I was excited to see him and to find out what he’d been up to. I was saddened by his story and the pain he had been through. Those days were in the past though, he told me, it was time to do what God had made him for.
“And what’s that,” I asked with fear and wonder?
“I’m an evangelist and I need to get back to sharing the gospel.” He said with great conviction. “I’ve been out in the world,” he went on, “and you just can’t talk about God out there, you can’t talk freely about Jesus. So I wanted to let you know I’m available if you ever need someone to do some preaching here at the church.”
To me, this was like a Weight-Watchers recruiter saying they needed to stop hanging around so many fat people or a doctor complaining that the hospital was just full of sick people.
“You’re an evangelist and you want to come preach to the church?” I thought saying it out loud would help get my head around the moment.
“Yeah, I need to talk to people who are hungry for God.”
Unfortunately this does not always describe the Church.
Our conversation wrapped up and he left to continue his search for a place where believers gathered so he could share his gift. I shook my head as I walked back to my office but I have to admit his idea is exactly the sort of child our Christian ghetto produces.
When I walk in to our local Christian bookstore the front counter is plastered with posters (I’ve had some there) inviting people out to various events in local churches. Some there are decidedly evangelistic: ie. An event ostensibly created to share the story of Jesus with those who’ve never heard it and to invite them to the Table. Or so it seems to me.
How many pagans go to Christian bookstores? How many people, in their search for meaning and answers stumble in to these stores in order to wade through the Christian necktie section, past the Christian coffee mug centre, over the Christian video shelves, down the rows of Thomas Kinkade “painter of lights” prints and around the rest of the ‘Jesus Junk’ in order to discover ultimate truth?
In the past, people groups based on race or religion have been forced to live in ghettos, but not Christians, we’ve built our own, marched in to music, carrying banners and closed the freakin’ door behind us. Admission always available to anyone who smells right, can behave themselves, agrees with us and can find the place.
We’ve created our own language, ‘Christianese’, which we only teach by immersion. We have our own celebrities, can you imagine? In the early church story a man fell at Peter’s feet (a key leader in the first church and a friend of Jesus’) and Peter says, “hey man, get up, I’m just like you, just a man.” Ever seen the “performance rider” for a Christian singer or speaker? I have and some demands, I mean, ‘needs’ are amazing (disclaimer: NOT every one, just A LOT of them, I’ve met quite a few who act like normal people.) Our Christian celebrities roll in to town for a concert, often with entourage in tow and t-shirts to sell. If the world offers it, you can bet there is a “Christian alternative”.
What if we just stopped? What if we just wrote really good books so everyone would want to read them? What if we just made really good music so everyone would want to listen? What if we pealed those silly fish stickers off of our car (oh, look dear, a Christian must be driving that car, I feel so edified…) and were just safe, kind drivers in environmentally friendly cars? What if we stopped feeding and even tolerating the culture of celebrity that’s infected the Church? What if we stopped telling the story to each other and just lived it out there, there outside the ghetto?