Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who is the Gospel for?

posted by Paul

My wife and I have lived in the same apartment building for about 15 months now. Quite frankly they are not the nicest apartments in town, nor are the in the nicest area of town. Frequently I arrive home from my night shift and find the police in our parking lot dealing with various illegal activities. We have had everything happen since we have been there from fires, to domestic disturbances, once we had a cow (literally), we have even had to call 911 about shot fired in our building. The nice thing about living in these apartments is that we do not get many salesmen knocking on our door. I haven’t seen one JW since we moved into this place! Since we have been there we have had three people come to our door 1) a guy selling news paper subscriptions 2) An elderly couple passing out Christian literature, 3) A couple of young men knocking on doors with their bibles. It is the last two of these that I am curious about.

The elderly couple that knocked on our door were a very sweet looking pair. They were both in their mid-sixties and spoke with a slight Spanish accent (which is not all that uncommon in the Tampa area). They were both carrying old warn copies of the Bible that they had obviously been poring over for years. I was delighted to see them, and hoped to have an encouraging conversation that would send them on their way to do their work. Before I was able to say anything they looked at me and asked “are there any Hispanics living in this apartment?” To which is answered “no.” Promptly, and without saying another word they turned and left. I wasn’t sure what to say, but all that came out was “have a nice day.”

The two young men that I mentioned did not actually knock on my door. I ran into them in the hallway outside my door while loading my truck with some things. I was making several trips back and forth when I noticed that they too were knocking on doors with their bibles. They knocked on my neighbors door spoke shortly with her and then left. They then began to knock on the door of a vacant unit. I let them know that there was no one home, and asked them what they were doing. They thanked me for the info, and said they were knocking on peoples doors. To that I thought “duh!” But before something kinder and more intellectual came out of my mouth they walked away from me. I noticed that they knocked on several people’s doors only to have a brief word then leave. Finally, they found someone to speak to and that they did for quite a while. As I thought about it later in the day I realized what I had seen. These two young black men were only stopping to talk to our black neighbors.

In both of these instances churches were racially focusing their evangelism. Neither one of these door to door campaigns were open to all people. The Hispanic church only wanted Hispanic people, and the Black church only wanted Black people. Obviously there are political and cultural questions that come to mind, but more importantly we should be asking who is the Gospel for? I know that these are extreme examples of evangelism, and by no means am I painting a picture of Hispanic Christians or Black Christians. I want to make it clear that this is not a problem stemming from race but it is a problem indicative of many churches today. Why do churches need to have a demographic? Why do churches look to
Barna and try to figure out how to minister best to a certain group of people? The apostle Paul was all things to all people. He did not need to poll the people to see what they wanted, he knew that they needed the Word and that is what he gave them.

Before you leave this blog I want you to see an example of the Gospel going out to all people worldwide. My parents just returned from China. They were there on a one-on-one (actually two-on-one) evangelistic campaign.

They did not preach at any stadium; nor did they go knocking on doors. My parents went to China and adopted my new little sister. They gave the hope of the “power of God unto salvation” to a little girl in an orphanage that may have never heard the Gospel otherwise. We are praying that my parents’ missionary trip will yield much fruit! We are praying that God will adopt little Grace Elyse just like our family has adopted her.


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