My brother Noel is encouraging me to be an evangelist. He believes that all Christians should be evangelizing, and he reminded me about how, when I came home from college for a holiday, I led him to the Lord when he was in high school.
Inform or Evangelize. Who says you can’t do both? It would be unnatural to nurture, teach, admonish, etc. without evangelism. Like our lives, sometimes ministry becomes a bubble so much so that we fail to see what’s lacking. You, me, us–we are all called to be evangelists. I know that evangelism comes in many forms and that of course you naturally evangelize or draw others to Christ by exemplifying/mirroring Christ’s love. That said, we don’t want to be accused of being Pharisees who were so focused in defending “their” interpretations that they missed the bigger picture. There are lots of churched people going to hell–I think it’s been hinted at more than a few times and that’s my point.
Just as you point a finger at the big mean nasty LBGT hating church that can often be accused of making straight people feel warm and cuddly in their theology, we do the same when we give people a reason to feel warm and cuddly, and completely miss the point that people need salvation. As an unsaved fourteen year old boy I generally went to church every week “hearing but rarely seeing”–so what was I? I was a pig in a pew with a clip on tie. So now as a Christian adult, I am an outsider looking in as far as the LBGT community is concerned. Sometimes I don’t see what others see. But as a Christian I would use my God given gifts to tell this “ostracized” group “why they need Christ”, not why they need a cleaned up church. There never has been a squeaky clean church and there never will be. I’m not saying that what you’re doing is not important “but” sometimes the things we leave out of a conversation are the things that are spoken the loudest.
Look brother, you didn’t teach me about the problems of the church, where the church had misinformed and mistreated, and lied to me. It was your preaching in a loving way that I needed salvation is what led me to Christ– “THAT” is what made “ALL” the difference in transforming a pig in a clip-on tie. And trust me there are plenty of LBGT people wearing that same tie in the same unloving church that need to hear what you preached to me in the middle of the night. Remember how I cried. That I was saved and that I felt that a thousand pounds were lifted from my shoulders? I am a new person. That’s what people are crying out for. You say you weren’t called to be an evangelist? You are, and I’m living proof that you are.
Noel, thank you for sharing your understanding of evangelism, and especially for your testimony. Please take a look at my post titled, “Diversity and Conflict: Spiritual Gifts and Homosexuality.” I discuss the role of spiritual gifts in the context of the Christian debate over gays and lesbians, including the role that giftedness plays in our understanding of scriptures.
I read your response to Diane and she was deeply troubled by your self-description: “I was a pig in a pew with a clip on tie.”
God never saw him that way. He saw him as his child, infinitely precious. Oh, Ronnie, that’s sad. What people have done to him. Guilt and shame-based religion. Oh, Ronnie. They made him feel that God didn’t love him. No, he doesn’t know it. It’s accepting forgiveness that allows you to forgive others. It’s the goodness of God that leads you to repentance. If we love God and feel his love for us, it doesn’t cripple us, keep us from acting, doesn’t make us feel small.
I asked Diane why she was so moved by what you’d written.
Because that’s the background I was raised in. All I know is I sure became a better Christian when I got out of that guilt and shame.
I do remember talking with you after I’d been talking with Dad in the living room. Our conversation that night was the first time (one of the few times) God used me in that particular way. God worked in Mom’s life in a similar way after a conversation we had. We were having a discussion when she responded to my brash presentation of the gospel by saying, “If that’s what your God is like, then I don’t want anything to do with him.” Months or years later she told me what happened after that.
“I was standing in the kitchen, and I realized that I didn’t believe what I had said to you. I put my foot up on the oven door and prayed.” She told me that she was filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time. I don’t remember if that included her receiving the gift of tongues right then, or if that happened later.
I witnessed to three ship design engineers at my first job in San Diego. One of them accepted the Lord some time after he left the company. I don’t know about the other two, except that I made one of them quite disgusted with my persistent badgering (my words, not his). There were a few other attempts at witnessing, none of which were successful that I’m aware of.
As a teenager I chose to attend a hyper-fundamentalist church (General Association of Regular Baptists). It was a “soul-winning church.” I heard the slogan, “Every Member a Soul-Winner” a lot. But at the GARB church, every sermon was a soul-winning sermon–every single one of them. One justification I heard ran something like this: “What if someone who’s not born again walks out of this church and gets hit by a car, and you didn’t do everything you could to preach the gospel to them? Their blood will be on your head. They will suffer in eternal, conscious torment in a Christless eternity.” And I thought to myself, “How is anyone ever going to grow spiritually if all they ever get is soul-winning sermons? Where does the spiritual growth come from?”
After working with the ship designers I didn’t do much evangelistic witnessing. I read my Bible, and continued a decades-long journey of exploration and discovery that had begun at Simpson University. Reading the Bible for myself, I learned that what I had been taught as orthodox, pretrib, premillenial, dispensational, cessationist, creationist, cosmological, inerrantist, single-voice, women’s-submission “truth” was more than just a little dubious.
A lot has happen in the subsequent thirty years, too much to recount here. One thing that has happened is that I’ve been taken down a notch or two in my own estimation, learned some of my limitations, and given up at least some of my selfish, kingdom-building ambitions. Recognizing that you’re not going to fulfill your youthful dreams is a very typical life-stage task when you hit middle age.
I was very heartened to receive this email message in 2010 on Labor Day.
Dear Mr. Goetz:
I just read your book, “Jesus and the Six Homosexuals: The Same-Sex Triptych of Jesus,” and I wanted to thank you so very much for this Bible study!
I am a homosexual and a Christian. I am a member of the United Methodist Church, which does not accept me, but I am also lucky to be an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Ferndale, MI where I am the Lay Leader, Outreach Chair, Secretary to the Administrative Council and member of several other committees. I love my church and feel very comfortable with my church family to whom I am open about who I am. It was my pastor, as a matter of fact, who sent me your book.
But despite the ‘local’ acceptance I feel, I have always had, in the back of my mind, the thought that maybe I was not totally loved by God. I cannot begin to express the levels of anguish this gives me and how, even when I am at the center of Christian life in my church, I sometimes feel so isolated and left out.
Your book, and its in-depth research, for the first time TELLS me that I am not left out but accepted as I am. Thank you. I, like so many other Christians, never looked at Luke 17:34-36 before (at least in the real context you laid out) and it has opened my eyes, and I pray in time it will open the eyes and hearts of my Christian brothers and sisters.
For most of my life I aspired to be a pastor. For a long season I wanted to plant house churches in the former Soviet Union. Then I envisioned planting a network of house churches here in the U.S. (See the influence of Paul here, and my own kingdom-building?)
One of my favorite quotes is from John Dewey: “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” This is very similar to Paul’s advice: “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.” (Philips N.T.)
I have discovered a handful of things I’m actually equipped to do: 1) be a half-way decent husband and as good a dad and grandpa as I know how, 2) tend kids in the church nursery, 3) perform an unrecognized mission-critical congregational task every few years or so, 4) be my pastor’s friend, and 5) blog.
There’s a proverb: The mind of a man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. No matter what my plans and ambitions have been, my actual path has never really been in my own hands. As I have finally begun to settle down and give up on my kingdom-building ambitions (read: repent), I may finally be equipped to personally encourage people to walk with God, understanding how to avoid the pitfalls and errors of Christendom that I don’t want to perpetuate.