I once heard about an outreach that a popular campus ministry used to do during Spring Break. They'd go down to beaches and evangelize the collegians reveling in that yearly bacchanal. For a week, it was God's work for those young people sharing their faith in Christ. They'd hand out tracts, pray with folks, and for those few who did make a commitment to Christ, try to point them in the right direction for the few days the ministry ran.
We've all heard of (or participated in) short-term mission trips like this, whether in-country or out. Usually, it's a spiritual high for the participants that may just last a lifetime, or result in the kind of life-altering event that leads someone to go on to long-term missions work.
But then you start hearing the horror stories and you start to wonder.
I knew someone who used to do that Spring Break ministry, but who encountered something he never thought would be the fruit of that labor.
After several years of participation, he ran across a past convert from an earlier Spring Break outreach (I'll call that convert "Stu".) My friend encountered Stu back on the beach and asked him how his walk with the Lord was going since Stu's conversion the previous spring. Stu shared the following:
1. He was glad to be a Christian now because his guilt was gone.
2. He'd hung out a church for a little bit, but it didn't take, so he stopped going.
3. The drinking had stopped for a little while, but now he didn't feel so bad about getting hammered all the time because he was forgiven.
4. Same for the promiscuity. Stopped for a while, but a party's a party, right?
5. He still had the Bible he'd received, but he never really read it.
6. When asked what he believed, he heartily told everyone he was a Christian and proud of it.
Whatever we think about Stu's "conversion," one truth remains: he's doing more damage now than if he'd never encountered those eager Christian collegians on the shores of Spring Break.
Stu's become something worse than unregenerate; he's now an antiwitness.
Antiwitnesses are those poor souls who taste the goodness of Christ, but are never encouraged to grow deeper in Christ. They tend to comprehend just enough of the Gospel to be able to enunciate a few Christian truths, but they've ultimately been inoculated against any deeper life. They live exactly like the world—or worse—but continue to cling to some idea that they are real Christians.
The true devastation wrought by antiwitnesses comes through their ability to witness to their supposed conversion while acting out every conceivable witness against that reality. Theirs is the unique dysfunction of being the lone "Christian" many people know, but they project a halo so tarnished that most people are forever put off Christianity after encountering them.
Male antiwitnesses soon learn they can use their newfound spirituality as leverage to bed even more impressionable young things than before. Said young things wind up with the impression that all Christians are hyprocrites in the wake of a tryst that lasts for a week before the antiwitness moves on to another conquest. I've heard so many of these accounts over the years I've lost track.
What creates an antiwitness?
While many will say that we Christians aren't nearly as zealous for evangelism as we once were, we must look beyond the shallowness of numbers. Too many times we think about the "spiritual brownie points" we get from being "soulwinners," but we fail to take into account the consequences of our discipleship deficiencies.
At its core, Christianity is a relational, community faith. But as self-actualized Americans who have lived under the shadow of rugged individualism and bootstrapping, we tend to forget that discipleship is not handing someone a Bible and pointing them to a church with a hearty "Go get 'em, Tiger!" pat on the back. Many religions are like that, but Christ did not come to establish a loose affiliation of believing loners.
Over at Paradoxology, a blog I recommend for the tough questions Chris Monroe asks, he wonders about the validity of door-to-door evangelism. Sadly, I have to question that evangelistic method in light of our tendency toward spawning antiwitnesses. Not because it doesn't reap rewards, but because we too often forget that we have a relational responsibility to people we evangelize. Selling ourselves as friendly people who care about someone's eternal state is only effective if that's what we truly believe.
We should ever go into every evangelistic situation with the understanding that we're personally responsible to pour our own lives into the lives of whatever converts we make by the grace of God. What message are we inadvertently sending to a new convert if we bail the second they say, "I believe"? We tend to want to make converts, but the actual interpersonal discipling that happens afterward becomes some other church's, pastor's, or discipler's responsibility.
I've seen or heard of too many people left to their own devices after a supposed conversion and more often than not those abandoned folks turn into antiwitnesses. We may think they're in God's care and protection, but the truth is that we left them to be sifted by Satan. God gave them to us and we tossed them aside to get torn apart by the Enemy.
Satan loves it when we go for numbers and not for depth of discipleship. He'll gladly take those folks and syncretize whatever primitive Christian belief system they received with the best he has to offer them. Sadly, one of his protegés, like Stu, has a half-baked experience that vaccinates everyone he meets against the real Gospel. We can work for years to make five disciples, but a guy like Stu can make a thousand naysayers in his travels.
