12/23/13 “Dan” about 45
Had a very interesting and engaging coffeeshop conversation with a man I’ll call Dan, pastor of a large non-denominational church here in North Carolina, where I am visiting on vacation. It’s not too often one gets the privilege of a no-strings-attached conversation with a church leader who is not in “pastor mode”, but I had just randomly gone up to this guy reading a book at the coffeshop and asked if he would be willing to answer an interesting question. It turned out to be truly an “iron sharpening iron” conversation that God uses when He brings His children together in honest and candid fellowship. One of the many things we talked about and agreed on was that the “seeker-sensitive” focus on sharing one’s faith through inviting people to a church “experience” too often results in dumbed-down Christianity and faith in human effort rather than the Holy Spirit. We also both agreed that as Christians the Holy Spirit within us obligates us to share the Gospel; “Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!” as Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 9. “Dan” agreed he meets this inherent need through his Sunday sermons, his weekly three-hour long live radio show, and through his many conversations in his role as pastor. “But imagine yourself in my place, in the pews, not being the guy up front who gets to share his faith regularly.” I asked. He admitted, “I’d go crazy, I couldn’t do it”. I have long maintained that pastors need to set an example that the rest of the congregation can follow. Since most people don’t have the opportunity or skills to share their faith from up front, pastors and other church leaders need to set an example of sharing the Gospel in a way that people can imitate in daily life. We need to be reassured by our leaders that intentionally reaching out to share the gospel is normal, or at least biblical, Christianity. Far too many Christians view intentionally starting witnessing conversations as something done only by the “gifted’, missionaries, the radical fringe, or even only by cult members like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Dan pointed out that we are now in about the 3rd generation of the “seeker sensitive” movement, and that for many of today’s church leaders, evangelism by church invitation and a man-centered church experience is all they have known. He also made another important point – that when the Gospel is biblically preached, and when people respond not just emotionally to the love of God but also to a proper understanding of their own sin and depravity and need for redemption – when people have truly been born again of the Spirit – they won’t need to be convinced that they should share the Gospel. It is a natural outcome of biblical preaching and a response caused by the Holy Spirit, not just an emotional experience. Good thoughts from a pastor who is willing to ask - and answer – the tough and unpopular questions!