My deep, dark confession: Who cares?

Hare Krishna in Moscow

On Tuesday, I walked from the Parisian train station Gare du Nord to the Métro at Chappelle. This route takes you straight through the Indian section of town. I enjoy Indian parts of cities — such vibrant colours, combined with an abundance of people (which I can only handle in small doses), sometimes Indian music from shops or scents from restaurants, window displays full of multi-hued Hindu gods. All the usual stuff.

As I walked, I actually prayed, ‘Lord, help me to be Your light in someone’s life today.’ A nice prayer.

Soon there appeared a couple of white guys dressed in simple ‘Indian’ clothes with a dab of makeup on each forehead. And, of course, a satchel of books. Now, I’m not sure they were Hare Krishna, but that is a likely choice. They could have been western sympathisers to Hinduism*, I suppose.

The elder fellow wanted to know if I was interested in a copy of The Bhagavad Gita. I admitted I was. He held out an astonishingly large copy in French, extolling the virtues of the Sanskrit being present. I admitted that English would be better. So he called over the younger guy who had gone off, and he brought me an English version of the same edition.

But then I asked the price, and I’m not sure about buying a 10-euro copy of so large a book when it comes recommended only by the guy selling it — especially since I can get it out of the library when I get home. They tried selling me another book, but I said I was really only interested in The Bhagavad Gita.

Having extricated myself, I walked on to catch the Métro.

Do you notice anything about this story?

What stands out to me is the fact that I did not try engaging with these guys at any level beyond the possible purchase. Ten years ago or even five years ago, I would tried to share the thunderously good and life-changing truth that is Christ, the Incarnate God.

Instead, I stayed at the level of a business transaction and acted as unspiritual as anyone else. Then I moved on with my day.

Now, you may not fault me for this, even though I prayed that I could be God’s light to someone that day. After all, how do you ‘naturally’ bring Jesus up in a conversation with Hare Krishnas?

In Tuebingen, I was walking down the street one day and saw some Mormon Missionaries. Rather than engaging them, I extricated myself from the conversation as quickly as possible, quite nervous the whole time.

I had zero spiritual conversations with my less-than-enjoyable flatmates in Germany. I do not bring up the Gospel with my unbelieving classmates in French class. Nor did I bring it up with the friends I made in Germany.

In my second year of university, I was ‘Outreach Coordinator’ at my uni’s IVCF group. In my third year, I led an evangelistic Bible study. In my fourth year, I was president, seeking ways of reaching an unreached campus. I had encounters on the street with Scientologists. I talked with my roommate and others in my dorm about Jesus in first-year uni. I ran two Alpha Courses during my time in undergrad. I spent a year after graduation as a missionary with IVCF/IFES in Cyprus, leading evangelistic Bible studies and engaging in spiritual conversations with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and agnostics.

Today, I start to sweat when I see a Mormon!!

This is my deep, dark secret.

When I talk to, say, a Hare Krishna, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Mormon Missionary, there is a part of me that thinks, ‘What is the use? This will just go until we are both tired and quit.’

When I talk to an unbelieving classmate, colleague, or friend, I think, ‘I don’t want to scare so-and-so off. I don’t even know what he/she believes.’

I believe in evangelism with my head.

But I no longer believe in it with my heart.

This is my dark, dark secret.

So what business do I have writing this blog at all?

*To be Hindu one must be born Hindu; conversion is not possible.

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12 thoughts on “My deep, dark confession: Who cares?

    • Maybe it is about caring about persons and the awkwardness that some kinds of ‘contact’ evangelism brings up, a fear that we are not respecting and loving persons who are simply stats on a letter to the missions board or something. And thanks for the link to Femonite!

    • Ah, good question that will possibly unravel it all. In Cyprus, the Hindus were Nepalis, both students and refugees, who came to the international student ‘coffee house’ we ran at the Anglican church hall. The initial evangelistic interaction was the weekly talk with discussion that we gave at the ‘coffee house’ on various topics related to the Bible and the Christian perspective on issues facing students. People we met there who were more interested in Christianity or just in hanging out were invited to come to one-on-one Bible studies or small group studies or just to hang out — but the nature of our very meeting met that religion was an inevitable topic. I learned a lot about Hinduism that year, and shared a lot about Christianity to my Nepali friends. I also ate a lot of great Nepalese food!

      This may be the key to the difference. Despite a slight waning of zeal on my part, what defines that period and the period of my evangelistic Bible studies at uni was the fact that I was either running an event to which interested parties came to learn about Christianity or the interested parties were already my friends — sometimes both. Today, few of my friends whom I see on a regular basis are not professing Christians, and my natural temperament shies away from talking to strangers for the most part as well as often avoiding people I know if I see them in the street, supermarket, what-have-you.

