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Evangelism/witnessing As A Liberal Christian?


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Ok, this is probably a touchy subject for some, but is it possible to engage in evangelistic activities and witness if one is a Liberal Christian? I would argue yes, as I do evangelise/witness, and am a Liberal Christian, but I thought I'd get some other people's input. To me, its the way you go about it that matters. If any of you have seen a series called "Way of the Master", I use a similar style to that, but with some of my own personal little twists. I see all religions as legitimate, but some make you work harder to get the same result. I usually use the metaphor of buying or building a house. If you are something other than Christian, you have to "build your own house" from the ground up, buying the property being similar to finding the "right" religion, and building the house being progressing in the faith. I then talk about how Christianity is like "buying a house thats already been built and furnished", which is a metphor for how Christ Jesus died for our sins, etc. I normally use the metaphor after going through the ten commandments, and occasionally I'll give the person a copy of the New Testament if I happen to have one. So, am I the only one that does this? Are there other Progressive Christians that evangelise? Is it considered unacceptable for a Progressive to engage in such activity?

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I think it's eminently appropriate to evangelize in a progressive context, although most of us would probably agree that bluntly introducing the subject with random people off the street probably isn't going to get you very far. The more the implications of my faith become a part of who I am, the more opportunities I find to bring it up with others though. I don't have to "force the subject" like I did as a fundie in my youth, because it grows naturally out of the concerns I have as an adult. What impact would it have on the world of economics, law, education, ecology, etc. if we really believed that the Divine was completely present in every person, every thing, every moment? What would it mean for corporate America, the inner city, the public school system, the medical establishment, and so on and so forth?

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Well I think the UCC ads and campaign of "God is still speaking, " are essentially evangelical. Perhaps not in the typical conservative sense. But think who they are aimed at. Basically they are aimed at unchurched people who feel alienated from traditional churches due to feeling unwelcome and as if they don't belong. I understand they basically did market research and found this well of anger and alienation. I have read there is something like a 20% increase in visiting at least. When people visit I try to make a point of making them feel welcome, that sort of thing.

 

I think most progressives would not try to convert someone who was happy as they were, whether pagan, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or conservative Christian, or even atheist. Although I tend to see atheism as sort of a dead end, I do even consider it necessary for some people to go thru the "stage" esp comign out of some strong childhood imposed belief systems.

 

But no I don't consider it inapprop. I have considered bringing people to church with me, for instance-- just hasn't been really possible (lived too far away, that sort of thing). I have talked about the spiritual aspects (sort of the "God's politics" aspects) in a no. of areas. I think that is kind of what Fred might be saying (not sure).

 

I'm certainly not into pushing anything down someone's throat.

It's got a bad name.

 

--des

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Here's another thought... Most people you come across on a daily basis seem so mired in triviality and small talk, that even just talking about an important issue of any kind can sometimes be enough to get a conversation moving in a spiritual direction. I sometimes just throw an idea out into the conversation and see if I get a "bite." And it depends on whether someone resonates with your thought processes as well. Since I have a bit of a philosophical bent, I tend to be obsessed with issues of meaning and purpose in life... I frequently talk about how I think our consumer culture does everything it can to bombard us with images and sounds 24/7 so we won't have half a second to stop and think about anything important. (If we did, we might not buy the next new exciting product.) There's nothing really "religious" per se about that observation, but it can lead to a great discussion of ultimate meaning and purpose if the person is so inclined. Of course, there are as many approaches as there are people, but we'll probably all do best if we find our voice and stick to it. I think most people are starving to talk about something meaningful.

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"I sometimes just throw an idea out into the conversation and see if I get a "bite."

 

Yes, or more often I listen closely while others talk and listen to hear them throw a Progressive Christian bit out there and then I add to it..Especially I have experinced this is a liberal city like Santa Barbara. At least 3 times while visiting a natural organic cafe or Earth day fair a Progressive minded New Age person, neo-hippie, or natural deist has started just such a friendly spiritual discussion with me. Another good place I have found for this, is in the book stores in the section where they sell Progressive Christian themed books.

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I think that the "evangelical" and related terms are misused. It is often used synonymously with "proselytical." The latter means seeking to convert others to your religious beliefs. The former is often used this way, but etymologically implies being filled with the good news. I have known very proselytical Christians who I would not say were filled with the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe we are called to show the world what the Lord has done in our lives, and that doing so will change people's lives, but I don't think that this is a call to be conversion motivated.

 

That said, I believe that I fall short of my own standard of being filled with good news. I am open to everyone about my considerable involvement in church, however the topic of what the Lord has done for me rarely comes up except when I am with others who are already believers.

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I think that the "evangelical" and related terms are misused.  It is often used synonymously with "proselytical."  The latter means seeking to convert others to your religious beliefs.  The former is often used this way, but etymologically implies being filled with the good news.  I have known very proselytical Christians who I would not say were filled with the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe we are called to show the world what the Lord has done in our lives, and that doing so will change people's lives, but I don't think that this is a call to be conversion motivated.

 

That said, I believe that I fall short of my own standard of being filled with good news.  I am open to everyone about my considerable involvement in church, however the topic of what the Lord has done for me rarely comes up except when I am with others who are already believers.

 

Yeah, I'm of the mind that most of us need to shut up and trance. (yes, our spiritual ancestors went into trance. what do you think "caught up in the heavens" means?)

 

Being a witness is not the same thing as witnessing and, imo, being a witness is best. But I feel as you do, sterr, I too fall short. I'm a "babe" and a student of these mysteries, not an authoritative witness. Besides, "evangelism" presumes a superiority within the tradition that I do not feel. I enjoy talking to people about religion and about my studies in Christianity and am not shy about professing an allegiance to Christ, but I maintain associations and friendships with several who believe differently and practice within different traditions and to do this I have to relinquish any need to be "right" or to assert any dominance that some within my tradition feels the tradition has.

 

The more I study and learn the more apparent it becomes that all philosophies and religious traditions share a common core...it may only be the heart of the seeker that comprises this core, but thats significant to me, and besides, I'm of the mind that all the religious traditions throughout history have become woven within the great tapestry of spiritual truth, and that you can't look deeply into any one of them without detecting strands of the other in the warp and woof. I sometimes suspect that our religious and spiritual ancestors were far more syncretic than we give them credit for, and maybe even more unselfconsciously syncretic than some of us are today. (I'm not speaking of the orthodox Jew or the orthodox Muslim or the orthodox Christian here so much because the efforts of these are to shape a consistent doctrine and to dominate sociopolitically by way of its authority)

 

Being a witness to me is not about bringing people in to my tradition, but in demonstrating the fruit of "The Way" so that others may be inspired to follow in it. Do I fall short? Er. Which only strengthens my conviction that any thing I may say regarding the presumed superiority of Christianity and the efficacy of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will lack authority to the ears of the unbeliever. When, and to the extent that I demonstrate the fruit of the vine, that will be my witness.

 

 

lily

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This is more how I approach evangelism when I do engage in it (and its rare, if ever that I engage in any form of direct evangelism). To me, witnessing and evangelism is sharing the gospel, which doesn't mean trying to force someone to convert, or even necessarily showing them that they've sinned to directly try to get them to convert. I think its totally possible, and, infact prefferable to evangelise by sharing the Gospel and debating with others more often then direct evangelising, as it helps the person feel more in control of the decision, as if its a choice for them to make, not what they're being told to do. Also, in my opinion, it seems reasonable to assume that if they convert from that sort of experience, instead of a forced conversion, it'll be a lot more likely that they'll be a true convert, and actually come to believe, not just pretend to convert to get you to leave them alone.

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