ChurchETHOS

Engaging the Culture for Christ (Part 2)

Posted in christian thought, church reform, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on June 29, 2008

Often when people desire to engage the culture we go to two extremes: There are the lazy Christians who rarely do anything to engage culture and they just hope their lives are interesting enough to invite questions from unbelievers. Then there are those who turn people off to Christianity by damning people to hell without even knowing them (I’ve been confronted on the streets of Boston by a person who yelled at me and said I was going to hell…and I’m a Christian!).

I’m advocating for the kind of person who does neither of these two things. I try to live like Jesus lived among unbelievers by spending time with them in their homes and inviting them over to my home and loving them regardless of their beliefs or behaviors. I don’t get in their face every single time we get together (or they would stop listening to me), but I have made sure that every single one of my friends knows what I am praying for them that they will come to know Jesus because He is the only way to the Father. Some have come to know Jesus as a result, others are still friends and they often bring up spiritual conversations. Other times I feel that I can raise an issue or confront a behavior because I have that close relationship with them. On the other hand, there are times I know to keep my mouth shut. In other words, I know them and I care for them. They know my message is sincere. While a person holding a sign or yelling through a megaphone could be sincere, the person on the other side will never know it. I want to engage culture with my sincerity because I know that’s the harder road and the more rewarding. With a tract or a sign, I can be sincere, I can be insincere and no one would ever know. So, I never question a street preachers motives, just his methods. Sometimes it is effective, but it’s hard to measure how effective, non-effective, or counter-effective it can be since no one knows the hearts of the people who hear other than God. You always know where you stand when you are sharing Christ with someone you care about.

Now, I must qualify and say that there are times where the word that needs to be spoken to a friend will probably end the relationship, but because that relationship of trust has been built, and the word spoken is out of love, there is always the hope that they will realize the error of their ways and that the Spirit will draw them to Himself. This “relational evangelism” simply means that you are loving people just as we are commanded to do. That kind of love becomes evident to the one receiving the love and the seed falls on fertile soil.

So, I advocate for a complete overhaul of the way we engage culture. We can’t sit passively by and let people die without knowing Jesus. We also cannot alienate people by focusing on one or two issues and neglecting the thousands of other injustices in the world that demand the attention of Christians (as if abortion and homosexuality were the only sins that a person might commit). Let’s start preaching the gospel boldly in the context of love.

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10 Responses

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  1. Larry T said, on June 30, 2008 at 12.04 am

    Nathan,

    (I Posted the same response on my blog)

    We basically agree except with one qualification, you say:

    “Sometimes it is effective, but it’s hard to measure how effective, non-effective, or counter-effective it can be since no one knows the hearts of the people who hear other than God.”

    If church history is any “measure” of the effectiveness of open air preaching – then it has been very effective indeed:

    Jesus was an open air preacher (there is no way one could argue he spent quality time with everyone in the masses of people who came to him).

    The Apostle Paul was an open air preacher

    The Waldensians (forerunners to the reformation) were characterized by street preaching…

    Jonh Wycliff sent out his preaching Lollards (or Babblers) throughout England…

    Richard Cameron (Scottish Covenanter and field preacher) was saved by open-air preacher John Welch…

    Who can measure the impact of the great awakening preacher George Whitefield…

    or the impact of John Wesley who was converted by Moravian open Air preacher Peter Boehler

    and the Methodist circuit riders…

    How do you measure the impact of Charles Spurgeon or of D L Moody?

    A. W. Tozer and Billy Sunday were saved by hearing street preachers!

    This is just to name a few

    “Preaching” has been the main “method” we see the Church employing throughout the book of Acts:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=preach&version1=31&searchtype=all&spanbegin=50&spanend=51

    Open air preaching has had a huge impact!

    Would you agree?

    The way I see it – we need an army of old fashioned open-air preachers (ones who can handle the word of God correctly of course)

    Lar

    After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also,and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. ( Luke 10:1-3 )

  2. Creitz said, on June 30, 2008 at 8.28 am

    Yeah,

    I certainly should make a distinction between different sorts of street preachers. There have certainly been the effective ones through the years and I hold them in high regard. I guess I’m more thinking of the ones that are common in Boston that can preach nothing but hell.

    I also would say that culture has shifted and the revivals and the awakenings are not as effective any more. However, I certainly believe there is a place for open air preachers who preach the truth without all the anger and vitriol of some of the street preachers I’ve seen.

  3. Larry T said, on June 30, 2008 at 9.24 am

    Nathan I agree with the distinction…

    Are you familiar with Ray Comfort?

