There is no urgent concern for converting people in the New Testament. Did you get that down? There is also no urgent concern for the numerical growth of churches by the efforts of members to convert others. There are no burgeoning church programs. There are no plans to train everyone to door knock and sell Jesus. There is an urgent concern for doctrinal and personal Christ-likeness. There is a concern for leadership, integrity, honesty and obedience to Christ in our personal lives. The idea that we are here to “win souls” and not to know and show God is bogus. – Michael Spencer, “Wretched Urgency“
One of the hallmarks of Evangelicalism is what Michael Spencer called “Wretched Urgency”. If you haven’t had a chance to read this brilliant piece by Michael, then please, stop reading this, click on the link, and see why so many of us have found a home at Internet Monk. It will also help provide context to what am going to write here.
Before I continue, let me return to why I am writing this series. This site was created for those who are in the “Post-Evangelical Wilderness”. Many of the visitors and commentators are those who have been somehow burned by Evangelical churches, and so have found themselves wandering, without a church to call home. Some have eventually found homes in other traditions, some have returned to their evangelical routes, but with a better sense of what to stay clear of, still others have a foot in multiple traditions, gleaning the best that they can from others, many are still wandering. I am in process of trying to exit this wilderness, and put down some more permanent roots. This series is my attempt to convey some of my thoughts about my journey.
“Wretched Urgency” had been a big part of my evangelical life. I won’t bore you with the details of how I had been complicit in it, or how I had been turned off of it. Let’s just say that Michael’s post written many years ago really resonated with me, and I could identify with much of what he had written.
A sermon at church a couple of weeks ago, really caught my attention. It was based on one of the biblical passages that are quoted so often in Evangelical circles. According to the book of Acts, these are the last words that Jesus spoke on earth.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8
What the Pastor then said was so different from anything I had heard before. It also gives a glimpse of one of the reasons why my current church is so different from others that I have been involved in before. I am paraphrasing here, but it is close to the sense of what he actually said:
Notice that we are called to be witnesses. What is a witness? Let me first tell you what a witness isn’t. A witness is not the prosecuting attorney. He or she does not have to build the case for the prosecution. A witness is not the defence attorney. He does not have to build the case for the defence. (As a Canadian he would have spelled defence with a “c”.) A witness is not the judge or jury. He does not have to decide the case. The job of a witness is simply to tell what he has seen. If you are asked, “Well what about this?” It is perfectly fine to say “I don’t know about that, I am just here to tell you about what I do know.”
There are those in Christianity who have special training. They have studied and learned how to construct cases for the defence.
They have been trained in apologetics. Some of you may be interested in that area, and want to learn more about that. There is nothing wrong with that and I encourage it. But for the rest of us, we are called to witnesses. To speak what we know of Jesus when called upon. And if we don’t have all the answers… There is nothing wrong with that.
To hear that on a Sunday morning felt so… freeing. There was no “wretched urgency”. Just be who you are.
There was also an emphasis on listening to people. That is, if we are more concerned about hearing what the other person has to say, and learning from them, there will be less of an inclination on our part to make them “agenda items.”
In 2014, as I found myself slipping into the wilderness, I wrote the post “Items on the List” In it I quoted Lynn, a commentator at the time on Internet Monk:
Human beings are not business deals. How we live our lives in this world and how we love will speak volumes more than the feeble, faulty words that fall from our tongues.
Finding a church that does not emphasize “wretched urgency”, is one of the reasons that I may be finally exiting the wilderness.
As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.