Project Conversion

Project Conversion


The New Evangelism: How Being Instead of Preaching Builds Heaven on Earth

posted by abowen

Every few weeks or so, I get an email that begins something like this:

“I’m concerned that your journey through Project Conversion has led you down the path to Hell. Jesus said he was the only way to the Father. Repent and save your soul from eternal damnation.”

I don’t argue with these folks, in fact I invariably thank them for their concern and wish peace upon them. Usually when we kindly dismiss a door-to-door salesperson, they move on and everyone is left unscathed, however the folks that approach me persist. When offering the love of Christ or the mercy of God fails, their presentation immediately devolves into threats of Hell and eternal damnation, as if fear will convince me over love.

It’s difficult reading these emails because I was once this way with others. In my days of bitter anti-theism, I would have quickly joined the argument and blasted their very concept of Hell with information regarding its gradual, trans-religious development along with other fallacies, but that’s not something I abide any longer. If Hell gives you peace, go for it.

But not every Christian who approaches me with Heaven acts in this way.

Buddy is an 80+ year old Jehovah’s Witness who visits my home about every two weeks. He’s dropped by since summer of 2011 and I look forward to our chats. We talk about what he believes, his family, grand kids, and the history of our county. He isn’t preaching to me, he is simply living out his Christianity with kindness. He’s sharing, not shoving.

I attend daily Mass at the local Catholic church every week simply because I find the quiet space a peaceful, meditative environment where I might contemplate the life of Christ and his teachings. No one there tries to convert me.

My close Protestant friends here also share their faith through love and action.

In other words, they are being the light Christ spoke of instead of a probing and intrusive flashlight. That said, I believe we can go farther.

Many of today’s preachers speak of Heaven as something distant, something we hope for following our deaths (if we’ve accepted Christ), and although that may be the case, Jesus spoke often of its imminence as well.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.–Matthew 4: 17

The time has come,” Jesus said, “The kingdom is near. Repent and believe the good news!–Mark 1:15

That was about 2,000 years ago. How “near” was this kingdom then and how much nearer is it now?

Jesus and his disciples following his death frantically preached about the kingdom as if it were something that would manifest any moment, often terrifying converts into submission. It’s a tactic that worked then, and I suppose if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But what if this “kingdom” wasn’t simply a place, but a state of being? What if Hell is the same thing? Many of our world faiths/philosophies speak of a similar transformation. For the traditions of India, we might loosely see this as a transition from the world of Maya (illusion and the realm of separation) to nirvana or enlightenment. Could this be what Christ was hinting at? Seeing the world in a whole new way, in the way that he spoke about in the Beatitudes?

What if Heaven and Hell weren’t places of eternal bliss or damnation only, but constructs here and now? In the Zarathushti faith, humanity is a partner with Ahura Mazda in conquering evil and bringing about frashokereti, the world as it should be. What if this “kingdom” was something we entered into once we awakened to the teachings of Christ? When we build this kingdom, we are doing it brick-by-brick with selfless love, compassion, and giving.

How does preaching fire and condemnation fit into that mix?

If we continue to mistreat our fellow creatures, Hell will not be a place that awaits the wicked dead, but a dungeon we build for ourselves while we yet live.

The new evangelism is therefore what St. Francis of Assisi said it was: actions more than words. Indeed, more people will rally to your message if you bear your religion like a self-spoken garment instead of some virulent pathogen.

What if we truly lived out the tenants of our faiths for one day without saying a word? What if we allowed God to speak for him/her/itself in the hearts of those we meet? Are you humble enough to excuse yourself from the conversation when the time comes or will you insist upon remaining the third wheel?