I fully realize that we can't ensure genuine discipleship in people. But our "instant discipleship" ideas heightened by the general impatience we have with true relationship and real spiritual growth only make our evangelistic efforts fruitless, no matter how many notches we may claim to have in our soulwinner belt.
Having visited a self-described "soulwinning church" that baptized enormous numbers of people it picked up off the street, I was left with a curious question. Why was it that those being baptized were primarily black and Hispanic, but the church itself was whiter than a warehouse of marshmallows? What happened to all those people the church picked up off the streets and evangelized, resulting in the stream of baptizees I witnessed? I suspect they were never heard from again. That well-known church was probably making five antiwitnesses to every one real disciple.
Honestly, I don't think any of us should be sharing the Gospel with anyone unless we're also willing to be the ones doing the follow-up. Our problem is that this asks for a great deal of time and effort. I also suspect it's the main reason that the American Church isn't growing. We do lip service to evangelism, and either avoid it altogether because we know the cost to us is great, or we do the kind of "just add water" evangelism that makes nothing but antiwitnesses.
But it's not just the underdeveloped converts that can become antiwitnesses. Sometimes, the "overdeveloped" disciples that are impressed with their own righteous, the Superspiritual as I've called them, can be antiwitnesses.
Catez Stevens of Allthings2all tells of her pre-Christian days an her encounter with this second kind of antiwitness. Her cautionary true tale of The Merciful Stripper shows that we can be antiwitnesses when we overspiritualize things and miss the true heart of Christ's Gospel. Please read her story; I promise you that, sadly, it's not unique.
Laziness on our part only makes for an antiwitness. In the end, if we are to make real disciples, we need to love people—and not just mouth loving platitudes, either. We've got to look at every person not as a notch in our soulwinning belt but as someone for whom Christ died and whom He calls us to partner with so they grow deeply and radically in love with Him. That requires time.
More than that, it requires that we die to self so that someone else might live.
40 thoughts on “The Antiwitness”
Hi Dan. I was wondering what you think of the “Way of the Master” (Ray Comfort) type of evangelism method?
I agree that discipleship is an important factor that is often missing in evangelism but I also wonder if the “Best Life Now” kind of methods are responsible for some of the false converts.
When I was saved there was no one witnessing or discipling me. Once I was convicted there was no way I could turn back.
And what do we as believers do about these anti-witnesses? Do we try to control the damage? Or do we extend grace again and just hope for the best?
I saw a teaching tape by Comfort on his evangelistic method and it sure seemed from what I saw that it was the kind of “blast ’em and go” approach that cuts out long-term relationship. That may have worked in an age when no one had heard the name of Jesus, but that won’t work today. It’s a “get people saved and then move on” kind of thing that doesn’t build solid disciples.
Perhaps one tape is not enough to make this judgment, so I’ll close by saying that Comfort is certainly more adept at witnessing than I am. But in the same regard, I know that I want to work with people for decades, not just a meeting on the street.
Good article Dan — I have been wanting to post some ideas about the ‘rugged individualism’ so prevalent in our churches. Our church is an outreach type church, and we are located in a somewhat ‘interesting’ part of town (by choice), and have walk-ins from the bar next door.
Our evangelism is very one on one, as most of our people came from the streets, and have a heart for the people. My feelings on this are as follows:
1. People do evangelism in the detached, impersonal, way because it is ‘safe’, and they can salve their own conscience about ‘doing the work of an evangelist’.
2. As we have experienced in our church — working with the lost is WORK! They do not behave in a manner that is consistent with our confort zone, they dress scary, and they often uise ‘bad’ language. (As you might guess our church is pretty small).
3. Bringing these people into the church creates an environment that most ‘church people’ do not like… The (forgive me for using this overused word) ‘Mega-church’ environment in our area is really full of ‘safe’ lost folks, i.e. white-collar, Cleaver-family types. As a matter of fact, we are within minutes of a large church, which makes almost no impact on the surrounding area, almost all of their ‘attendees’ drive in from more shletered environs.
4. There is a tough row to hoe as far as church growth goes, when you practice discipleship in a one-on-one manner. It has taken us forever to get a core group of folks who are able to truly disciple. Discipleship does not end at 1230 on Sunday afternoon — these folks can, and do, call at the most inopprtune times! 🙂
Anyway, I am not trying to put our church up on a pedestal — we have problems, and issues like all churches, but I am saying that people like you, and articles like this encourage me that we are doing some things right, and we need the encouragement (many of my pastor friends think I am nuts for pursuing this).
