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white harvest fields (or, solipsism part 2)

for 6 days we walked around the streets of panama city putting on plays and acosted shoppers inviting them to that evening’s VBS and sermon. for another 3 we canvassed the zone, door-knocking with a ready study of the plight of man taken from romans that ended with, what else, acts 2:38 and an invitation to that evening’s sermon.

my depresion hit me during the post sermon camaraderie. talking with brothers overlooking the city of panama, comment after comment was made about how they had family members that were pentacostal and that these were the ones that they hoped to save, to bring into the fold, to teach the errors of their ways. and this was to be done through sermonizing.

not that this is all that missionaries do…but a lot of what CoC missionaries do is brand-switch, at least in areas where the gospel is spreading like wild-fire. we have grabbed on to acts 18:26 and believe it our duty to teach others the way more perfectly.

the CoC, as all evangelical groups, want numerical growth. we believe that the fields are white with harvest and that the place the missionary should be is where people are practically jumping into the water. but, what about jeremiah, hosea, isaiah? the lukan narrative of masses turning to the lord is a nice one, but, at the same time, there are more than enough examples of the lone voice in the wilderness. and, i couldn’t bare the pressure of numerical growth, especially when that growth came at the expense of other christian groups. (not so my dad, apparently. who, in a brief exchange last weekend, let it be known that he had no problems evangelicals claiming record number of conversions in iraq when most of what is happening is brand-switching…from the orthodox brand that has been there since practically the beginning to evangelical.)

this is the year of evangelism at our church…our pastors so desperately want to be a mega-church. this, they believe, is the true testament of the health of the congregation. not the spirituality of our members, not the lives changed from selfish consumerism to self-less giving, but whether or not we can afford the multi-million dollar renovation and expansion to house our “contemporary worship space…and a nice room for the choir.” they are operating under the build it and they will come because our building it is the proof of our faith and God will bless this. (the DoC we attend, is not the DoC we originally joined, nor the DoC we would like it to be…but that’s another post.)

i was roped in to one evangelism meeting…which was a waste of time. but, that is because few people know how to run meetings anymore. still, i won’t be going back. not because they aren’t a good thing. but, because the entire campaign is, again, about brand-switching. i can understand why the CoC is so focused on brand-switching….we are, after all, the only post second-century group that has gotten it right. but, that this would be an emphasis with a more ecumenical group like the DoC leaves me puzzeled. especially since our congregation does such a bad job of retaining those who place membership with us. also, i dislike, as you already know use of business and sales, especially the hard sell when it comes to christianity.

everyone should, say protestant evangelicals, be involved in evangelism…otherwise your faith is empty.

yet, is it a cop-out to appeal to ephesians 4:11 and say that i know myself and i have not been given the gift of evangelism; that my gift is the gift of a teacher, or at least confuser of persons; that what i do is take simple notions of God and complicate them; that the church needs its vision of God and of christianity complicated; and, who better to complicate it than someone from within?

for this reason, as well, i have found getting involved in campus ministry a strange proposition (well, this and the fear of losing my job…not that my colleagues don’t know that i’m a christian, they do). college faith seems to always be in crisis mode (though, mine hasn’t necessarily left crisis mode…it is of a different kind of crisis). either it’s the crisis of ecstasy and jesus’ love is just bubbling over, now or it’s the crisis of despondancy and do we really believe all this crap anyway. and, campus ministry, at least the ones that i’ve seen, are all about the firm foundation, when my faith is more of a tenuous hope in what i do not see.

 

Comments

Don’t think I’m getting sidetracked here, just meandering about to come at a question: from what little I’ve heard of contemporary Latin American Christianity, it’s not only beset by pentecostalism, but also by a pernicious pentecostalism that burns with the heat of material promise. (Not that american christianity doesn’t burn with the sell of material promise, too, but I’m getting to that.) My sense is that it’s a bourgeois bastardization of liberation theology, but that’s not to say that it’s not influential of its own right. I don’t raise this to defend the brand marketers, but to call attention to a conflict that has no good solution: Either leave the pentecostals where they are, with Christus Materialus, or drag them over to Christus Correctus.

That’s why I appreciate your appeal to the Jeremiahs and Hoseas, but prophets are such notorious loners. How many years has the call been to create a people distinct unto the Lord; and yet why is it that people all too often becomes person?

It seems I only have idle questions here. Including this one: If not campus ministry, then inter varsity? (Which, I must admit, when a graduate student I gave up early: too much burden from the sectarians I met with every Sunday to offer up half the rest of my week.)

Which, I realize on second thought, is a terrible question that misses the original point. Methinks I’ll just shutup for a while…

well, my next post is going to be on asking what ministry would look like in a state institution when one is a professor in said state institution…

unless, of course, it’s on why we left…which family history also opened up.

see, exposition isn’t that bad…as long as you follow up :)

And because you’re exploring ministry apart from evangelism, it’s necessary to leave some doors behind (whether shut or open). Exposite away, then! (although, in that frame, it might be illustrative to offer a contrast between forms of ministry in the academy: i.e., are you shooting for the Pew dictum, inject the dialogue; or does inter varsity offer something too evangelistic/evangelical; or is there some path between them all that you’d like to walk?)

you know, i don’t know if it’s that i don’t know where or how to look, but the PEW people seem only to be interested in america, defined as the U.S.

When I had commerce with them in the late 1990s, they were wide-ranging in science & philosophy & literature, and I had no sense that they only cared about the U.S. However, I’ve had the impression that their religion & academia program has been undirected these past several (5ish) years. I’d be happy to be disabused of that notion by anyone who knows better.

well, neither lectures nor books will be funded

the collaborative research stuff seems to still be going (and they’re all english…not that i begrudge them this) and you can’t find anything on the pewresearch site for lit or for things beyond the u.s. border…except for pewglobal

and pewtrusts seems much more interested in policy than Arts and Huminities research

They’ve shifted focus, then. Perhaps the money ran out? (The majority of the Pew trusts is bigger than the grants which were suppliedfor religious studies…)