Sunday, November 22, 2009

Notice, Listen and Pray

I caught an interesting segment on “This American LIfe.” Ira Glass interviewed Jim Henderson, an evangelical Christian rethinking evangelism. Henderson believes that Christians should move away from making a sales pitch to building relationships. His advice is for Christians to take notice of people around them and consider their lives. When Christians are in conversation with acquaintances, they should concentrate on listening and not interrupting with their own stuff. Finally, Christians should simply pray for others, for their well-being, for their journey and trust that something could happen. Henderson refers to his methodology as “doable evangelism.”

How simple and novel. Christians building relationships and opportunities for interactions of substance, based in faith and hope. Sounds like someone I know...

This American Life Podcast Jim Henderson's Website

2 comments:

Bryan Owen said...

I am very sympathetic to this approach to evangelism, particularly in light of the many abuses of evangelism by some Christians who use it as a means to spiritually bully others, so I'll have to give this a listen. It is critically important to build relationships of love and trust with others, regardless of what the ultimate outcome may be. Jesus is, indeed, our example here.

At the same time, it is also critically important to have a substantive message to offer (i.e., the Gospel). Jesus is again the model here, as he starts his ministry with a simple, clear, and substantively weighty message: "The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news." And there's the example of the apostle Paul, among other New Testament writers. And the mystery of faith we celebrate in the Eucharist: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again."

IMO, some of the "softer, gentler" approaches to evangelism out there these days downplay the message of the Gospel in favor of relationship building & sharing one's faith journey (as if these things have to be in opposition?). I note, in particular, David Gortner's Transforming Evangelism, a book whose strengths are offset by the fact that it barely mentions what the Gospel actually is or why Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are important. It's a good first step, but a first step without additional steps won't take us anywhere.

Chris+ said...

Bryan,

I think you capture the tensions quite well. The point Henderson makes that I find most arresting is the relationship piece. We are talking about the creation and formation of disciples, not just filling pews. My assumption is sharing substance.

Great to hear from you!
C+