November 20, 2012

Evangelism: Learning to Listen Pt. 2

Note: This post is part of a series on the subject of "evangelism." The other posts in the series can be found here.

In my last post on evangelism, I talked about listening. My argument is that in order to share God's good news with others, we have to first be able to know and articulate God's good news for ourselves. If there's nothing good about God in your life, you'd be hard pressed to share it with someone else. At the core of the "good news" of the Christian gospel is the announcement that we are not alone, God is with us. As Jesus said–and John the Baptist before him–the kingdom of God is here. That the effective rule and reign of the Creator of the universe would actually be so near… this is good news! Taking notice of this in our own lives comes first. It is my opinion that because we so often are unable to articulate this first for ourselves that we produce such poor results with others.

Still, hinging on the same idea, we approach evangelism with the same principle: that God is at work in the other. Our job is to listen well and learn to point out where God is at work. This flies in the face of "colonizing evangelistic practices" that assume God's presence is not at work until the evangelizer shows up. So, if we assume that God is at work, how do we listen for this? I have found the principles within "appreciative inquiry" or "asset-based community development" helpful tools in this regard (I'm personally indebted to the work of The Missional Network and City Net on these subjects but just Google the terms and you'll find helpful stuff). These practices lead us to seek to understand the other's story, find the common thread between the other's story and our's–while humbly acknowledging the distinctions, and articulating a possible outcome–or future. Think about the exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well. As another example, take a look at the clip above from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. In this clip Ferguson is interviewing Dr. Cornel West. Watch and share how you think West "listens" to God at work in Ferguson's life.


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