Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Balanced evangelism

I struggle sometimes with the tension between "proclamation evangelism", and "presence evangelism". Speaking words that nobody has any interest in is a waste of time, but just being there isn't enough either! So I found these thoughts from members of a Servants of Asia's Poor team in Mexico supremely helpful.

"Through being here we have seen the effect that living in poverty has on people’s self-belief and hope. Poverty is limitating; it entraps people in lies that speak to the very core of their being and robs them of their joy and dreams. If transformation is to come to communities and people trapped in these kind of circumstances, it has
to offer more than just financial gain or improved living conditions. While these things certainly help people to have access to better goods, services and opportunities, they don’t necessarily touch people to their core, and help bring about internal change in how they see themselves and their community. Spiritual transformation, however, has the ability to break down lies and distrust
and build healthy new paradigms and core-beliefs.

This is something that can’t be forced and can’t be achieved by what we do. It is the work of the Holy Spirit guiding and calling a person into new life with God. And it
can achieve true and lasting transformation in a person’s life. Having said this, spiritual transformation has to be wholistic. It has to touch a person’s physical needs as well. As the adage goes: a starving person thinks of nothing but food. So we need to realize that at times the best way to share God’s love with another is by offering them food when they are hungry, clothing when they have none, or friendship when they are lonely. When we fail to seek wholistic transformation our desire to see hope where there is hopelessness will always fall short.

To which I have nothing to add.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Camping out?

Normally, it is great to be in a country which leads the world in welcoming each new day - but Harold Camping, with his prediction of the world ending last Saturday at 6pm, left NZ facing the rapture before anyone else could test his prophetic accuracy. We all know now, as we knew then, that he was wrong. I was saddened by the whole sorry episode, and the way in which it brings the followers of Jesus into disrepute once again - but pleased that most Christians displayed grace and sympathy to his misguided followers, rather than ridicule or condemnation.

Repentance, admitting I got things wrong, asking for forgiveness, and expressing a desire to do better next time - this is all at the centre of the Christian life. How we are perceived as thinking that we are better than everyone else - when the reality is that we know all too well our "sinfulness" and our need for God's mercy and grace, I'm not quite sure.

But then along comes such a brother as Harold Camping. He got it wrong in 1994, and he got it wrong last Saturday. Surely now he will admit his stupidity in doing something Jesus plainly said we would not be able to do? Surely this time round he will slink off into embarrassed oblivion? Sadly - no! Instead he now informs the bemused, irritated world that the rapture will be five months later - I would tell you the actual date, but frankly, I don't care.

To slightly change a very famous prayer -
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things about myself I cannot change;
the courage to face up to and admit and change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference