Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Corners

Cleaning out this old folder still....this one was written on June 25, 2006.

Last night, Saturday night, Matt, Tara, and I don’t have anything to do, so we decide to walk down to Monument Circle. Here is the cool set up of Monument Circle. It is the center of Indianapolis. Meridian Street, which runs through the center of the entire city, runs directly through the circle. Downtown Indianapolis has a vibrant culture and an alive downtown. The city is an actually big city, clean though. So anyways, what all that means is that the circle is the center of the city, like the hub, where a great diversity of people comes to hang out. Everything from the bikers who park their bikes (motorcycles) on the circle and just sit on them all night, as to draw attention to themselves, you have your car people, which can be broken down into a couple different groups within itself (the old school hot rods, new import tuners, urban 70’s cars with over 20 inch rims on it, you also have your dating couples, young kids trying to start trouble, and homeless community). Now all these groups of people are in this one location. People who know Christ and ones who don’t. So, we are walking around town and we go to the Chocolate factory to get some ice cream. This guy in front of me jokingly says he is going to pay with “this”, which I was shown that “this” was actually a million dollar bill with Ronald Regan on the front. So I laugh and ask to see it. On the back is a tract, something telling people how you can get to heaven through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So, he says, yeah we are all good enough to get there… That sent a great pain through my heart as I watched this young man with a huge cross tattoo on his forearm presume he was good enough to go to heaven. He didn’t know anything about Christ and the grace He provides. So, I try to talk to him a little bit, but he is all out of it and has his mind on all sorts of other things. He was almost like thinking about sixteen different things at once, so it was impossible to keep his attention. So he left and I was left standing there in line with my huge bowl of cookies and cream ice cream with hot fudge and all the other fixings that make you smile noticing all these people walking around with these large bills they were not reading, but only joking about. At this point my interest was peaked. I really wanted to see who in the world was handing these things out, like who were they with, what church, why Indianapolis on a Saturday night, things like that. I swing open the doors and escape the enslaving aroma of chocolate to see and hear what made me happy, encouraged, confused, sad, and speechless all in the same breath. So here is what I see and hear:

On the corner there is a large gentleman yelling at the top of his lungs why Jesus is correct and why this young man, obviously lost, is not. They have this grudge match going on about why the terrorist and other Muslims would be willing to die for a lie, the street evangelist was telling this young man the Muslims were believing lies apparently. There is this huge crowd building and all these people of different cultures and beliefs get to witness what they may be seeing for the first time as Christianity. The conversation ended with the young man walking away throwing his hands in the air in disgust yelling, “Whatever man!”

So here is a little explanation of my feelings…
I was encouraged because there were people on the streets of downtown Indianapolis at 11 o’clock at night preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. I was happy because I didn’t feel like I was alone in this urban setting. I felt the presence of other Christians who wanted to tell others about Jesus. I was confused because I was sad at the same moment I was happy and encouraged. My sadness was brought because I see this lost young guy arguing against Christ being the only way, the truth the life being hammered on and told he is wrong. Don’t get me wrong, he was lost and had no idea of what Jesus could do in his life and that Jesus is our savior, but the approach was almost like an attack. I was confused also because I saw evangelism going on, which I’ve been praying I’d get bolder about lately anyways, but I could only think this is not what Jesus had in mind when he told us to go tell the world of the good news. So I got to talk to a guy named Chris who was part of the group and he seemed pretty chill and laid back. Apparently this is a group of churches that gets together and blast cities with the good news of Christ.

So enamored I walk up to the steps of the monument and have a seat. So I overhear this guy on a microphone giving away money for answering trivia questions and little odd ball tests. He then says, “Who wants to take the good person test?” I knew immediately where he was going. He basically brought this crowd to recognition of them not being good to God’s standard. So ends by saying Christ offers grace and that’s how we get to heaven. Yes, he ends there. Please don’t take me being critical, because I think it is amazing for a group of people to get together and go into a hostile downtown atmosphere to preach the gospel of Christ on a Saturday night. I’ve done it in New York City. It can be affective, I’ve lead a couple people to Christ this way.

