At last here is the long awaited third part of my treatise on evangelism.
I think a very important aspect of my spiritual formation is reading and meditating on the scriptures and sharing my thoughts on these with others. The Bible is my spiritual food so why do I starve myself by avoiding reading it or thinking about it's implications on my life? It is not just reading and re-reading the Bible that is important but understanding what it means to me so that I can apply it to my life. Over the past year once a month in the small groups we have been discussing how what we are learning as a church can be applied to our lives. One theme that keeps coming out in our group is that it is important to take the next step and discuss these issues with those who do not share our experience. A scary thought. Yet passages such as Luke 10 remind us that God sends us out into the world on a mission and though we sometimes feel he is distant actually he is always present. Our security stems from God’s parental care for us. He gives us a secure base from which to venture into the world and initiate such discussions. Often we are afraid to make these true two way discussions. The world has plenty to learn from us and God’s presence with us means that we can learn what is good from anyone as God will lead us into all truth.
But of course sometimes it can be difficult to have meaningful discussions with people unless we have some form of relationship with them. It is very easy to be an inward looking group and just relate with other Christians. In my teaching on the psychology of relationships I point out that there are two important factors in who we tend to relate to. We tend to form relationships with those that are similar to us and think the same as us. And we tend to form relationships with those who we perceive to have desirable characteristics. I think that this is very relevant to Christians. Our teaching often implies that those outside the faith are different and offer nothing except to fulfil our need for evangelism and could even lead us astray. So it is no wonder that we tend not to develop genuine relationships with them. And that we don't see them as equals with whom we can have an honest two way discussion when it comes to talking about spiritual matters. If we cannot even cross this divide how are we ever going to reach those that differ from us in other ways such as in culture, sexuality and class? Perhaps it is time that Christians learn the true meaning of agape, caring for, having fellowship with, facing up to and having spiritual discussions with people that are outside the church just as we do with people in the church.