I have just been listening to Dr James White who has an online program twice a week that I encourage both Christians and non Christians to watch or listen to because I think he is one of the last bastions for the voice of reason in modern thought and for theology today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbordG49Pfw&t=742s .
IN this current episode of his program The Dividing Line he repeats the statement “What you win them with is what you win them to”. At least four times. I wish I had originated the term because it struck a cord with me that resonates deep into my past experience of mission work with Para-Church mission groups and also my observation of how people do evangelism in modern Christianity today. If you listen to Dr White you get a very clear sense of how this effects your world view whether it be religious or secular meaning what ever it is you hold as your set of beliefs about the world and how you live in it is what drives meaning for your existence.
René Descartes stated that “I think therefore I am”. http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-7/descartes-i-think-therefore-i-am . I could put this another way, “You are what you think”, even another way of stating this is what you think is the core essence of whom you are. In other words we are talking about those things that we hold true that make up our world view or philosophy of life and its meaning or lack thereof depending on how you view the world.
Firstly you don’t need to be a rocket Scientist to figure out what a person believes about the world after you have listened to them for or read what they have written and secondly if you have some critical thinking skills it isn’t too hard to poke holes in their theories as to whether they are based in some kind of reality or not. It isn’t my intention here however to put up a bunch of worlds views and compare them to mine and defend my own against them; that can wait until another time. What I am interested in doing at this point in time is look at how belief effects what we practice in our lives.
I think I have mentioned somewhere before that I was once involved in a Para-Church organisation here in Australia that claimed of itself to be mission based. In other words it’s purpose was to evangelise Australians in a way that Australians could understand and relate to the Christian Gospel. As laudable as that intention was or has been one thing struck me that was disconcerting with that whole approach which is that many of those who were won for Christ through their efforts were won to that cause and not necessarily to membership within the body of Christ.
Many of those who were un- churched before their apparent conversion to Christianity could only really function within that Para-Church system of belief or practice; their whole view or experience of the church was skewed by what they were taught in that system. What, you may ask caused them to be dysfunctional within a normal church life setting? Expectation mainly!
I don’t bemoan the fact that often mission groups have a much higher standard of commitment than do general Church members however within the church itself there are many who are just as highly committed to their faith as those in the so called mission band; maybe even more so. However not everyone is called to the same level of mission or sacrifice that some are called to nor is it practical for everyone to sell their homes, give up their jobs and do full time mission work. Although if you listen to some of those who adhere militantly to the mission ethos if you’re not willing to pay the cost they did then you aren’t serious about your faith.
Back to my original thought about expectations; many of those who were converted through and joined the mission band just could not handle the every day run of the mill church existence who then became disillusioned with all those they saw as pew warmers and left the church and Christianity all together. What they saw as normal wasn’t in fact normal at all. What they also couldn’t see is that all those they looked down upon also struggled with the same day to day drudgery of life and responsibility that often got in the way of good old knock down drag out spiritual battle that they had become accustomed to. Maybe they should have tried being a little more empathetic or even followed one of the so called pew warmers around for a week and realised that their spiritual struggles were just intense but unlike the missionary has to deal with the mortgage, the job and a myriad of other day to day issues that the missionary may have scarified for the glory of God. The missionary may not be able to even do their job if it wasn’t for the fifty dollars you put in the collection plate last week that supports missionary work… that came out of your pay packet that meant your child may have to wait another month for that pair of sports shoes or that special dinner you wanted to take your husband or wife out to as a romantic treat. It’s all about your perspective on sacrifice.
Humans are basically self centred even with the best of intentions or altruistic motives. We really only see the world from our perspective and often think we have the higher calling that we are somehow doing the job better than everyone else; forgetting that the whole is greater than the individual members. Obviously some individuals stand out a bit more than others and we think it must be great to be them and have all that time to study the bible and preach great sermons to the lost but they often forget that without you they couldn’t do that.
The ideas behind the practice
So what has that got to do with “What you win them with is what you win them to? Both sides have a distorted view of the other side. I am not advocating the idea that what is true and right for you is not true and right for every; what I am saying is that the role you have in life may differ from others but is the means to the same end goal. Where it becomes unhealthy is to think that this is all there is and everyone needs to either climb on board or jump off the cliff and not get in the way of you and your groups progress.
It isn’t just the mission groups that do this however; there are church groups and whole denominations that become cultist and closed in their approach because their world view is based in a whole range of very flawed presuppositions and traditions that are not always bad in themselves but over time have become God’s truth that no one should question.
People who are raised in closed groups and communities are often discouraged from looking outside for fear they will be lead astray or fall away through bad teaching… but they never question their own teaching how can they if they have never been exposed to anything else?
Religion is often criticised by atheists and others as being closed minded and illogical; is atheism really any better? In the same way many minority groups also accuse others as being unloving or discriminatory but fail to recognise their own intolerance or if they do they are too selfish to care it’s my way or the by way so far as they are concerned. It can make those outside any group the enemy or the loony tune because we are elite, better or specially gifted.
Every group, community and religion needs to recognise and be able to question its own beliefs and practices without the fear of their whole world collapsing in on itself; each group and every individual must be conscious of their own cognitive dissonance meaning their world view is not always consistent with what they do and say or even how the real world is.
It is a bold claim to make that our particular belief system holds the very essence of truth; even so truth is not relative truth is not always what makes you feel good and does no harm to others. Truth sometimes hurts and offends others and makes us very uncomfortable as well. Truth if it is objective does not change it is inconvenient it doesn’t compromise. Truth is not circumstantial; truth is our school master truth is above us we can’t manipulate it… But of how we all try. What you think is truth is the truth you live by this is the meaning of what you win them with is what you win them to. Whether you’re gay, straight, left or right, religious or atheists we all want our team to come out on top!