At this point I’m just kind of blown away by all the things going on in this small area of the world. I’m just looking around watching couples snuggle up together, young people dancing and waling toward all the clubs, older people just strolling the city on a beautiful night, homeless people looking for a need to be met, and all kind of different people just doing there thing on a Saturday night downtown Indy. I just got really quiet and thought, “I wonder what Jesus would be doing right now if he were here?” I mean can you imagine in our modern day society, Jesus, the son of God, our savior, just chilling out in downtown Indy? I think it is a cool thought. So, this is something to think about. I mean what is evangelism? What does it really look like? What example our we using to go out and do these sorts of things? The only examples I can think of are Jesus and Paul. I would assume that this is where all evangelist get there inspiration. I mean if someone is following Joe for inspiration and Joe looks to Christ as an example I would count that as one in the same. As long as the source of inspiration begins with Christ and his ministry. That is what Paul did. I think we read the gospels as these great stories of miracles and great teachings Christ did. That is a huge part of them, but I know a part I have missed out on for so long is the example Christ is setting for us when he does these miracles. The point of the miracles is not to just be a cool dude who wants everyone’s problems to be solved immediately. The point is to provoke belief in Him as the Messiah. So within these miracles we see Jesus approach the unapproachable. He talks to whores at wells, handicapped people at pools, blind men, and lepers. He reaches into the shadows society has pushed these people into and just begins to lead a conversation into the goal of them believing upon Him, thus bringing glory to Himself, and securing their eternity with Him. Take the woman at the well as a perfect example. Jesus did not rush up to the scene and tell her she was a sinner and tell her she is wrong in the way she thinks, lives, and breathes. No, no, Jesus is far too great for that. Jesus let her poke and test Him. She actually insults Him. She pretty much says, “Well, are you even grater than our father Jacob?” As to put him in his place. Jesus brings her to a point where he simply asks her to go get her husband. This is asked of her after he says he can offer her water where she will never thirst again. Of course, she says she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus knows. Jesus brings her into recognition of her sin and tells her that he is the messiah who is to come to judge and know all things. So here is what I see Christ doing in this and every situation of evangelism as we would call it today:

Start a casual conversation
Offer eternal fulfillment through himself
Acknowledgment of sin
Repentance
Offering forgiveness and no condemnation

So Jesus does this with the Samaritan woman at the well and in turn she is so pumped about it she goes and tells a lot of people in her town, possibly the entire community, about who she’d met and what he’d said. They come back and see for themselves and all believe on Him. He is good, real good. Well, He is God so that helps huh? I am being challenged everyday on how to evangelize as Christ would and how to bring people into a relationship with Him and where to do it.

Another thought is that Jesus knew how to control a conversation. Briefly, the Jews and Samaritans were culturally opposed to each other. The Samaritans believed that Samaria was the place to worship and the Jews believed Jerusalem was the only place. Jews normally avoided Samaria, but Jesus intentionally went through, John 4:4 actually says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” This indicates it was intentional. So he went there with reason, the woman and her town. When she asked what place was right to worship in, Jesus immediately returned the conversation to a more important topic, her salvation. So, following Christ’s example, we need to be aware of random comment that would distract us from conversations of value, like their salvation and journey with God.

So what is evangelism? Most dictionaries reflect something like this: Zealous preaching and advocacy of the gospel. Whatever that means… I say it is more like this: Presenting the good news of Jesus Christ through in a loving, relevant, humble way. In the presentation comes directing the conversation towards Christ. So, I’m positive that God blesses the effort of those street corner preachers in the downtown settings, but I still wonder is that what God had in mind when he told us to go? People need and yearn for relationships and satisfaction in life. The only fulfillment they will veer find is through Christ Jesus. The relationship part that will open the door to a conversation abut Christ as something other than an argument is up to us. Pray for opportunities, get in the word, study Jesus’ ministry, study Paul’s ministry, and most importantly be willing to not just push a moment of time towards a decision, but more importantly e willing to leave that person with a piece of your life, a sincere conversation out of love about Jesus Christ. That is what I think of when I hear the word evangelism. That is what stews in my mind when I sit in Monument Circle on a Saturday night. I pray God can use you to spread his glory and ring more and more people to Him. May you be blessed to desire to be used as an effective member of the Body of Christ.

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