Dan, I wrote some thoughts on this months ago — I don’t know if you allow links, but I will put it up should it be of interest….
Mark Driscoll gets a lot of grief for his style, but he’s reaching people no one else is.
I’ve written extensively on this idea of American rugged individualism and its caustic effect on Christianity. Hopefully, more of us who see it as detrimental will rise up and do something about it.
The (forgive me for using this overused word) †˜Mega-church’ environment in our area is really full of ‘safe’ lost folks, i.e. white-collar, Cleaver-family types.
Using the words of an old pop song, I call them Shiny Happy People (TM). Ever see the ads for these MegaWorshipCenters? All Shiny Happy (usually White) People.
I’m not part of a “mega-church” (unless you consider the whole church or body of Christ), but what is wrong with being a “Happy White Person”? I don’t think along racial lines, but I’m getting tired of people putting me down because I happened to be born white. I don’t have a White Heritage month or anything like that and I’m told by many that I should be ashamed of my race or heritage. I love people of all colors and race, and treat them as my neighbor and brother. Why shouldn’t I be afforded the same respect. I have also been born an American, an lately the world says I should be ashamed of that as well. I’m sorry, but I’m proud to be a “Shiny White, American Christian”. I know pride is a bad thing and that humility should be my mantra, but hey even the most humble person can get tired of the constant phychological and spiritual abuse.
Sadly I have been a part of this same mindset, not putting notches in my “soul winners” belt, but not being willing to invest the time in those who I have shared my faith with.
We live in a society where we expect instant results, we can download it, microwave it or purchase it online and have it instantly. I think as Christians we expect the same things from those we witness to. We want to see instant conversions and we don’t or even when we do we think we have done our job and move along.
As I wrote in a post called Playing The Patience Card patience and meekness are not always my strong suit. I have found myself sharing with someone and getting out the obligatory witness lingo and then moving on to the next one.
I think we are going to have to work to re build Christianity into a relational community based faith, instead of just filling multimillion dollar buildings with “antiwitnesses”. This all starts with us, the ones doing the witnessing, as you state we are lazy and it is time we start looking at the fruit of our labors and ask are we producing good fruit.
Thank you for admitting this in a public forum. I wish more of us would!
I wholly agree that brief encounters of the evangelism kind is not the model of the Bible, even though we see instances of it — displays of God’s awesome power to singularly change a person’s life in an instant. Your committment to community is refreshing.
OTOH, I can’t personally be so quick to condemn “Stu,” because that was me for about two years. I can look back now with a small measure of wisdom and see what a horrible witness I was. I was close to that hypocrite that inspired Anton LaVey to reject Christianity — party on Saturday, pious on Sunday.
I guess I don’t have the authority to answer to my salvation during that period, but I do know God was working in me and I did eventually arrive at the right conclusions about my sin. From that point of experience, while I know Stu needs some stern shepherding, I also know God has his own timetable for some people. I don’t want Stu representing my faith, my I’m confident someone else is justifiably saying that about me right now. 😉
I don’t think the Stus of the world are neccesarily the fault of the process, even though it has inherrant weaknesses. To believe so staunchly in that would almost put the process above God’s sovereign calling. What I do believe is most important for any type of evangelism is the same element needed in all ministry: discernment. Jesus said he only did what he saw the father doing. He sought discernment and used it. While we think of evangelism as some kind of wide-net kind of effort, we often put too much weight into our own persuasiveness, when instead I believe God asks us to wait on him and show us what He’s already doing.
That’s when those conversions start sticking! 😉
For every personal failure of someone to grow, I’ve got to believe a lot of that failure rests on poor discipleship. Yes, we’re all responsible for our own growth, but God setup a lot of safeguards to prevent us from being Lone Rangers. Unfortunately, in America at least, we’ve abandoned those through scorn or good old American ignorance.
This is by no means an indictment of God’s sovereignty. It doesn’t mean that the Stus of this world will never make it home. What it does mean, though, is that we must better analyze our discipleship programs and how they work from cradle to grave.
No, even that won’t keep some from falling through the cracks, but I’ve got to believe a whole lot less will.
Paul the apostle was a prime example. He’d stay for years. After he left, he’d still write letters — and tell almost everyone “hi” by name. Knew who was feuding with who and why, who still had unresolved issues. That’s the example he set for us.
