Monday, October 10, 2005

Going and waiting

Paul Lavender has rightly spotted a flaw in my party strategy which is simply that it's an alternative one-size-fits-all mission strategy. I don't intend it to be.

He rightly points out that where he lives - in the North of England - parties are a bit middle class. People are more likely to congregate at the pub or Starbucks (surprisingly not seen as middle class - his phrase).

I guess this points out an obvious but essential thing: mission strategies need to fit the locality they're being tried in. If people don't go to parties, don't throw them. Find something people will come to. The point remains that we're doing this because we want to meet and hear them talking.

John Drane in an excellent article called 'Patterns of Evangelization in Paul and Jesus' (in Joel B Green and Max Turner [eds] Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ, Eerdmanns 1994) suggests that Paul's missionary strategy consisted of two major elements 'which we may describe as "going" and "waiting"' The going bit we're very happy about - that's the Great Commission in action (though there's a good case to be made for saying that the commission is to make disciples, the going bit is taken read since we 'go' into the world every time we leave our homes - but that's a different story). Waiting sounds tricky. After all, if you've made the effort to go, shouldn't you set about speaking immediately?

Drane's point is that this is precisely what Paul didn't do. He went and waited, watched and listened. 'As well as going, his was also a strategy of waiting,' he says, ' creating space in which people could be themselves, and as themselves could decide without coercion how and when to respond to the challenge of the gospel.'

I guess what I'm suggesting is that we create waiting spaces, situations where we can meet and listen to our neighbours whether that's in our homes at parties, in the pub after work, over lunch, wherever. The point is that our neighbours feel able to be natural and we are meeting them because we want to know them. Where the relationship goes from there is genuinely open.

Drane argues that Paul followed the strategy of Jesus - both in his actions - partying and eating with whoever and allowing them to set the agenda by asking questions and making observations - and in his teaching - for instance in the parable of the 'waiting' father in Luke 15.

Of course, our desire is that people will hear and respond to the gospel. But if we wait before we speak, maybe they'll hear it in language they understand, from people they've come to know and like. At least then they might give our story a fair hearing.


Anonymous said...

The thing I find troubling about this philosophy about faith-sharing, is that people don't know us in the context that people knew Paul and (especially) Jesus in.

Everyone knew who Paul and Jesus were. Jesus was a King...People worshipped him. Paul was very outspoken about his God-given wisdom and insight into the way we should live our lives.

The problem with this theory is that not everyone knows who we are. Those that we are trying to form relationships with more than likely don't have any idea that we're doing so because we want to see them in heaven. This isn't necessarily through any fault of our own...It's not from shame, or a lack of faith. It's simply for the fact that we are not known for (as was said of Paul and Silas in Acts) "turning the world upside down".

SUMMARY-People knew where forming relationships with Paul and Jesus would lead, and because of this, they were more open to hearing the Gospel. And unless we're as well-known for our faith, we may not have the same results.

Anonymous said...

I totally didn't even sign my last post. Sorry!

(18 year old, somewhat pretentious, American girl) :0)