Monday, August 17, 2009

'Turn or Burn' at the Jr. High Dance

I was just reading an excellent little essay from my brother in ministry Jonathan, and it got me to thinking about evangelism & how we do it.

At least, it reminded me of something I've already been thinking about. You see we're having Revival at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ this week. And I'd say it's not even limited to this week, because there's been a 3-week build-up of prayer & preparation for the event of Revival meetings we're having this week. I've gotta say that it's been really encouraging.

Last week, though -- in leading up to this week -- we talked on Sunday morning about Junior High Dance. Can you remember your's? I'm not talking about HS dances like Homecoming or Prom, where hormones are just pulsating out of control when you hold each other close. I'm talking about Jr. High Dance -- the one where you had NO IDEA what kind of culture you just stepped into when you walked in the door.

For one thing, there weren't really dates, right? I mean, there might be a couple people who are "going together," but everyone else is pretty much a free agent. And so how it worked when you walked in was that there were special lights flickering, and there was loud music blaring, and it was clear that this was a whole new environment. Maybe the first thing you see is the big table with the gigantic punch bowl. But it doesn't take long to notice the segregation that's happening in this place. ALLLL the boys are standing up against one wall like duteous wallflowers. And allll the girls are sitting in chairs, all dolled-up & looking good, way on the other side of the dance floor. Ohhh, and the tension... it's so real that it's almost like you could touch it.

Now, I want you to imagine that one of those boys worked up the gumption to go ask one of those girls to dance. And when he walks over there to her straightway, he says the following, "Well hey there! You know what? You look nasty tonight. I'm serious: just downright disgusting. But I'll tell ya what: if you come dance with me, it will make you look a whole lot better. Whadda ya say?"

Now, I don't imagine we'd expect that proposal to work very well. Sadly, I suspect a few girls with low self-esteem might accept, but that's about all.

But then why would we expect that this approach would work with sharing our faith?

Because that's the way we did it in our fellowship by and large. We see a flaw in someone's life -- maybe they drink alcohol, or engage in some other supposedly "big sin" -- and we essentially tell them that they look revolting. Or maybe it's just the whole idea of sin that we explain to them: they're covered in it, it's hideous, but lucky for them we've got the keys to the special door where they don't have to be hideous anymore.

And this is how evangelism was done in our fellowship for decades. Poor us. I guess it's just the best idea we had at the time for sharing our faith. But there are certainly better ways.

Let me share with you another way. At least the way we chose to do it at the Lynn Haven Church this past week. We had this Revival coming up, and we had friends we wanted to invite. And that can be really awkward -- kinda like asking a girl to dance in Jr. High. So here's how we did it. We printed out cards with the following message:

Dear (Blank)

I want you to know about something I did especially for you, and to tell you about something special that’s happening soon.

I’m sure you already know that I’m a member at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ. We’re a small family of faith, but we’re big on doing God’s will & caring for each other. I’m proud of my church family, and I’d love to share them with you.

Why? Because I care about you. That’s also why I prayed for you in a special way this week. This past week I prayed for you by name for some very specific matters: for your family, for your job & finances, and for your spiritual well-being. You matter to me.

So that’s also why I’m inviting you to some special meetings we’re having at my church this coming week. We’re calling it a Revival. I need a Revival in my life, and I’ll bet you could use one, too. I’d love for you to come! I’d love to introduce you to my church family. But mostly I’d like to share my Heavenly Father with you.

So here are the times & the dates…

I’ll be praying that I see you there, and that we can find Revival there together!

And then there was space for people to write a personal note. We challenged each other to think of three people in our lives that we knew needed Revival, to pray for them, and then hand the invitation card to them & let them know you care about them.

So that's one way. I know there are other ways to do evangelism, many of them more trendy & popular. But that one is working for us.

There's another way that evangelism is like Jr. High Dance, though. I think about the duteous Wallflower boys & the dolled-up girls in their chairs, and it's just a painful image. Why? Because they should be together! They belong together. But the boys are terrified; and the girls don't know what to do, either. And what's funny about the whole scenario is that if the boys knew just how much the girls wanted to be asked to dance -- how desperately they wanted someone to notice them & to compliment them by inviting them to dance -- I think those boys would be a whole lot more eager to go ask.

The world is literally dying for good news. We have something to offer the world that nobody else does. And sure, our reputation has been sullied in the world's eyes a little bit by decades of asking people to dance by telling them how ugly they are. We'll have to negotiate over that hurdle in the minds of some. But people want what we've got. Love, and peace, and joy. And all the rest of it. We should be bold in taking the initiative & inviting our friends to share in our faith.

Oh -- and one day, the dance is going to end. Let's hope we don't go home with regret, wishing we'd asked someone to dance & but didn't. How AWFUL to live in eternity with that kind of regret.

1 comment:

Nick Faris said...

I'd add that at a junior high dance, you only dance with the people you know. I've become increasingly convinced of the power behind this simple principle.