Yesterday as we were driving back from SC visiting family, we saw a car (pictured in the previous post below) that was literally covered from roof rack to bumper in what appeared to be poster boards. On the boards were hand-written all sorts of spiritualisms, various Bible verses yanked out of context, and even some strange things that appeared to be personal revelations or prophecy that this guy had received. (“I permit Issac (couldn’t make out the last name) to preach at any time to anyone…” was the one I caught most of…)
There is a serious temptation to unload both barrels of orthodoxy on Issac (the name we will give him based on that partial reading) and really pick apart all the ways and levels on which this is so unbiblical. But as I started mentally doing just that, I realized that I do the same thing, and simply dress it differently.
I am relatively certain that Issac didn’t wake up the morning of the extreme car Bible-makeover and say “You know what, I think I am going to go out there and transform my car into a parallel-parking, crankable declaration of the heresy that has infected my theology.” He was trying to help people. What if somebody, somewhere is touched by something that they read on the bumper of his car? It might, after all, be the only verse they ever read from the Bible. So it just stands to reason that instead of just having a bumper sticker that says “John 3:16” he ought to write out the whole chapter of John 3 on cards and stick them all over his car. And, since he had received what he saw as relevant personal revelation, why not go ahead and slap that on the car, too?
There are several issues going on here, and I see them all in my own heart. I’ll look at two of them here. The first and most glaring is the “drive-by evangelism” that is going on. In his case, it is literal, but I also do the same thing. This is not at all to downplay the movement of God the Holy Spirit in placing people who need to hear in “random” evangelistic scenarios. I believe in a God who regularly amazes me with the people he has cross my path. But when I set up a system that totally relies on the “random,” it downplays the fact that God more often works through relationship and other means. Far more people come to faith as a result of a friend’s initiative than the result of a stranger sharing their faith with them. So my approach to evangelism must be primarily a relational approach that is at the same time open to “random” people with whom I had no prior relationship hearing and responding, on occasion.
The other issue I saw was that Issac relied on out-of-context truth to convey his message. Like screaming “Grephical Tranglunitude!” in a crowded shopping mall, to tell a postmodern audience that they have a sin problem and need to be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ is to speak a thoroughly foreign and undecipherable language. Issac tried to give his truth a context, by putting a LOT of it on his car, but it still comes across as something totally foreignToo often our message on campus comes across as blubbering nonsense, because we fail to give our (valid) truth a context. We address needs, but not felt needs. And felt needs are the only context you can address needs in! To say “Jesus Saves” or “You need Jesus” will do no good until you at least show some desire to tend to the needs that people feel, like the need for a ride to the grocery store or the need for something to do on Friday night. (making the socials team a really REALLY integral part of any overall ministry, btw)
So while it was tempting to throw stones, it only took a few minutes of introspection to see that I’d just hit myself.