are already condemned, God has made provision for them, and it is not His desire that any should perish. I'm not sure about the Dr. Pepper comment, must be a midwest thing. ;)

Bottom line, you need to pray before you get out and witness to people. Pray for the right motive. Pray for a right heart. Pray that you can tell people the truth in love. Not everyone will get on their knees and repent on the spot. But, as you can see, you WILL leave them thinking. They should be thinking about Jesus, though, and not you.

1 comment:

Dru Morgan said...

Per request, here is the entire email in context.
******************************
My thoughts on Evangelism:

Precursor-

I have come to understand that entire philosophies and theologies can often come about from a single dominant fact (or belief thereof). For example, if I believe the Government’s duty is to solely protect the people, my entire political, and perhaps economical philosophy will stem from that belief. And to be more relevant, if I believe that the Bible is infallible or not, my entire (or most of my) religious philosophy and theology will differ based on that one belief.

1.) I will borrow from a Methodist spokesperson that I have found myself to agree with. And as I said, this depends on which side you find yourself belonging to. But for instance, the situation is among an Aborigine tribe, whose religious, social, economical, etc. traditions have survived thousands and thousands of years (some add that these were to be the first in religious thought) and a group of evangelists decide to “convert” the non-Christians. These people have not ever been in contact with the rest of the world-not ever, ever hearing of Jesus. It would be absurd (at least in my mind) to say that a loving God would condemn a beautiful part of God’s creation while they did not even have the chance to decide if they want to become Christians or not. So I would assume that God would decide upon how each person followed their conscience or not (if I may borrow from the book of Romans).

But as the situation would have it, the evangelists succeeded in converting 50% of the Aborigine people. While 50% have been converted to Christians, thus 50% have been condemned while otherwise they would have not been. If these traditions have been kept and kept and kept, I would assume that these traditions are working for these people and they do not need religious change. Besides, indigenous cultures always have the best stories, especially creation and rite of passage stories.



It is for this reason that I feel it is better not to evangelize in this situation.

2.) But of course I think more…

After academic study of the scriptures (Methods of Biblical Analysis) in my primary tradition (Judeo-Christian) and personal conviction, I find that the concept of Hell-a real and tangible location-to be of man’s creation. I am sure that later I will have to explain more, but for now this will just be a statement of faith. While I do not believe in a burning lake of fire and sulfur, I cannot condemn anyone to it (and have no desire give someone the conflicting message of a loving God that still burns those who do not practice a certain way—as I have no desire to hear it be said to myself or to others). I could carry on with this topic for much longer but will save it for another email. But I will finish this section from a quote from a person living inside and during Nazi Germany:

“A God who punishes finite beings for finite mistakes is worse than Hitler.”

3. My thoughts on your personal form of Evangelism?

I heard you evangelize to others through the streaming files on your website and I recognize it because I was stopped the other while walking downtown with this-almost to a tee-same conversation.

I also recognize it because a distinguished theologian came up with this form of evangelizing, though I forget his name. Here are my thoughts…

a.) I felt that my space was invaded. I felt that the other two gentlemen were impersonal and quick to assume that my faith was in need of help. I understand religion and theology to be an extremely difficult subject for some people and I only have the intention to talk to people about it if they are dear and close to me or if they come up to me and ask. I will completely shut myself off to someone I have never met while try to tell me what I am doing is wrong.

b.) In this specific case, we were lured in by being told that if we could answer two questions right we could win a chili’s gift card—and that it would only take two minutes (we stood for fifteen).

I felt taken advantage of. I felt lied to. The two questions were if we could name 10 beers (we could) and if we could name the Ten Commandments (We could only name seven. I also should have asked which commandments they were referring to, as the Bible has three different versions…). Afterwards, one gentleman said to the other that they should give us the gift card just because we were good sports about everything. The other fellow said, “No, we did not get the answers right.” I suppose that this is the result of having a dominant divine right and wrong theology…

c.) I was not given any chance to defend my thoughts or beliefs and the conversation was completely one-sided.

d.) Also, in this specific case (which of course, may be a coincidence and/or may solely be in this case), the woman in our group was hardly looked at or talked to during the talk. This may be coincidence, or it may stem from the male dominant attitude rampant throughout the Bible.

e.) I did see sincerity in the two gentlemen’s faces. I did see an honest concern for my well-being. They did say that they were not out to condemn people, but they lacked the understanding that based on their theology-they were condemning people. If they really wanted to talk to me in a constructive manner, they should have asked if I would like to talk and then have a mutual conversation with me over a Dr. Pepper they had just bought me.

4. Christianity may not work for everyone…

Through academic study and personal experience, I find truth to be universal. If Jesus does not work for someone, that is absolutely fine. There is, in my opinion, another way that will suit that person better. While this form of evangelism is primarily promoting a western look at Jesus, of course someone from another non-western perspective is not going to hold on to what they are saying.

I do not necessarily believe in an actual tangible place called Heaven (Which I am sure will be needed to be explained later). But if I did, and if I look at the scripture that said, “I have many rooms” and I look at the scripture that says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” I would answer by saying that who is to say that those rooms are solely for Christians? And if Jesus were at the gates of Heaven allowing people in, would he really ask if we were Christians or not? Or would he say, “Did you love on my people—ALL of my people? Did you care for them? Did you clothe them? Did you feed them? If you did, you grew in and spread around compassion, and that was my message—come on in.”

Well, I feel that he would say that. Like I said, I feel that compassion is the central message (Well that is the Jesus message. I feel that the man made message is the exclusive theology that saves and condemns—the Christ message.) and I have understood many other wonderful characters that have emulated compassion just as beautifully. I feel we should emulate Jesus’ compassion, as well as Muhammad’s compassion, as well as Siddhartha’s compassion, as well as many others…

I hope that I have been polite and respectful during this reply. If I have not, please let me know and I would like to make amends. These are merely my thoughts; my only desire was to speak them so that you would have the choice to do what you want with them. I would be happy to reply or to expand on anything I have said or to anything you would like.

Peace,

Shalom,

Namaste,