Pastor/Evangelist: The Nature of Lostness


Ken Coffee, a friend I deeply admire, has a blog titled STRONG COFFEE. His son, Blake, has a blog titled CHURCH WHISPERER. I have mentioned both of them previously. I commend them to you. I would link them in this post except my hyper-link does not seem to work now. You can get to either of them, however, by clicking on their respective blog names in my preferred blog list just to your left on this screen.

Last week, Ken asked every baptist blogger in Texas to spend one week blogging on evangelism, which we are supposed to love, anyway. I am at a breathing point in my novel, BOJ, wherein I am emotionally troubled in doing the things to Boj I know I must do. A week on evangelism will be a good breather for me and I admire Ken's resolve. Ken wanted us to limit our writing to Texas Hope 2010, which I will not do, but I will accept his call to spend seven blogposts on evangelism.

So, it is Monday, and here we go.

MONDAY: The Nature of Lostness

If salvation is spiritual, then the lostness one seeks to rescue others from must be spiritual rather than moral. It is useless, counter productive, even, then to argue one's moral stance as a reason to leave off lostness. Any morality will do, if it is not spiritual, so long as it does no immediate harm and its practitioners are sincere and well intentioned, as each one understands sincerity and pleasant intentions.

   Let me illustrate. Today I will attend the bedside of a friend, J. He is openly involved in a lifestyle many traditional Christians would find objectionable. I will pause for a moment to allow you to speculate on the lifestyle. Is he homosexual? Is he a substance abuser? Is he a pedophile? Is he a thief? Or does he limit himself to our acceptable anti-moralities, like lying or gossip or back biting or gluttony, which is apparently not a moral issue any more at all, just a life-style illness.

   J. is one of those, among many others. He encountered me reading my Bible in a Starbucks one day (what are the odds?). He frowned heavily, banished me from his life and told me why.

   I asked him not to judge me for my Bible reading.

   "I read it a lot," I admitted, "but I'm really not very good at doing anything in it."

   He laughed uproariously at my poor joke. We are friends now.

   We have never talked about his life style choices. We have talked, mostly him, about his life. I know a lot more details than I actually need to know.

   Today, for a part of the afternoon I will sit by his sick bed and pray for him. I will not pray, "God, deliver J. from ——."

   I will pray for his health. I will indeed pray right out loud for his soul. This is not, however, a moral crusade to rid the world of gluttons or liars or petty thieves or any of those other things we abhor. There will be a lot of each of those  in heaven, along with the rest of us purified sinners.

   We must face the fact, in our evangelism, that most churches never see an adult person without a meaningful religious background come to conversion. Most of the "great" churches, by which we mean "large," grow by attracting a crowd from other churches. We do not penetrate the culture because we do not much try. When we do try, we are rather ham-handed about it all. We take a perfect, spiritual, inner transformation, a romance between God and the human heart, and turn it into a slogan one could fit on a bumper sticker.

   I will now confess my sin. I am Rick, and I am a chocaholic. I spent years addicted to the fruit of the cocoa bean. I ate chocolate every day. I hid chocolate from others. I had chocolate in my house, my office and my car. I had chocolate in my briefcase. I clogged my arteries, thickened my waist, ruined my insides with chocolate.

   I was a chocolate glutton. I had a chocolate monkey on my back. God had to deliver me from my addiction to chocolate, to my overweight, fat boy, stay away from the gym motif. Praise God, I am delivered.

   Was my addiction spiritual or moral? Yes.

   My addiction was spiritual and moral. I was quite a poor example, with my double chin and my round stomach. Even though I am male, I was well on my way to having Oprah Arms; the kind where the muscle separates from the bone and dangles, waving below the arm like a flag flaps in a high wind. My steel radials went to a spare tire, thence to a wide oval. I had to change, for my sake and for the sake of others.

   While God was purifying me of chocolate, God also got on me about fast food in general. Potato chips, french fries and soda all had to pretty much go as well. The chili dog, slathered with mustard and festooned with onions? Forget it.

   Oh, how I miss the chili dog. Even now, it barks to me.