Great observation! I was thinking the same thing as I wrote this, but forgot to include it. 🙁
It was a good post. Some questions/comments your post provoked me to think
1. How far should parachurches ministries go into doing “hit and run” evangelism? The antiwitness issue you mention only highlights the importance of stressing the involvement of the local church in outreaching and evangelizing the lost -around the neighborhood- as well as in church planting -areas where the short-term mission folks will be sent to.
2. Should all our training in evangelism involve learning the “four spiritual laws”? I used it and e-mailed a lot to my friends when I was a young Christian. It was easy. I am not diminishing it neither do I discount that in a different context they may have been effective. But, isn’t it time to forsake the “quick-fix” approaches to evangelism?
3. I agree wholeheartdly with devoting more time to follow-up. But should only a handful of people do it? Should the follow-up be done by the one who evangelized the lost? What about those Christians who burn up because there is no one else willing to share the crushing load of discipleship?
3. I agree we should step out from our bubbles and learn from unbelievers and listen to their questions.
4. I may venture to say that believers who lean toward the arminian persuasion tend to be pushy and impatient to see “converts”. And for those who lean toward the calvinistic persuasion tend to apathy -and sometimes lazyness. God saves people? Yeah, through you and me. But if we don’t keep in mind that it is God who draws people to Christ and not us, we can grow weary because we don’t see anyone responding.
5. Perhaps the guy “Stut” you describe received an overdose of preaching on God’s forgiveness -ever seen the bumper sticker: Christians are not perfect, just forgiven? On the other hand, it concerns me that Ray Comfort overemphasize the Law. The issue should never be “either God is love or God is just”. We should stop putting God in a box and know Him in the fullness of His attributes beginning with His holiness.
Dan… just a thought here. I’ve run into many people who prayed “to ask Jesus into my heart” as a kid at Bible School or at church camp. After reaching 18, they proudly claimed to be Christian, but lived much like “Stu” was living. In 99% of these people, there is no desire to change. They don’t see the need.
So is any method of evangelism truly effective? My goal is always a relational discipling approach, but let’s face it… if someone wants to quit the discipleship part and bank on Jesus as Savior, but not Jesus as Lord, there’s not a lot we can do about it.
So while I agree with the sentiment of your post, I wonder if things are quite so cut and dried.
I’ve got a shocking answer for you: No method of evangelism is effective…unless it’s followed up by a solid discipleship program that emphasizes a complete Christian worldview.
Have you read Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth? I think she’s on the right track in that we have to show people how Christianity impacts every single thought process and philosophy. Unless we do that, we leave chinks in the mental armor for the enemy to penetrate.
Then there was me. I was the “victim” of a hit and run evangelism, while at college, by Campus Crusade. I was pretty much left alone to disciple myself because the semester soon ended. I went home and didn’t know enough to get involved in a church. But I studied the Word and did my own thing that summer. That was 33 years ago. Since then I managed to wander into various discipleship opportunities and churches and now count myself a “mature” christian.
So, it’s not all bad news.
Selling ourselves as friendly people who care about someone’s eternal state is only effective if that’s what we truly believe.
First, great post Dan. As to this quote, I would only add that if we truly believe we’ll also be willing to “evangelize” for the long haul.
I’ve got a shocking answer for you: No method of evangelism is effective…unless it’s followed up by a solid discipleship program that emphasizes a complete Christian worldview.
Yeah, that’s what I driving at above, but such a program needs to include churches giving to the poor. We don’t do that, so all that comes across is lip service, a track handed and maybe a smile or two as we wish them well with the rest of their lives and good luck as to their faith. 1 John 3:16-18 pounds through my ears when I hear stories like this… Again, great points Dan.
Dan,I’m a bit late to the party! Thanks for linking my post.
So how do we tell the difference between an incorrigible anti-witness and the real deal? There were several years of my life not unlike Stu’s. The Holy Spirit within me eventually triumphed (not that I’m perfected, but I’m pretty sure I’m at least out of the antiwitness class now).
I had good…actually, I’d daresay excellent…discipleship, one on one by a mature Christian friend who “pestered” me all the time. I found a church that was outstanding and I grew immensely. Still, it took a while. It took me several years to be distinguishable from Stu. I guess my point is not to lose hope for the Stu’s of the world.
JJ, Some people do come around. But I think we can do better to raise our percentages, if you know what I mean.
