Witnessing and Authenticity

The sermon at church this morning was about evangelism, and, yesterday, I read a guest post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog by Jamie Arpin-Ricci, entitled On Selling Jesus.

Arpin-Ricci’s post had a clip from the movie, The Big Kahuna.  You can read Arpin-Ricci’s summary of the movie and watch the clip for yourself, but, in the scene that Arpin-Ricci shows, the Danny Devito character (named Phil) rebukes an evangelical Christian for trying to “sell” Jesus to a potential client.  Phil makes a lot of profound points: about how trying to sell people something dehumanizes them, about how we should ask people about their lives without an agenda, about how maturity is realizing that we have done things to regret, and about how character comes when we recognize that life is short and that the world will go on without us.  Although Phil was against evangelicalism, viewing it as selling something to fulfill a religious obligation, my impression was that Arpin-Ricci and some of the commenters were trying to say that evangelism was okay, but they were wanting to find a way to combine it with some of the things that Phil was promoting (i.e., humility, acknowledgment of regrets, brokenness), while avoiding the pitfalls that Phil was talking about (i.e., using people, taking advantage of problems people have in seeking opportunities to sell the Gospel, etc.).

At church this morning, the pastor was talking about how salvation should not end with the individual, and he quoted Rick Warren’s statement in The Purpose-Driven Life that “It’s not about you.”  The pastor was applying those insights to the importance of sharing Jesus with others.  He said that the Gospel is contagious because it is good news that makes us happy, and so we should share the Gospel with others.

I’ve never found the Gospel to be something that makes me happy, per se.  I’ve long felt that it says that we are saved by grace through faith alone, and yet it incorporates works into the equation—-through such concepts as repentance, good fruit being evidence of salvation, etc.  The result of that for me has been spiritual insecurity.  Moreover, I’d have a hard time evangelizing because essentially I’m sharing a message that cannot be proven, or that has some pretty serious problems (i.e., God doing or commanding things in the Bible that offend our moral sensibilities).  I’d have difficulty defending a message that doesn’t make much sense to me.  I suppose I can offer to pray for people in trouble, and hope that they’re not the types who will nitpick me about whether there is a God, or whether God truly answers prayers.

I am, however, drawn to some of the concepts that are in The Big Kahuna and in this morning’s sermon: honesty, authenticity, genuinely caring about others, humility, recognizing something bigger than myself, etc.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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