Advertisement
Comments read comments(9)
post a comment
brandon berryhill

posted May 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm


That was perfectly said, love the finish with Francis. There’s a reason why he bore the stigmata. Yet as special as he was, he was always humble. Just heard a great comment from a Franciscan the other day that aligns with this. St Francis and his followers passed through a town one day and didn’t stop at all because they were not accepted. One of the followers said, “are we not going to spead the word of God?”. Francis simply answered, “We just did” and kept going. :-]

Another one that jumped out, it was the second reading from Sunday’s mass. 1 John 3:18-24 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050612.cfm

I loved the lines, “Children let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth” and “if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God”

Too often however we revert to Convienant Christianity in this world and only do what the selfish self tells us to do instead of what Christ wants us to do. :-]



report abuse
 

abowen

posted May 4, 2012 at 10:37 am


UtMormon,

Thanks for reading and for the link! Interesting stuff for sure.



report abuse
 

abowen

posted May 4, 2012 at 10:33 am


Brandon,

Thanks for reading! I’m glad to find that you are on your own path. Of course I love meeting folks! I’ll shoot you an email shortly. Peace.



report abuse
 

@UtMormonDemoGuy

posted May 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm

@UtMormonDemoGuy

posted May 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm


I really liked your post. It reminded me of one of my favorite sermons by a leader in my own church, Elder Dallin Oaks, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We Mormons still have plenty of the preaching-type evangelism in our culture (as you know). But I liked the emphasis Elder Oaks put on what we become as disciples of Christ. I attached a link in case you are interested.



report abuse
 

brandon berryhill

posted May 1, 2012 at 4:19 am


Andrew. I loved the article I read in the Charlotte Observer. It really caught my attention as I have been trying a similar path myself in a different respect. :-] I would love to meet you sometime if you were willing to share your time. I take it my email will appear to you. :-] Thank You and may God Bless and God Speed His Love :-]



report abuse
 

abowen

posted April 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm


JSH,

Good to hear from you again! The light I am referring to has to do with sharing ideology and faith. In the case of injustice, sometimes we need a flashlight to scatter the darkness, in my opinion.

Andrew



report abuse
 

JSH

posted April 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm


And I meant, “to what extent” = legally possible or not. What if the legal and political fraternity is the one harassing and showing high-handedness. I, for one, do NOT believe that Majority is always right.



report abuse
 

JSH

posted April 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm


Wow @ “What if we allowed God to speak for him/her/itself in the hearts of those we meet.”

Funny that, as soon as I finished reading ur post, there is an adv banner under it that says “How to Convert to Islam: How to convert and become a Muslim with Live Help by chat” Ha Ha Ha

But this is very nice, “… they are being the light Christ spoke of instead of a probing and intrusive flashlight”.

One question (not related to conversion to any faith), “If you see injustice happening to someone or may to yourself, would you rather be a light, or a flash-light or a halogen or something even brighter than that?” Just inquisitive. I have lots of questions in my mind regarding this topic. Wold be nice to hear your views. I am a Sikh, and injustice (towards any human or life-form) is unacceptable to me. I am just unsure to what extent I would go, to counter it.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another Blog To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Project Conversion. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Religion 101 Happy Reading!

posted 2:34:58pm Aug. 02, 2012 | read full post »

Is God an Immersionist?
In the world of faith, folks often point out the obvious fact that God does not belong to a particular creed, religion, race, or school of philosophy. This sentiment establishes the divine as one which transcends divisive terms of affiliation. But I am here to announce that a brief exploration of

posted 7:00:59am Jul. 12, 2012 | read full post »

Immersion in Relationships: Five Ways to Bring your Relationships to Life
I did something last night with my wife that we haven't done in a very long time... Okay, not from that far back, but it certainly feels that way. Last night, we had a date night. N

posted 10:58:33am Jul. 10, 2012 | read full post »

The Path of Immersion: An Introduction and How Entering the Path Leads to a Deeper Sense of Self
Today marks my official declaration of fidelity and discipleship to the Path of Immersion. Along with that declaration, I also invite you to join me in whatever capacity feels the most suitable. The Path of Immersion is not one which demands conversion, evangelism, worship, or exclusivity. Along th

posted 6:00:19am Jul. 09, 2012 | read full post »

Farewell, Project Conversion: The End of an Adventure
When I converted to Christianity at the age of 15, I assumed the faith with a passionate resolve. Despite the positive instruction from my pastor and others, I (for reasons I cannot explain) transformed into a fiery evangelist, launching Christianity at friends and strangers like salvos of religious

posted 12:49:25pm Jul. 05, 2012 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.