The nice thing about blogging is that you don’t have to do any biblical exegesis to make your point. And people won’t bother engaging you over whether your points are biblically valid.
For example, how is Stu any worse than the fornicator of 1 Corinthians 5:1 whom Paul addressed as a fellow believer (supposing that this man was included in the scope of Paul’s salutation in 1 Corinthians 1:2)?
Would you level the same charges at Paul? “Shame on you, Paul. You left Corinth after such a short stay. Look at the condition you left this poor man in!”
And whither the evidence that Stu, he is was in fact regenerate, would even bother to mention that he was a believer to his party buddies? Or that his witness would do more harm than good?
Are we responsible for those who mock us by posing as believers while deliberately engaging in behavior that brings reproach upon the name? People like Eddie Harris in the movie “Major League”?
Mind you, I don’t have any sympathy for the way that decisional theology works out in popular evangelistic methods. It misses the point that the church is in the business of making disciples, not converts.
But I would like to see a more substantive argument sprinkled with some exegetical work, or at least some biblical reference.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the unbeliever will not be able to use the unfaithful believer as an excuse for his disbelief. No one will get off the hook by pointing at Stu and saying, “It’s his fault that I rejected the Messiah.”
But your point is well taken. Forget hit-and-run evangelism and spend time mentoring fully devoted followers.
No I didn’t quote a lot of Scriptures on this post. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
The fornicator you mentioned may very well have real fruit in his life that “proves” his conversion. That may not be the case with Stu. Or it may be. Our inability to tell only reinforces that we’ve done a terrible job helping Stu grow solid.
At issue here is how well we disciple people. Surely a good discipleship program will generate stronger disciples than none at all, right?
Good post. In your opinion… How do these verses from Mathew 13 (NIV) play in to this discussion. Is “Stu” seed falling on “rocky places” or something different?
18″Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Stu could be rocky soil—or any of the soils. Our task is to draw alongside him and see that his garden is tended.
One other thing… are we (the body of believers) to be the “root” that Jesus is describing?
You said: Honestly, I don’t think any of us should be sharing the Gospel with anyone unless we’re also willing to be the ones doing the follow-up.
And I don’t agree with that statement. While I agree that many evangelists are basically selling “fire insurance” and the discipleship of new converts is a critically important and currently lacking issue, I also think God gifted some to evangelize and some to disciple. Some to plant and some to water, so to speak.
I would also have to describe myself as an anti-witness for a number of years and God kept drawing me back to the church until I found one that would disciple me. Now, I’m a teacher there. I realize an anti-witness is dangerous, but whether we realize it or not, they are in God’s hands.
What message are we inadvertently sending to a new convert if we bail the second they say, “I believe”? We tend to want to make converts…
No. We want to put another notch on our Bible. Because we’ve been taught that “Saving Souls” (not people) is all there is, even to the point that we’re taught that racking up more notches on your Bible than the other guy is what God will judge you on.
I ended up as a notch on half a dozen Bibles that way.
from your mouth to God’s ear, bro. That’s a great essay and I think you’re dead on.
Let me ask you: do you think that this kind of evangelism is the result of a misunderstanding of the Gospel of the part of people who think they are doing the right thing, or is it simply lazy or sloppy?
I think the problem is all of the above. If you and I are similar in demographic, I suspect we probably were both involved in a campus ministry of some type. I was InterVarsity. I did door-to-door in the dorms. It was exciting, humbling, life-and-death kind of stuff.
We tried hard to get converts to come to our small groups. Success was mixed. I think it always is.
However, I never did any kind of IV events that were short term and missed out on the discipleship part. Not because I was smart enough to see the inherent problems, but because I never had the cash to go! Of those people who did, I suspect that all believed they were doing the right thing.
I’m going to guess that you might have done something similar when you were young. Most young Christians have that gung-ho attitude that’s lightning in a bottle and God bless them for it. Sadly, it’s not always harnessed the right way. Young people don’t always have the experience to know better, nor do their leaders wish to dampen spirits by questioning methodology. Just having people excited enough to do the work is the best leaders can hope for, so why be a wet blanket?.
I think it becomes lazy and sloppy when we know better. I started to know better about three or four years after my IVCF experiences. Even though we were trying to get people into a small group and were beholden to some amount of discipleship, we still lived for the moment and didn’t consider how we might get people plugged in when they weren’t in college.