      So. But where has the zeal gone?

  1. I have been meaning to reply to this since my husband sent it to me. It is such a common story and so understandable! Of course we don’t want to treat people like statistics but as individuals to love – and these days we are much less sure of our corner on truth and respectful of their opinions and beliefs too. Perhaps we are getting old and tired, but I think it’s more than that – not seeing the world as so black and white as when we were rabid youngsters, part of growing up.

    It was the Who cares? that really got to me! I wanted to say I CARE! And also Jesus cares! And do you really feel that apathetic yourself? I don’t think you do – you love the truth otherwise you wouldn’t be blogging about it all so prolifically! I think we are all on a journey to discover what a mature loving faith looks and feels like and how best to communicate it to different people in different situations. It seems like a loss of zeal, but perhaps it is the dawning of a reality check!

    I love what Nemo says – ‘where did it come from?’ Brilliant question! The Holy Spirit is the one responsible for evangelism and the source of inspiration. Yes, we can shut down that flow of God – and stir it up too; sometimes She goes quiet because it is time to be quiet 😉 Don’t beat yourself up, just ask Spirit where She is at work around you and follow… that is all any of us have to do.

    With much appreciation as always
    Sally Ann
    http://www.headshave4haiti.wordpress.com – my latest blog!?!

    • Sally Ann,

      Maybe it is growing up. Part of the hard part, then, is negotiating how things work when trying to respectfully sow the seed of the Gospel. I’m also more introverted, so if not a loss of zeal, per se, it’s probably also connected to a loss of interest in talking with complete strangers re Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Hare Krishna, et al.

      Much to mull over ….

  2. I like what Kristin said farther up in the comments. It reminds me of the rule of writers: whenever possible, show, don’t tell.

    We have different strengths at different times. The way we express ourselves changes throughout our life. And isn’t that how it should be? As we grow in experience, we can also grow in our responses – how we use those experiences as we move along into even more new experiences.

    I doubt that you would suggest that introverts have no place in the Church, simply because they feel unable to verbalize their faith to strangers. It’s so often a struggle in Christian communities, when you see someone else who is able to give “more” or “better”. And how much more of a struggle it can be when the someone else is your past self. But uniformity is not a virtue. What are the gifts you have right now, and how can you share them?

    In the sense that you use it here, I don’t classify as an evangelist. If I don’t have time to stop and chat, I smile and say hello and that’s it. If I do have time, my response to the opening salvo is usually “Well, I’m a Christian and an Anglican. But I’d love to hear about what you believe and what you think.” And in the best circumstances, we can have a good discussion about faith that gives us both a lot to think about. I’m really struck by your comment up there about how you shared your Christianity in Cyprus – and part of that sharing was learning about Hinduism (and Nepalese food). You demonstrated that being a Christian is about listening, not just trying to convince (just as breathing is about inhaling as much as exhaling) – and also about discussion, open-mindedness, community, and learning (and food). Sometimes we deliver the most powerful messages when we’re not trying to convince someone, but revealing who we are.

    You may be in a different place, but that doesn’t mean you have no place at all.

    • Indeed. I think I need to re-think, to a degree, what is ‘evangelism’ and what does whatever that is look like for me, as a more introverted, more widely-read 30-year-old as opposed to the me I was when I was 22 — a way of thinking and living that is inclusive of both me’s. Maybe that’s my problem — I still, even after meeting so many ways of being Christian or encountering the Divine, want to make everything work. And make it work one way, so I fear that if I what I was 7 or 8 years ago is no longer who I am, one or the other is invalid.

      But I agree that something important was going on in Cyprus about these questions generally, as I sat discussing Hinduism over Papfilipou ice cream on Ledra St, something that no techniques can put their finger on, something that arises from the reality of friendships that are willing to explore the vast terrain of the spiritual together.

      • Your comment about friendship reminded me of what St. Augustine wrote in a letter to his friend:.

        “Friendship is agreement, with kindliness and affection, on things human and divine.’ … those friends who are not in agreement about things divine cannot be in complete and genuine agreement about things human either; for of necessity one who has a contempt for things divine must hold a different opinion from what he should hold about things human, and anyone who does not love Him Who made man has not learned to love man aright”

        The fact that those who came to your ministry in Cyprus had the desire for Christianity made it easy to open up and share, because there was a common foundation; whereas people you meet in the streets don’t have that, at least on the surface. I guess that’s why introverts turn to blogging as an alternative venue for evangelism. The zeal is still there, just found a different outlet, imo.
        (BTW, when did you start this blog?)

      • Nemo,

        Thanks for Augustine quote on friendship. It is right on the button. 🙂

        I started this particular blog in 2008, I believe, two years after my return from Cyprus.

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