Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Proselytizing: a discussion, well, maybe a monologue

Again, thanks to Larry for leading me to another issue thats been kicking around in my head. He mentioned that Quakers never proselytize. Coincidentally [or not?], I've been thinking about this a lot recently, but also generally ever since I began BSF. Its come up recently because of the press coverage generated by the Jews for Jesus campaign -- they are doing a big blitz in the DC area and the papers have been reporting on it for weeks.
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The media coverage has included reporting on meetings held at Jewish community centers as a counter to the street campaign by the Jews for Jesus, in conjunction with a local megachurch. The Jewish opposition includes a group called Jews for Judaism. Jews for Judaism is not happy about the Jews for Jesus campaign to spread the message the message that Jesus is Messiah. The gist, I guess, is that Jews for Judaism feels its misleading to tell Jews that they can believe in Christ and still be Jewish.

How do I feel about all of this? I don't know. I can't help but wonder what the big deal is. I don't like Mormons coming to my door several times a year and I'd much rather just pass them on the street than deal with them at the door of my home. My understanding is that the Jews for Jesus campaign is being conducted on public streets and at Metro stations.

Now, back to the generally simmering question in my mind. Proselytize, yes or no?

Well, I've generally been raised with the idea that the best evangelism is lifestyle evangelism. By your actions and attitude you share the love of Christ with others, even if you never speak his name. Sometimes this seems too weak for me. Mind you, I feel that not everyone has a gift to evangelize through the spoken word and I wouldn't want anyone to feel forced to talk about God or Christ.

Now, I've been very excited about God for several years now and I must say that if I have any gifts at all, I have the gift of enthusiasm. Thus, I have eagerly told all who would listen, and probably some who didn't want to, about how wonderful Bible Study has been for me and urging them to attend as well, or at least read the Bible. My problem has been that my excitement leads me to being pushy and judgmental -- I have the answer, Bible Study, go! I began to feel like a used car salesman for God. And if there is anything God doesn't need, its me, trying to shove Him down other people's throats. So, my 'evangelism' doesn't seem to be working and I may even be alienating people. Thus, I am lead back to the thought that perhaps lifestyle evangelism is the way to go. It certainly fits with my unschooling philosophy that you can't force anyone to learn anything, especially in the search for God. God gives us free will, why do some of us have so much trouble with allowing it for others?

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