Laziness and sloppiness are byproducts of our slavery to the clock. I’m convinced that the way our society is structured in the West creates problem. We know we should be doing evangelism, but hey, who’s got the time to actually sit down with converts and walk them through a lifetime of discipleship?
The whole problem with short-term evangelistic methods is that they’re short-term. The clock dictates how long they last. But what clock existed in Jesus’ day? Any read through the Bible shows that most people had slower lives. Is there a hero of the Faith who ever uttered, “Sorry, would love to, but I’ve got an appointment at 3:00”?
I also think people are scared that they’ll botch up someone’s discipleship training. The truly conscientious people suffer from this. They have a burden for the lost, but anxiety about how to go about it the right way weighs them down. So fear plays a part.
I suspect that 95 percent of people who are out evangelizing are trying their best with what they know to do. However, some of the soulwinning, “notch-in-the-belt” folks are simply doing it for spiritual brownie points. I wonder if their methods result in the most antiwitnesses.
No matter what the case, I think that awareness is key. Also, we need to work at establishing solid discipleship classes that utilize as many gifted disciplers as possible, rotating them so as not to incur burnout. If a person is good at evangelizing people, but not so great at discipling, I still think that person can accompany “their convert” to discipleship classes. Just being a friend and a support is most of the battle, too.
Still, I think we need to ask the best way to grow people and work hard to do it. Just soulwinning is not the answer.
What a load of self-serving unctious horsecrap!
“Stu” backslid because he decided to backslid, because he’s an autonomous individual who chose the carnal over the sprirtual. “Stu” is a big boy who made big boy decisions. He didn’t backslide because the person who informed him of the gospel didn’t adequately brainwash him. Jesus taught that some seed would spring up too fast and wither away. If that what he said, then we can assume that even He was powerless to prevent some from falling away.
If there are any “anti-witnesses” here, it’s the people witnessing to college kids on a bender during Spring Break. Every good salesmen knows that to sell a product (1) identify people who would be interested in your product, and (2) identify to those people why the products meets their desires. Yet too often, evangelists do the exact opposite: go find the people most uninterested in spiritual matters, then yell and scream at them about how they need to change everything about themselves. It makes the evangelist feel all warm and fuzzy that they’re “witnessing to sinners”, but accomplishes nothing and throws pearls to swine. The few converts the find, like “Stu”, unsuprisingly go back the way they were.
We’re creating “anti-witnesses” because we’re not communal enough and aren’t self-sacrificing enough? Son, if communalism measured the sprituality of a population, then North Korea would be the most holy country on the face of the Earth. There is no such thing as a “relational, community faith”. Only an individual can believe or think, not a group. If you want to make the church grow, stop asking people to flagellate and kill themselves for the Lord, and instead show them how a relationship with God will benefit them and their house.
Thanks for being a new reader!
Your pragmatism is showing here, I suspect. The reasoning that “Jesus only got 25%” is not an answer, though. He told us to make disciples, not converts, and our success rate has nothing to do with it. If we fail to do that, then we’re ignoring the Great Commission. He appointed some to be pastors and teachers because people need solid leadership in becoming a disciple. You can’t walk away from the process or else you will get people like Stu who don’t know any better.
Is Stu responsible for some of what should be his own growth? Yes. But so are the people who led him to Christ.
Your comment about community is odd because we are the Body of Christ for a reason, and the Body is designed to be integrally woven together, not a loose collection pf parts strewn here and there. The illustration you give of North Korea fails to address the need that what is foundational is Christian belief, THEN corporate function.
The Church Growth Movement has tried to show how God will benefit people, but it’s been a colossal failure. We’re not “selling” Jesus as a spiritual Swiss Army knife. And God does ask people to sacrifice their own needs for those of others. All the apostles wound up dead or paid harshly for their allegiance to the Lord. If dying to self is self-flagellation, then I don’t understand what you think the components of the Gospel are.
I heard this great comment from a man who’s led a relational evangelism and discipleship college ministry for 20 years:
Many people like to go fishing, but it’s harder to find people who want to stick around and clean the fish.
Speaking of individualism in our Americanized spirituality… I was just noticing today as I was listening to some praise music. There are an awful lot of songs written about “my Lord” “my Jesus” “my Savior” “how I love You”….. my, I, me.
But when Jesus taught us to pray, He said “Our Father, who art in heaven….” I think much of the Bible places more emphasis on how we relate to God together as a family, not just “me and God”. I do think that is a weakness in the American church.
my brother, your post CONVICTED me, big time. Thanks!