Be sure to catch the intro post on Trinity Sunday as we reflect on the Sunday after Pentecost.
For many years I have wondered if the “motus operandi” of standard church evangelism might be slightly flawed. That is, to introduce God you must first engage in bible study. Evangelicals tend to believe that God’s word is all that is needed to draw folks into a relationship with Jesus, thus creating a saved relationship. Often times these initial studies come with a set of well-reasoned arguments from the presenter, attempting to convince the seeker to believe and give their life to Jesus.
Now, I’m not saying this method of presenting God to someone is wrong. I’m saying it might be out of order. You see, when God is initially presented as set of well-reasoned arguments, the result is a relationship that has to constantly be argued and defended. I see this in teenagers of faith a lot. Many engage in debates and arguments with teachers and other students about issues like evolution, faith, God, and tend to isolate themselves on account of “defending their faith”. So many people, especially students, have come to faith by means of a well reasoned argument or compelling case. In order to maintain that faith, arguments and logic have to be defended at all costs.
I really got to thinking about this yesterday. I was wrapping up a support group with students at a local high school. This was a unique group because of its size and diversity. We ended up having 14-15 students on a regular basis (which is about 7 too many for most groups to function well), and these students came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Yet, they found friendship and community with one another. In fact, many of these students had long-held preconceived notions about others in the group based upon reputations and were able to get past these things to find new friendships.
The last day of most of our groups is spent reflecting on how far we had come and what they learned. As we reflected, the students started to talk about how this group had become the best hour of their weeks. They had found people they could trust and open up to as they faced life difficulties. A majority of these students have horrible home lives and sketchy social lives at best. But in this group, they found community. They tasted something very good that so many in churches understand, but those who don’t attend might not.
They experienced the essence of the Trinity. Sounds weird to put it that way, but stick with me. Some of the cornerstone principles of emerging missional thinking centers around the concept of the community of the Trinity. That is, community has always existed in the reality of the Trinity. Before there was creation there was God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit living in holy community with one another. Though there is one God, He exists as a community. This has always been the case, and always will be.
(Side note: Please read this post from my brother-in-law, Bret about this idea. He speaks quite eloquently on the subject.)
Since God by his very nature is community, we are introduced to him – and introduce others for that matter – through various expressions of community. Simply put, I believe these teenagers through their ranting and cursing about family, school and the like – saw God yesterday. They probably just didn’t realize it.
What if we shifted our thoughts on evangelism from making well-reasoned arguments to creating expressions of community for people who are lonely and hurting? What would it look like for people to encounter God in this way? And, what if this encounter with community was the thing that changed someone’s heart towards God, not having to be convinced by reason? This would not be to the exclusion of bible study and reason. I’m just advocating a different starting place.
What do you think? Am I way off? We would love your thoughts on this as we continue to reflect through the Trinity this week.