Thursday, 15 September 2011

Convincing others to join you in the adventure - or not

In yesterday's post, we talked a bit about that "wilderness feeling" that many believers experience when they move out from the institutional church as they seek to more fully follow Jesus and to
BE the church rather than GO TO church or DO church.  They are often very excited about the new possibilities, and look forward to being the church in the ways we see the New Testament
church in Acts and the epistles.  They are eager to share their dreams with their Christian friends.

But their friends - even close family - frequently do not share their enthusiasm.  In fact, those friends may turn away, not understanding why anyone would want to change the way things are, or may even be sure that traditional church practices are the right and best way.

What should you, as a Jesus-follower trying to follow Him more closely in a way that does not include many of the practices that have become an accepted way of doing church, do when other believers do not share your enthusiasm? 

I know from my own experience that it is tempting to do everything you can think of to get others to join you in this wonderful adventure.  You explain over and over the advantages.  You point out
all the problems you've discovered about "pagan Christianity."  You tell folks that they're really missing out on a truly close relationship with Jesus and others. 

You drag them along to a house gathering or a coffee-shop gathering or whatever expression of the church you think is most like the New Testament picture.  You drop in on them, or invite them out for coffee, or beg them to go out with you on the streets, or beg them to come over for a meal.  You want them, after all, to see how the church is a 7 days a week joyous reality.

But when they get tired of listening to you, when they resent you suggesting that their version of church is lacking or that their relationship with Jesus is lacking, when they get tired of you hanging around and disturbing their lifestyle, it isn't long before they start avoiding you - or come right out and tell you to leave them alone.

And you feel alone.  This great adventure is turning out to be a "lost in the wilderness alone" disappointment instead.  What to do?  You love your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  You want them to experience God's love in a greater way.  And let's face it, you don't like being alone.  But you don't want to go back to the old ways.  So what new ways can you think of to convince them to join you? 

In a post, "How can I get my (husband, wife, congregation, friends, family, etc) to..." [embrace my journey and accomplish what I want], Wayne Jacobsen suggests that maybe it isn't our job to get
others to join us on our journey.  Maybe we need to focus on living with Jesus ourselves, and ask God to help us love others better right where they are.  Maybe we need to let God do what He wants to do in their lives, instead of trying to manipulate them into doing/being what we think is best and right.

Wayne says we are excited about the fresh relational journey we are on, discovering how to live loved, and finding the institutional approach we've been involved in to be counterproductive to the community we desire...

Our first thought is how do we get others to embrace our journey and help us accomplish what we want. As noble as it may be, this approach never ends well. The moment we are trying to get someone else to see what we see, we become a manipulator of their journey, rather than a friend alongside them.

It is an impossible task to get someone else to come on this journey. That isn’t your job and others will only resent you when you try. All you need to do is go on this journey and in the going let God make you a better lover of [others right where they're] at.

You can’t drive people into love, you can only invite them. And you can live with Jesus all seven days of the week whether they desire to or not. Changing them is not the goal. Living free [in Jesus, yourself,] will have far more impact on you and them!

Questions:  What is your experience?  Have you wanted to convince others to join you because you believe it will be wonderful for them too - or even as a way for you to get past that lonely place?  If so, what have been the results?  Or have you found another way to move ahead in the journey?
 What (or Who?) is that way?

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