Tuesday, July 19, 2011

before & after

Within the whole "evangelism" conversation, an argument has been made that, instead of looking to define people as "inside" or "outside" the church, or as "spiritually dead" or "spiritually alive," it may be more helpful to look at orientation toward Jesus or orientation away from him. 

To a point, I think that this is a good idea because following Jesus is a process.  I don't know if anyone ever just wakes up one day and says, "today I think I'll follow Jesus."  Usually there's a whole journey toward Jesus that happens first.  Seeing the process instead of just one point of decision allows us to focus more on walking with people right where they are instead of trying to force a decision before they're ready to make one.  It also allows us the freedom not to have to label people, but just to pray with others and encourage them at whatever point they're at on their spiritual journey.


As I have watched people over the last couple of years move from hostility toward neutrality toward faith toward relationship with Jesus, every time there has been a point where there is a real, distinct, almost measurable change inside of them.  There is a point where it becomes clear to me, as an outside observer, that the Spirit of God is living inside them and that they are now walking with God.

It's one of the most amazing and miraculous transformations that you could ever see.  I can hardly describe what it's like to observe someone going from one day of disconnection from God to the next day of walking with God.  There's an element of softness, of tenderness, of openness.  There is a recognition of their own internal brokennness and need for God to fill them and transform them.  There's a new interest in the stories or words of Scripture.  There's a kind of peace in the person's soul.  And there's a different kind of confidence mixed with humility that comes from belonging to God.

And the more I see that happening in the people around me, the more I want to see others experience it too.  Even though the problems of life don't disappear, and even though life becomes harder in some ways, it seems to me like that internal transformation is a very positive thing for the people being transformed and that they don't want to go back.  Maybe more importantly, that transformation has usually led them to love God and to love other people more completely than they were able to before.

The before & after--they motivate me.  They motivate me to pray without ceasing for the people around me.  They motivate me to choose to be there for people in a holistic way because I want them to experience the love of God in a tangible way.  They motivate me to listen and look for the move of the Spirit in the lives of people around me so I don't miss out on being a part of what he's doing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Anna. I agree. We need to think more along these lines, our churches as well. There needs to perhaps intentionally be room for people on the journey, though maybe it needs to be in a subtly wise kind of way. At least we need to have that orientation you describe here.

    As evangelicals we have been so powerfully impacted by the decision model, as important as that aspect is, that we can forget the importance of all the precedes and follows it.