Thursday, February 5, 2009

Two Tables Over

I haven't been to Starbucks in quite awhile, but here I am, drinking a cup of Pike Place Roast. A few minutes ago, before I popped in my earphones and began listening to Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson, I intermittently listened in on some of the conversation going on two tables over from me.

My ears tend to perk up whenever surrounding conversations turn religious. They were talking about a few things, including a Bible college, possibly even the one I went to several years ago. Another topic that came up was church planting. I have varying thoughts on this, and evangelism in general.

My initial thought when I heard them talking about church plants was that perhaps they are like bunnies; they can't really help themselves, and spend all of their time reproducing or at least trying to (I'm talking about churches, not the couple having the conversation. I don't think they were married, therefore they weren't having sex, of course.) Maybe churches reproduce because they simply think that's what they're supposed to do. After all, there's the great commission that has Jesus telling his followers to go out into all the world and make disciples of everyone. So people go out into the whole world, trying to bring people into the Christian family, sort of like Angelina Jolie goes out into the whole world and brings children into the Jolie-Pitt family.

Let me start out by being positive (no, don't call a doctor.) I have no problem with evangelism if the goal is to help people realize their full potential and to genuinely want to see people live fulfilling lives. There is a while lot of good accomplished by Christian people - many mouths are fed, scores of homes built, many bracelet manufacturers' bottom lines are improved.

I believe that many, if not most Christians have good intentions when setting off on evangelistic work.

A big problem I have is when doctrine becomes involved, when well intentioned people assume that they know the exact road to a more fulfilling and whole life, and then proceed to try to graft these doctrines onto every soul and mind, even if they are completely foreign and incompatible with the other person.

It is no one's job to be the bringer of some packaged truth to another who does not have truth within them. It is no one's job to bring goodness to another who does not contain goodness within them. For each person alive contains truth, as well as goodness within them. Because of this, I believe that any religious dialogue that takes place between people should be just that, a dialogue. It should be a conversation between two equals, both of whom contain God within them and are on their own spiritual journeys. Together they, we, can learn form each other, and we can bring thoughts and ideas that can help the other to lead a more fulfilling and whole life. Some of our experiences and thoughts will resonate with others, some will not. That's absolutely fine. Truth, unlike the scarf that I wrap around my neck, is not one-size-fits-all.

In closing, again, I'm sure that many Christians and those of other faiths who evangelize have good intentions. I just think that it is vital to remember that the person sitting across the table has plenty of goodness within them as well.