Has evangelism overtaken the original mission of Jesus?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are organizations out there that take the tasks of discipleship very seriously and truly serve with Christlike spirits. Grassroots efforts like Fields of Hope are addressing the practical problem of hunger by giving the hungry a way to feed themselves, and St. Vincent de Paul has been extraordinary at setting up soup kitchens and shelters across the nation. Nevertheless, in a country as wealthy as America that many regard as a Christian nation, how it is possible that there “are said to be 38 million hungry people in America and 14 million of them are children?” Is the hunger of only 10% of the population an acceptable ratio for a country that makes such radical claims of abundance, justice, equality, life, liberty, compassion, and trust in God?

Beyond the call to feed the hungry, there are also organizations that address the other aspects of the teachings of Jesus. Art Hallett, the man who led my youth group worship services, has started a prison ministry that has spread throughout the country, touching the lives of thousands of prisoners. Yet even that ministry is largely devoted to giving prisoners the assurance of eternal salvation and a celestial life after death through the Evangelism Explosion program. Again, not that it’s a bad thing because their coming into a belief system based on the foundation of love is assuredly better than the other training they’ll get in prison. Nevertheless, it seems that the endgame is the same as it is with most contemporary Christian ministries, to convert new believers and disciple them in the way to convert others.

Again, I understand the practice of evangelism and its importance not only in keeping the church stocked with new members, but also offering a knowledgable assurance of eternal salvation. However, the practice of evangelism was only one aspect of the ministry of Jesus or the ministry He called his disciples to. Nevertheless, it seems that the contemporary Church has gotten largely stuck on this one aspect and deferred the less flamboyant, yet practically necessary missions for the one where they get to hear themselves talk.

I find it interesting that in my community, one of the most actively engaged charities we have regarding hunger is the All Faiths Food Bank, an organization that has transcended the various belief systems of those involved and simply seeks to serve in the best way they know how despite their differences. Isn’t this the way the truly faithful serve? Isn’t it of greater importance to simply serve with humility without having the ulterior motive of conversion?

Steve

Steve McAllister is an actor, musician, accomplished author, filmmaker, and the man behind Your Daily Groove at Modern Hippie Mag. His most recent novel, The McAllister Code is available as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com and will be available in paperback on 1/11/11. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.

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Are Churches becoming less conscious of their message?

Part of that human connection that I’ve been missing has been becoming involved in a church. I grew up going to the Lutheran Church and became a Baptist when I was fifteen. As a young person, it gave a young introvert an accepting group of nurturing people and a real sense of belonging. Plus, I enjoyed the practices of worship, prayer, and study. However, as I grew older, I did not like a lot of the messages that were being taught to me, although I never felt that the intention was based in any kind of malice. Nevertheless, there were certain dogmatic limitations that I felt confined my experience of God to a mission statement that was written for me, yet without any of my own input.

Stubborn, rebellious creature that I am, this frustration gave way to a variety of what those whose company I kept would consider “sinful behaviors.” I won’t bother to name them all here, but suffice it to say that some were considered “sinful” for the practical reason that they hurt me. Others were considered “sinful” because they deviated from the accepted norm. However, through any behavior I may have partaken, I never felt as if I was outside or away from the presence of God. Nevertheless, I do miss the warmth of Him shining through people who have a more conscious connection with Him, and so I have begun to search for a church that my wife and I might begin attending together.

Considering our different upbringings and variances in belief systems – she was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness for many years – finding a church with a doctrine we can agree upon can be a bit of a challenge. So I recently began looking at websites of churches in the area that I found promising as at least a place to visit, if not a place to call home. Most of them had a page devoted to the tenets of the church, and as I began to look through the various congregational agreements, I noticed something very interesting. Many of them had written the exact same thing.

Now obviously, they all shared a Christian background so a certain amount of similarities are to be expected. But more than a handful were verbatim. They used the exact same words. Cut and pasted.

At first it was frustrating because I knew that there were certain tenets that either my wife or I do not agree with and would not like to build a foundation upon. However, then I began to get a little discouraged over the sheer laziness of it all, the lack of vibrancy and conscious attention that should be given to creating a statement of faith. Surely, sharing the very building blocks of your faith to people you’re trying to disciple should deserve more attention and cultivation than plagiarism.

Steve

Steve McAllister is an actor, musician, accomplished author, filmmaker, and the man behind Your Daily Groove at Modern Hippie Mag. His most recent novel, The McAllister Code is available as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com and will be available in paperback on 1/11/11. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.

Thank you for being a friend

As the world of social media has been exploding in the world around me and I have begun to make connections through it, it has been thrilling for me to become much more community minded. Over the last few years, I’ve been working a third shift job at the hospital attending to people with mental health problems. Add that to the fact that the money I make from selling my hours does not quite cover the meager living extravagances I’ve come to appreciate – like food, water, gas, and housing – and the result is that I don’t get out much.

Yet for me, and I’m sure many others around this world, this new use of the technology we’ve been given has made me realize how much I’ve missed human connection. And it seems that the more energy I put into using the technology, the more my actual human relations start to blossom. Ok, so maybe that’s common sense, but I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer.

Anyway, the point is that I am very glad to have this portal and thankful for all of those who consider themselves my friends. I hope that we continue to use it in ways that will bring us closer together as a community.

As part of that, in anticipation of my book The McAllister Code finally making it to paperback, I want you to have a free download of the ebook. Click here to get your free download now.

Steve

Steve McAllister is an actor, musician, accomplished author, filmmaker, and the man behind Your Daily Groove at Modern Hippie Mag. His most recent novel, The McAllister Code is available as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com and will be available in paperback on 1/11/11. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.