I recently read an article by Dana Hicks who is a Nazarene pastor and Professor of Missional Leadership at Northwest Nazarene University. In the article, entitled "Evangelism in a Post Modern Matrix" Hicks proposes two questions that we as Christians ought to be asking the post-modern "non-believer" or "un-reached", "under-churched", "over-churched" or "under committed"....pick your catch phrase....person in our culture. These two question came to him after realizing the the current questions, the questions that have been used by us "evangelical" types over the past century, were not applicable anymore. You know the questions... "if you were to die today, do you know were you would spend eternity?" or "If you died today and God asked you 'why should I let you into my heaven' what would you tell him"...those questions. He states that he, like many other good Nazeren's had the questions memorized and the answer as well, but he also states that "deep down when I asked those questions I felt like I was saying something pretty much like, What will it take me to get you into this car today". So do any of you reading this recognize the feeling? I do.
I grew up in the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal), were these questions were asked to everyone, every time we got together for worship. They were expected to be asked by good faith members to their friends and family and really there is nothing wrong with these questions, they are valid and they are pertinent questions, especially if you believe that Jesus Christ is the way to heaven, but they're just not that relevent anymore, at lest according to Hick...and I agree.
For much of our existence as a species we have been confronted by death, death was simply just part of life and we were around it. Our domesticated animals died, our crops died, grandma died...and we were there for it. Now according to Hicks "we live in a society that sterilizes death and removes us from the experience." I agree, the first time I saw a dead body I was almost 13 and it was my grandmother, up until that point I can't remember even seeing our family dog die, I know he died because my parents told me so, but I did experience it.
Death a part of our life...still, but not as real as it was for the generations past. The questions Hicks says we ought to be asking those we hope to bring into the faith are questions about life, "what are you going to do with your life", "what do you want your life to be about"....those questions matter to a generation that wants religion to be real and relevant, faith that actually does something other than providing "fire insuerence" and faith that is righteous, not self-righteous.
What we really ought to ask, is "If you could know what God is doing in the world today, would you want to be part of it?" or maybe "If you knew you were going to live another 40 years what kind of person would you want to be?" These are the questions that matter, the questions that challenge us to be proactive world changers, the ones who really do make God's kingdom come in our communities. I can't imagine anyone ever saying no to the first question, and I can't imagine anyone not seriously considering the second. People want to know God and they want to be part of God's plan...and I believe this post-modern generation really wants to make a difference. The 20th century approach to faith is not acceptable to post-moderns. That is, a faith that equates to moralism. What will call this generation to Christ is a faith that will challenge our society, or culture, our politicians...a faith that is personal and communal, a faith that seeks the answers to the questions that pertain to why are we here, not so much as to where are we going.
My current favorite bible passage is found in I Corinthians, were St. Paul is discussing the gifts of the spirit and he is explaining how all those gifts amount to nothing without love, and he tells the Corinthians "strive for the greater gift (which is love), and I will show you a more excellent way of living". That is awesome!!! The faith we have to share with a non-believer or un-reached, under-reached, under-churched, over-churched person is a faith that not only leads to eternal life with God, but also leads us to and in "a more excellent way of life".