“. . . godliness is profitable for all things . . .”
—1 Timothy 4:8 NASB
“Sin pays a wage, and the wage is death . . .”
— Romans 6:23 REBWe are in the midst of a four-part E-sight article based on the presentation Intrinsic or Imposed on our website. This week we are looking at part three and considering the different effects of the two paradigms on evangelism in North America.
I want to be very careful from the outset to avoid misunderstanding by stating that I am not saying that evangelism doesn’t work anymore. I am not even saying that the way we have done it for the last 50 years doesn’t work anymore. What I am saying is that the way we have done it is working for a smaller and smaller portion of our society and, if evangelism is to continue to bear good fruit, then we must begin to understand the culture we are living in.
The reasoning of the 1950’s was, “If you can prove that God has told us to do something, then people will make a positive decision in that direction.” However, we need to understand the mindset or paradigm that made that logic work. Most of society at that time was living according to imposed rules, especially religiously imposed rules. People believed certain things or behaved a certain way because failure to do so would mean that God would punish and obedience would mean that God would reward. This is not the case today.
Today, our society is reeling from the emotional abuses to Christianity of the last millennia. Over the last century, we have seen the rise of evolutionary theory, atheism, and agnosticism, relativism, humanism, and deep-seated materialism.
In the modern Western world, the idea that something is right because God says so is found revolting by most. This is because the whole idea of “God” has been abused and this abuse has left many very emotionally damaged souls in its wake. We now live in a very pragmatic world based on the idea of cause and effect. However, the lenses through which the world is viewed are tainted with religious disgust.
This is where I believe we are. If religion tells us something is wrong, we seem to run headlong into it. Even if that behavior is intrinsically harmful, we still will, because we are rebelling against a religion that has hurt us.
Today, to say that something is right or wrong because God says so triggers rebellion at a subconscious level. The world needs to see not what God says is right or wrong, but why something is right or wrong.; in other words, the effects of that behavior.
Today there are many things we believe to be wrong that quite honestly aren’t, and many things that we believe to be okay that are intrinsically self-destructive.
What determines whether something is right or wrong is the chain of events that the behavior sets in motion, resulting in happiness, joy, and life, or misery, suffering, and death.
I often ask audiences of the “un-churched” whether they would be interested in a list of behaviors that would set in motion blessing after blessing in their lives and a list of behaviors that would set in motion pain, misery and heart-ache. The response every time is a resounding YES! (Please see our series Life Unlimited for an example how our beliefs can be set in an intrinsic paradigm evangelistically.)
Our culture is still interested and still listening, but we must meet its inhabitants in the paradigm in which they live. They are no longer interested in living according to imposed consequences, whereby God blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient. They want to see why things are right or wrong. Remember, God did not sit up in heaven one day and arbitrarily decide what is right or wrong. He saw the potential of some things to bring pain and death, and the potential of others to bring life and joy. Upon this basis, He deemed those things that produce suffering to be wrong and those that produce joy to be holy, just, and good. Something is not right or wrong because God says so. God says so because something is right or wrong.
The why of good or evil is what the world wants, and is waiting, to see.
When we approach our beliefs from this paradigm, the world will listen. We must go to the people where they are, and the Word will, once again, become incarnate.
I wish you God’s best this week.