    Do you think his approach is both bold and gracious?

    Lar

  4. John C said, on June 30, 2008 at 11.48 am

    Nathan,
    You may remember my telling the story I heard from Roy Fish:

    He said that during a revival meeting that he was preaching, he visited in a lost person’s home with the pastor. The pastor began to share Christ with him, so Dr. Fish began to pray. As the pastor began to pressure the man, Fish started praying for the pastor to quit. The pastor begged and pleaded for a long time, and the man finally gave in and tearfully accepted Christ. After they left, Dr. Fish asked for an explanation. The pastor, in wonderment, said, “I’ve never done anything like that before!”

    Dr. Fish told this in the context of a discussion such as yours: to be attentive and gracious to the hearer, but be attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as well.

  5. mattdabbs said, on June 30, 2008 at 4.46 pm

    Have you seen Rob Bell’s Bullhorn Guy video? It addresses a lot of what you are saying. People have to be treated with love and respect. One without the other or neither will not work.

  6. Larry Temple said, on June 30, 2008 at 6.40 pm

    matt,

    I’ve seen that video:

    Honestly it is theologically imbalanced.

    This video is loaded with caricaturizations and assumptions about open air preachers, it also assumes a lot about their effectiveness and motives as well (shame on him too! – This is the whole point of my original post – no respect…)

    Rob Bell presupposes that God’s primary attribute is love, those who disagree would argue the opposite – that God’s primary attribute is his Holiness or His Purity – both are correct!

    These two “tensions” are often pitted against each other – one swings to one side the other swings the other, this is often the theological difference between “fundamentalists” and “contemporary evangelicals”.

    If we want to be biblical and “theologically correct” we must hold both of these seemingly polar opposites at the same time.

    I prefer Todd Friel’s response to Rob Bell (I believe what he says is closer to holding both tensions):

    Grace and Peace,

    Lar

  7. Creitz said, on July 3, 2008 at 4.22 pm

    I haven’t seen the video…will have to check it out.

    nathancreitz

  8. Creitz said, on July 3, 2008 at 9.58 pm

    Larry,

    I never responded to you about Ray Comfort. I like some of the stuff he does.

    nathancreitz

  9. kristarella said, on July 5, 2008 at 1.51 am

    Interesting couple of posts.

    I think that there must be a place for many different approaches to sharing God’s word. They’re all in the bible.

    Roy’s approach to walk-up and street preaching is not what I imagine street preaching to be like at all… in a good way. When you say “street preacher” to me I only think of someone standing on a soapbox repeating one or two sentences about repenting and hell. Roy asks for people’s attention, he has a structure to what he says. It’s a lot closer to the preaching larry mentions in the first comment on this post.

    I think there’s almost no way to capture the tensions between God’s love and his holiness, his desire to save and his judgement in a short public talk like that. I’ve been a Christian for many years and I’ve only really started to hold those tensions together in the last few years.

    There’s also a place for doing things without attributing it to him (as long as you don’t try to take the glory yourself). Take Esther as an example.

    Then there’s the other relational circumstances as well. It’s always a challenge to be bold (as you spoke about it the previous post). Perhaps the more important challenge is in whatever we do (however we do it) to give glory to God.

    Thanks for making me think!

  10. Sophie said, on August 21, 2008 at 4.01 am

    This is all so interesting, sorry for just jumping in but I’m really excited about this subject!
    A few years ago, I organised a Christian weekend on evangelism. My friend organised the speaker- it was his youth worker from church. He was a really great guy, really down to earth and funny. On the first night, he played the Rob Bell Bullhorn video. The next morning, one seriously offended brother in Christ left the conference. He regularly preaches on the main street in the city where I live.
    For me, it was clear that Rob Bell had one (and perhaps ONLY one) thing right: Christians can certainly alienate themselves from their culture, and place huge barriers to forming meaningful, evangelistic relationships with non-Christians, by taking a ‘hit-and-run’ approach to the gospel. You yell it and leave, not caring about individual needs and questions.
    This said, there HAS to be a place for preaching the gospel at all times, in all places, in lots of different ways. I think the book of Acts shows us that the CONTENT of the gospel never changes; the presentation of it does, according to the audience (eg. Jewish -Acts 2 or Gentile- Acts 17).
    Overall, we Christians need to be motivated by loving our friends, family and strangers on the street more than we love our own reputation and street-cred. We need to boldly put the saving news of Jesus Christ out to people who will die in their sins without it.

    Sophie
    http://treasuring-christ.blogspot.com/


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