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There's more to the gospel than its own truth

Being a campus minister, it probably follows that I should try to be on campus quite a bit. I do this in various ways, one being times that I have labeled for myself "campus experience." I just simply walk around campus and see what happens. Sometimes this means nothing happens. Other times it means I run into people and have conversations. Other times some random things happen.

Today I was over by the union and a couple of guys were out preaching in the courtyard. They're not the really crazy fiery types so pretty much no one stops to listen. This is the second time I've seen them so I got a little bit of food and sat on a bench nearby just to listen. Of the two, one guy is a little bit older and does a typical oration of "you are separated from God by sin so you must repent" and the other younger guy (who I later learned was in high school) would awkwardly read from a King James bible during the breaks. At one point it was obvious to them that I had been the only one paying attention and they stopped to apparently talk it over for a bit. After a couple of minutes the young guy came over, asked my name and sat down to deliver the gospel to me. He had me read aloud out of a workbook from a page labeled "Teachers Guide" which was basically John 3:16 followed by several paragraphs explaining that most people just want to be "saved" by Jesus but not follow him. He then went on to talk for several minutes and I don't remember much of what he said except that he was extremely awkward about the whole thing.

We chit-chatted for a few minutes more about this and that before they decided to leave. As they walked away towards the library, the older guy stuck tracts in the face of all the students walking by them.

So, here are two guys who obviously love the gospel. In all of their preaching, there truly wasn't anything that I thought was overtly wrong or incorrect about anything they said. They seemed to be nice guys. But in the end, I couldn't help but feel that they were unintentionally damaging the message of the gospel - and not necessarily by what they were saying or by what they believed about it - but by how they were trying to deliver it.

I had no desire to get into anything with them, but the whole time I wanted to ask them what they truly knew about these students. One was a home-school high schooler, the other a somewhat older guy with no connection to the university. I wanted to ask them if they had relationships with any of these people. I wondered if they had a concept of how these students think and the kind of lives they are living. I wondered if they understood that they can yell words that they call the "gospel" all day long at people, they can put little tracts into their hands, but it only adds to the piles of information garbage that students immediately sweep out the back door. I wondered if they understood that words have little meaning to these students unless they are backed by relevant relationship that gives them authenticity.

I have no claim on understanding the depths of all this. I am in no way better than these guys. They may love the gospel more than I'll ever know. They obviously have a ferver to serve Christ in bold ways and I salute that. But I also think that loving Christ and the gospel means wanting to communicate it in ways that don't make it look stupid.


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Blogger Wes and Ellen - 7:04 AM

Carebear,

Great post. I appreciate what you are doing on campus. I like your approach to these two heralders. From the account you shared it sounds like you never told them your profession. You listened to their persuasion. You admired the good. That took humility, and I respect that.

I think you are right on about the Gospel. There's something significant about presentation. I'm no chef, but I think they've caught on. They cook this gourmet meal but they don't just toss it on the plate. They consciously and intricately present their masterpiece. They present it in such a way that it’s something to be savored.

-Wes    



Blogger Daniel - 10:13 AM

Cary-

Thanks for this post. I admire their passion and their diligence. We would both agree, however, that this approach almost never works. (I never discount that God can use ANY situation, though, which is why I say ALMOST never!)

The hardest part is struggling to build relationships with random students and being involved in their lives in random ways. I am working really hard to bring this about, but it is easier said than done. Blessings in your drive to do the same...

~Daniel    



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