Adjusting to being back in the US has been…interesting to say the least. Some things haven’t changed at all (how is there still construction on I-294? I’m pretty sure that bulldozer was in that exact same spot when I left). Other things seem to have drastically changed (how did this strip mall get here? This was a field when I left).
One of the biggest things that has come to my attention is an emphasis by the church on evangelism. It seems like everywhere I go, different churches, Christian leaders, Christian communities, etc are focusing all of their energy on spreading the Gospel.
A prime example of this is with the community I am now living in. To all the people in my intentional community who may be reading this, what I’m about to say is not meant to be offensive, it’s just an observation I have had. We host a lot of what I would call “party evangelism” events. We have a lot of opportunities for young people to gather together and be surrounded by fellow Christians, to talk about our faith to those who might be questioning, and, in general, to just hang out. And that’s the extent of what these events our for. We have talked about how these events are chances to eventually talk about issues we see in the world. But there is this hesitation to get to that part because there seems to be this fear that this will scare people off or something. It’s as if we are focusing solely on how to get more people rather than how do we enrich what we already have.
We went down to Texas at the end of March as an “alternative spring break” and week-long evangelism party. I thought this trip was going to be very similar to the many mission trips that I have been on in my life. I figured that we would have projects to do during the day and then at night we would have the opportunity to talk about why these projects are important as part of our Christian lives. To my surprise, the first night we were there we were told that if anyone came up to us and asked what we were doing that we should stop everything and talk to them about our faith. We also spent every night strictly focusing on our personal spiritual development through confession, discussion, and Biblical references. But we never talked about how the work we had done that day is another vital pillar to the life Christ calls us to live.
It seems as if people are focusing on evangelism because it’s an “easier” thing to do and a “safer” topic to talk about. Which seems very strange to me because I struggle with evangelism. I find it to be very hard to talk about my faith, and I prefer to get my hands dirty and try to tackle the many social justice issues that I see in the world. But it is definitely less controversial to talk about my faith than to discuss things like how my actions (and your actions) are feeding directly into the exploitation of workers here in the US and around the world for example.
I guess I just get confused as to how talking about my faith will “fix” a situation for someone if I don’t take it the step further and try to tackle the problem that got them into the situation in the first place. Now I’m not saying that evangelism isn’t important. We are called as Christians to talk about our faith and to live it out in our daily lives. So evangelism is a crucial part. But it’s not the whole thing. And sadly, it appears as if many Christians are stopping at the talking about their faith part and not taking it a step further.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be easy. It should push you outside of your comfort zone and get you thinking critically about the world around you. It’s supposed to lead to a radical life. After all, Jesus is a radical and revolutionary individual, and if we are going to live like Christ than our lives should reflect that. Jesus challenged the world around Him. He was actively fighting against the systems in place that were helping the rich get richer and making the poor poorer. He spoke out against the Roman Empire who was oppressing the marginalized of society while the majority of the population were silent and complacent. It’s not enough to just talk about the Gospel. You have to be willing to change your whole life and actively work towards bettering the world around you.
I encourage each of you who has read this to challenge yourself, your church leaders, and your church community to find more ways to serve and to break down the systems of oppression that you see in your neighborhood. You can find places to serve by going to one of these websites [http://www.allforgood.org] http://www.volunteermatch.org or just doing a quick google search of things in your area. Try to educate yourself on where the products you buy come from and if the workers (from those who made the product all the way up to those who are selling the product) are being treated fairly. Think critically about the life you are currently living. Strive to live like Christ in both word and action.
Mission Intern Class of 2012-2015