05 May, 2006

Dancing Evangelism

In preparation for his upcoming visit, I've been reading some of Brian McLaren's writings. I'm in the middle of "A New Kind of Christian" at the moment. The book reminds me of works like Plato's Phaedrus that I studied in Rhetorical Theory back in College. Just as the Phaedrus uses dialogue between characters to discuss issues of the gods, philosophy, rhetoric and art, so McLaren addresses issues of being a Christian in a changing age through the lens of a story, or perhaps the journey, of two men. Dan and Neo (silly name, I know). The benefit of this method is that concepts and ideas are not left without context. The issues become practical rather than disembodied ideas. As I've been reading I've been marking areas in the book that challenged me and left me thinking ("thinking" in the sense that I wonder off in my brain for about 5 minutes contemplating a phrase, then snapping out of it, telling myself I'm never going to finish this book if I keep doing this). I thought I'd share one of those areas in the text. Neo and Dan are on a walk in nature, Dan is a pastor who is ready to leave the pastorate. Neo is a teacher in a local secondary school, helping Dan think through some of his reasons for leaving. At one point the topic of evangelism comes up. I love what Neo says:

"Instead of conquest, instead of a coercive rational argument or an emotionally intimidating sales pitch or an imposing crusade or an aggressive debating contest where we hope to 'win' them to Christ, I think of it like a dance. You know, in a dance, nobody wins and nobody loses, Both parties listen to the music and try to move with it. In this case, I hear the music of the gospel, and my friend doesn't, so I try to help him hear it and move with it. And like a dance, I have to ask if the other person wants to participate. There's a term for pulling someone who doesn't want to dance into a dance: assault. But if you pull someone in who wants to learn, and if you're good with the music yourself, it can be a lot of fun!" (p.62)
I love the idea of evangelism as providing opportunities for participation.

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