Saturday, February 2, 2013

Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Non-Evangelism by Carl Medearis

This is a controversial read...and yet I was challenged by it.  Meaderis' book wrestles with the idea of speaking of Jesus versus the (somewhat Western) mentality of event-evangelism: the sharing of our faith and bringing someone to conversion.  He contrasts a lifestyle as a Jesus-follower and the label of "Christian," or "Christianity."  His research and experience shows that people respond positively to Jesus, but negatively toward things labeled "Christian." 

Missiologists have wrestled with this idea for years - and Meaderis' experience living overseas shows how he has wrestled as well.  Put one way, this book is a kind of missiology on witnessing but in popular terminology and writing style.

First - I will review the positives - the things that challenged me.  At the end, I will share a few concerns. 

The strength of Medearis is his simplicity: bringing us back to JESUS, not religion.  As a missiologist might say when bringing the message of Jesus to another land:  bring the seed, not the whole tree.  Medearis nails this.  Leave the doctrinal explanations at home - stick to Jesus.

"The gospel is not a what. It is not a how. The gospel is a Who. The gospel is literally the good news of Jesus. Jesus is the gospel. ...E. Stanley Jones continues this thought in his book The Christ of the Indian Road: “The sheer storm and stress of things had driven me to a place that I could hold. Then I saw that there is where I should have been all the time. I saw that the gospel lies in the person of Jesus, that he himself is the Good News, that my one task was to live and to present him. My task was simplified.”"
In the West, we suffer from what one might call "control-freak Christianity" - our attempt to understand, explain and systematize all things of our faith - and then we err by trying to be sure anyone who wants to 'join our Christian club' understands all of those points too.  Meadearis reminds us, "Are we saved by our brains or our hearts?"  In other words, when we look at the life of Jesus - He did not explain all points of doctrine or 'make converts' - He simply invited people to follow Him.  That true discipleship changed them. 

Meadearis reminds us that Jesus was hardest on those who were religious, not those who were messy.  He was attracted to those who could acknowledge their need.  Medearis regularly asks those he is sharing with whom Jesus might prefer to 'hang out with' - and when the individual assumes its Medearis - he corrects them quickly.  "Jesus would go home with you," he says. 

One of the author's favorite hang-outs was a coffee shop/book store where some of the most "un-christianized" people in Colorado Springs hang out.  He asks - if Jesus were here today, where would HE hang out?  right here.  I agree wholeheartedly.  Jesus would not visit our mega-churches.  He would most likely be visiting bars on Christopher Street, or speaking words of hope in South-East Asia's slums and brothels.

When I personally read the words of Jesus - I often feel as though I fall so far short.  Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees often describes me so much more often than His words to the ill or the outcast: Medearis says it this way:  "Perhaps … those who think they’re “in” or that they know the way or have the truth need a bit of shaking. Legalism is the enemy of Jesus. soon as our attitudes shift from a humble “knowing” of Jesus to a know-it-all type of arrogance, we’re toast. We will be on the rebuking end of Jesus’ words."
Meadearis calls believers to simplify their idea of 'witnessing' - to love and listen to people, speak freely and often and boldly of Jesus and how He has changed your life.  Stop the Christianese and the endless explanations.  Let people be attracted to the Person of Jesus and begin to follow Him. YES.
I agreed with most of what Medearis has to say.  My one word of caution is that Medearis focuses almost completely on the beginning of walking with Jesus - on sharing with the lost and seeing them come to a place of discipleship of Jesus.  He does not address what brings believers to maturity - nor is it the purpose of his book.  There is a place and a need for solid doctrine.  Sometimes - we can develop a sort of reverse-pharisaism that sounds uber-spiritual because we choose to toss out the extras and "just keep Jesus."  Meaderis borders on this attitude - at least that is my perception. 
My other word of caution is that Jesus is the Gospel - and so we must not forget the completeness of the Gospel and the urgency of sharing this good news.  Yes, Jesus personifies the Gospel - but one cannot understand the power of that Gospel without grasping God's standards and laws and the price to be paid for sin that was spelled out in the Old Testament. 
My take-away application from this book is to speak loudly, boldly, freely, and lovingly of JESUS and how He has changed my life.  I love the idea of "leaving breadcrumbs" for Jesus - toss them out and see who picks them up and says - I want more! 
Yet - I find that one of the most effective forms of evangelism is to take those who respond to the "taste" of Jesus that was offered: and bring them into a small group study that begins in the Old Testament and works through key passages until the Person of Jesus is discovered by the participants.  Engaging the Word of God directly and personally changes people, and often - brings people to repentance and into the arms of Jesus. 
Well...this was a long blog post.  I read this book in about one day.  Its not a hard read.  It will challenge you and step on your toes - but its worth reading.  

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