Friday, June 22, 2007

2 Conversations

Last night I attended a business open house for a friend. During the evening I had several conversations, but two of them were longer and more significant than the others.

One was with a new believer.

When he found out that I was a pastor, he told me that he had just become a true follower of Jesus Christ about a year ago. He was excited about his faith and his involvement in his new church.

He said that he had been a part of an institutional church most of his life, but he had never heard the Gospel.

The conversation turned to things missional. Though he had never heard the word or even thought about Christianity in quite those terms, the notion resonated with his soul. We talked about how that might work out in his ministry at his church.

Then I suggested that he could also approach his career with the same view to ministry.

This was an entirely new idea to him. He knew that he should act in a "Christian way" at work. He knew that he had an obligation to treat people in a certain way. But he saw his career as simply how he supported himself so that he could do ministry.

I could see the excitement in his eyes as he started to think about he could participate in God's mission at the same time that he was earning a living.

Just after that, I was introduced to an older man as the pastor of a local church. The one introducing me couldn't remember the name of the church. I had some food in my mouth, so I couldn't respond right away. In the meantime the older guy asked, "So what synagogue is he with?"

I answered that we did have roots in the synagogue, that our founder was known to attend synagogue from time to time.

The introducer eventually walked away, and the two of us talked. He quickly told me of bad experiences that he had at a missionary boarding school. He told me of a book he had recently read by John Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels.

I affirmed his frustration with the anti-intellectualism far too common in Christianity. And I agreed with his view that the daily practice of Buddhism and Christianity are strikingly similar.

At the same time, I carefully explained how Bishop Spong and I had different views about what happened on the first Easter Sunday.

We had a good, challenging conversation.

A few years ago, I would have been more jazzed up about the second conversation than the first.

  • The first guy is already plugged in to a church. There is little chance that he would ever be a part of my congregation.
  • The second guy, by his own admission, is not a Christian. He probably has little experience with Christians who are not intimidated by his views and his intellect.

I would have seen this second guy as a challenge and as an opportunity to refine my apologetic skills.

But today I have a very different perspective.

  • The first guy is eager to participate in God's mission. He is excited about what God is doing around him and wants to be a part of it. He has been infected with the missional virus.
  • The second guy was concerned only with justifying himself. His mind is closed. It would take a miracle of God's grace to get past his pride and bitterness. While that is certainly possible, he has consistently resisted the slightest movement toward grace and mercy.

In the past, I would have left with a sense of frustration:

  • Frustration that the new believer was not a part of my church.
  • Frustration that the skeptic seemed to be closed to the truth.

Now I'm invigorated because I have met another believer who has embraced the missional mindset. And I am encouraged because I hear what God is doing in another community. And the skeptic is not my problem. It's not my responsibility to convince him. If we happen to meet again, I'll be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. But I'm not plotting how I can get him to change his mind.

Now that I've begun to see the world with a missional mindset, it's hard for me to see it any other way.

A mind, once it is stretched by a new idea, will never return to its original dimension.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

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