. . . posts on faith and life
On Saturday I went to the Resurrection Breakfast put on by my church. I was surprised to see one of my good friends there. He had been asked to come and play along with the band that was there. The reason that I was surprised was that this friend of mine, as well as many of my childhood friends (and myself for a long time), had been running hard from the Lord (please excuse the church-speak) for quite a while. The last time that he and I talked about God his beliefs fell somewhere in between agnosticism and deism. Basically, that there might be a God out there, but even if there is He’s not really involved in anything. He just sort of set things in order and then stepped back. Anyway, I was excited to see him there.
The theme of the breakfast was the verse in Revelation that reads “And they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (12:11). Seven of us had been asked to share out testimonies, and I was the last to go. I could have felt nervous about my friend being there, but I had already determined that I was not going to try to “stir something up” long before I got there. So I stayed focused on that and simply told the story. Afterwards when my friend and I were talking and joking around he commented that he really enjoyed my talk, that it touched him, and that it made him happy. I wasn’t really sure what to think about that. I thought maybe he wasn’t sure what “the standard procedure” for complimenting a speaker at a church function was, and that he was trying his best to offer something up. I really didn’t want him to feel the need to do that, but I still appreciated it.
A couple of hours later he called me on my cell phone. He just wanted me to know that he was serious about what he said. That he had really been touched, and that he wanted to get together. I didn’t know what to think the first time, but this time I knew that something was going on. I cannot fully express what a huge step this is for my friend. He has always done his thing, and always done it his way. For him to take that initiative was a REALLY big deal. So, I was really enjoying hearing what he had to say, it made me feel happy. And it’s had me kind of giddy for the last two days.
All of that has had me thinking about how we do things. We try to “stir things up” all the time. We feel a need to compel people to respond. We have little “altar call tricks” that “encourage” people to come down and do something really, really serious. That is, dedicate their entire life to the Lord. My real estate agent knows that I’m going to need some time to think about it before I do something as big as buy a house. Yet, we expect people to be ready to give their whole life away at the drop of a hat! Isn’t that crazy? I remember being at a Youth Camp as a child (it was actually a camp for teens, I was there because my parents were overseeing things), and the evangelist had everyone bow their heads and close their eyes. I guess he wanted everyone to know how serious this was, so he repeated, “I want EVERY head bowed and EVERY eye closed!” Then he added, “Lord, I pray right now that if anyone opens his or her eyes that you would strike them blind!!” I’ve shared that story with lots of people of the years, and you’d be surprised how many times people start rattling off similar stories. I’m talking about shocking stuff. Stuff that you’d get sued over today. Stuff that was NEVER (not in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or anytime) age appropriate.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve done my fair share of this stuff. I think a lot of it flows out of pressure a speaker feels about being perceived as “good” and “effective.” But I’m doing that stuff. I think it actually gets in the way. We try to do this stuff and we don’t leave room for the Lord to do the work that only He can do. I think this tendency of ours is very deeply rooted. It’s not something that will go away easily. My therapist says that we like to create a bunch of unnecessary drama in our faith tradition. I think she’s right. She even suggests that I like to do that on this blog. But she’s not right about everything! Either way, I’m done with all the manipulation stuff when it comes to people giving their life to Jesus. In fact, I’m not sure that I won’t try to talk some people out of it. “Are you sure you want to do this Bob? I mean this is a really big decision! Do you think you should sleep on it or something?” And I think I might be done with altar calls too. I’ll do a prayer meeting. But altar calls? I don’t know, it just seems so…well, unscriptural or something.
Maybe I’m alone in that, but here’s what I’m really getting at: when did we lose sight of the simplicity of what it is that we’re suppose to be doing? Deut. 6:20 says something like, “When your children ask you what’s the meaning of these laws, rules, decrees, and regulations, tell them you were slaves in Egypt, and God delivered you with a mighty hand.” In other words, when your kids ask you about all this religion stuff, tell them your testimony…give them your story. They don’t need your best theology. They need your most authentic testimony. The holy seed is in the story, may we cast our seeds generously, and may some of them find fresh soil (the right conditions) and take root!