Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Full, Part Three

I'm sitting in a coffee house on Main St. in Findlay, OH as I write this.

Outside, about half a block down, two guys just spent about 35 minutes standing on the street corner. One was holding up a large banner of Jesus on the cross. The other, dressed in a tie and jacket, was "street preaching. "

Well, at least I think he was street preaching. He was yelling a lot.

With the exception of one short break, he maintained a constant level that was easily heard down into the coffee house, which has it's front door propped open to let in the warm air from one of our first real Spring days. For a while, it was just me and the barista in here. As I was adding sugar and half and half to my cup, she was leaning out the door to take a quick listen. As I headed for my table by the front window, she smiled at me and said, "they have a banner, but it doesn't look like there's anything bad written on it." I leaned out the door to take look, but couldn't make out all that it said. The two were facing toward the center of the intersection, so a large portion of the banner was obscured.

I watched as groups of people, going to and from lunch, passed by on each side of the street. There really wasn't any interaction between the people and the two guys. Actually, the guys were so focused on the middle of the intersection that it seemed to me that their target audience must have been the manhole cover in the center of the street. Despite his high volume, no one looked up as they walked by- even when he shouted the invitation to come to Christ.

As I walked back to my seat, I thought about the stark object lesson that the scene was serving up for me. Sitting on my table is a book entitled, "I Sold My Soul on eBay," by Hemant Mehta (pronounced HEH-mint). It's the true story of an atheist who decided that he wanted to explore some of his conclusions about God (i.e., his lack of belief in God's existence) by going to church. Being a rather bold and creative guy, Hemant "held an eBay auction, agreeing to attend any place (or places) of worship determined by the winning bidder. Jim Henderson, a former pastor and author of 'Evangelism Without Additives,' won the auction. He asked Mehta to attend a number of churches and write a critique of each one." (This excerpt is taken from the publisher's note at the book's beginning.) Hemant's reviews are still available on Henderson's site at http://www.off-the-map.org/ if you are interested. Just go to the site, click on "eBay atheist," then go to the right column and the find "Hemant's Church Surveys" link.

(I know this sounds like an unbelievable partnership- the pastor/author and the atheist, but it worked. Hemant did just what Jim requested, and his reviews reflect a sincerity in what he proclaims: He's curious, and he doesn't believe there is a God. After completing Jim's assignment, Hemant went on to visit other churches, and compiled his experiences into the book that is sitting by my computer. His words aren't angry or insulting, but he also doesn't pull any punches. If he thinks the preacher's presentation is dull, or the music stinks, or the people are unfriendly, he says it.)

Anyway, back at the table, I picked up the book again and read these words:

"But as I read Christian books, and as I spent months attending an amazing variety of churches in different parts of the country, I kept running across a consistent and troubling truth about American Christianity. It is clear that most churches have aligned themselves against nonreligious people. By adopting this stance, Christians have turned off the people I would think they want to connect with."

As I read, the street preacher shouted at the manhole and people continued to walked past, pretending he wasn't there.

Being "full" in Christ involves not only that we love God, but that we also love people, and strive to develop real, authentic relationships that allow us to live in real community. I mentioned in the last "Full" entry that corporate worship gatherings provide a great starting point in forging community, especially with other Christ followers. But real community is so much more than this. Authentic community is literally "life together" with others.

"This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

-Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (New Living Translation)

We need each other. And it seems to me that an authentic, open community is a lot more attractive than a guy shouting at a manhole.

In Him We Live,



B52HCROW said...

Jeff, thank you!

"But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV)

derf said...

I wish you would have called me about this guy so that I could have seen him.

He wasn't dressed like the band KISS was he?

Anyways, good post...much akin to the BULLHORN nooma. Check it out if you haven't.

katdish said...

People. People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff!
So many times we preach and preach, but do we act? So many people are turned off by "shove it down your throat" Christinanity. Like a defient child, I would revolt if I were yelled at about how bad and wrong I was.
Recently I was at the local Salvation Army. It was a Wednesday morning and they had just opened the doors. As I browsed around I could hear the employees in the back praying and praising God for the day.
Up at the front of the store a women was ringing the bell for service. She was getting rather irritated that she was not getting any service. I walked up towards her and mentioned that they would be up in a just a minute and that they were praying. She grimiced and said, "Oh!". I told her nicely, but you could tell she was a bit put off by not getting her help right away.
When I checked out, I told the clerk that I overhead them praying for the day and the people that they would come into contact with today. I thanked her. She said "God is good!." I replied "All the time!"
It is the simple interactions that we have with each other that show we are Christians. Not the Sandwich board or screaming at someone in the street.

Grace Christian Church Prayer Chain said...

I can't help but relate a quote from Oswald Chambers that I read this morning:
"Consider the lillies of the field" Matthew 6:28...
The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold us.
If you want to be of use to God, get rightly related to Jesus Christ and He will make you of use unconsciously every minute you live.

Living in Christ,
Christine :)

katdish said...

DUDE! Do you think that if I went to a NOOMA thing, I could actually get Rob Bell to say "I live.....in a van......down by the river"? Because that would be AWESOME!!!