   Yes, a moment of levity, to say, my sins (at least the ones you could see) were acceptable. I was immoral in these regards, doing what I knew to be wrong, but still acceptable. Morality is a poor judge of what one needs spiritually, in particular when the moral correction comes from outside the immoral man, apart from a meaningful relationship to God.

   All of us draw lines. If we let our lines become rigid, we will probably demonstrate the kind of intense self-absorption that becomes intolerable pride. Moral rigidity, of a kind, eliminates humility from our arsenal, yet one cannot display any winsomeness without humility. Humility does not mean we doubt God, but there is an element of self-doubt in humility that makes moral rigidity unacceptable.

   What do you think is the life-style of my friend J, the one that would make him unacceptable because it is considered abnormal and so makes him unlikable? Get it in your mind.

   No, you are wrong. It is not that one. I won't tell you which one it is because it really does not matter. What he and I are doing is not about morality, except in the most superficial sense. Salvation is spiritual and, if the salvation is real, morality alters to match one's spirituality.

Tomorrow: The Question to Ask, When You Get Right Down to It

Wednesday: A Good Bio


9 thoughts on “Pastor/Evangelist: The Nature of Lostness”

  1. I have read your recent entry several times. I hope I am not missing anything — and it has caused me to think.
    Is not our lostness the total package of our spiritual and moral separation from God? And should we not bifurcate the two? After all, if, without salvation, we are totally separated from God, then that would include both our moral and spiritual condition. Right?
    Here is something I tend to think about . . . we often see people “come to Christ” with relatively no visible change in their lives. They “put on Christ,” but they don’t take off the “old self.” What Fundamentalist types like Charles Stanley call “carnal Christians” I would say are “carnal, but not Christian” at all.
    Many times from the first touch with the gospel, the traditional baptists (little “b” to signify the greater society of baptist-type people) promote a passive faith. This make us very shy when we enter into books like James (faith without works is dead) and 1 John (those who love me will do my commandments).
    The best (if I am very generous) that can be said about many types of evangelism (do you know God has a wonderful plan for your life?, etc.) is that we sign people up for a journey without the benefit of full disclosure.
    When we separate the spiritual from the moral, do we not risk people misunderstanding the risks associated with salvation? In other words, people we engage in conversation need to see that they have violated God’s ways (a lawbreaker), are responsible before God morally, and in need of a savior. Otherwise, I believe we run the risk of assuring people they are saved, when in fact they have not taken the first step toward repentance at all.
    Let me know your thoughts. I am listening, my friend.

  2. Rick,
    We cross posted. I will leave my post intact, however, my objections have been answered. I understand where you were going in this post now.

  3. MR,
    I deeply love you. You are a saint to me.
    ON the matter of the spiritual retreat, is there any way you could come here? I have this huge house where I live alone much of the time, as my wife finishes up her PH.D. You could save the expense of finding a place to stay and I will feed you while you are here.
    Beware. I might ask you to preach to my little church while you are here.

  4. Sure. Look at your calendar, and shoot me a few dates. I will check mine as well. Sometime in August or September would work best.

  5. Great blog Rick. I have in the past really enjoyed your posts on evangelism. The models most churches use for evangelism today are just not working. But dang it we just gotta do it,we argue. Why, that’s the way we’ve alway done it,and it worked then and it will work now. Never mind that it hasn’t worked for several decades. Again thanks for the blog. Either we evanglize or we die.

  6. Based on this first of the series, I can’t wait to read the rest of your posts on evangelism. I find this much more stiumlating to my spirit than some of the other discussions we often see on blogs. I cannot help but believe that focusing on this the main thing will be good to us and for us.

  7. Well, Ken, here I am, because of you, any way, and I will finish the series and see what God can use of it.
    I do hope others are rising to the occasion as well.

  8. Your last sentence is so keen. I have seen that work out so many times.
    More can be said about the nature of lostness, however: the separation from and opposition to God; why separation is preferred by the lost; and what (not Who) makes for a the break through in a lost person’s life.

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