May 29, 2013

Yet More Controversy

What? More? What’s it about this time?  Evangelistic Door-knocking of course.  Of all the topics that I have blogged about, in all of the conversations about church I have had, nothing seems to be more “ooh-er” than door-knocking.  I don’t know of one other topic that causes heart palpitations across so many church demographics. Now, granted I do not have a Bullhorn (homage to Rob Bell – Ed),  but the idea that knocking on someone’s door to ask them about their spiritual beliefs and share with them the message about Jesus, seems to unite people across the theological divide in their suspicion/horror/scepticism/that-doesn’t-represent-my-brand-of-Christianityism.

Which is a pity.  Having been at the door-knocking gig for about a year I have found that not only is it not as scary to the door-knocker as one might think (death by fire is in all likelihood a lot worse – Ed) it is not as offensive to the door-knockee (is that even a word? – Ed) as knockers of door-knocking might fear/hope/wish it to be.

In fact, I have found that, just as in this excellent blog post by my friend Ben Good, the level of interest in spiritual matters just won’t go away, no matter how apparently solidly – and stolidly – secular we are supposed to be.  Even in Western Australia.  Even in the city of Perth in Western Australia. Even in the eastern suburbs  of the city of Perth in Western Australia.  Even in some of the more dodgy sections of the eastern suburbs of the city of Perth in Western Australia.  Even…(alright, enough, we get it already – irritated Ed). And what is more, the questions people raise there are just as sophisticated as the questions raised by those well-heeled, well-educated coastal suburb and inner-city living types.  Only with a few more swear words thrown in for good measure.

So how did door-knocking go for you and the team on Tuesday Steve?  Thought you would never ask!  It was an encouraging time. My offsider Damon and I went out with two other guys who wanted to observe our approach.  In reality they were as much participants as we, and the young bloke with me was a natural; friendly, articulate, funny and just as interested in listening to people as he was in talking to them. We had a few streets to finish off near the Midland Sports Complex where our church – Providence Church Midland – has been meeting since February.

So when you wake someone up by knocking on their door, they come to the door bleary-eyed and brushing hair from their eyes, still in their pyjamas, their first response should be to tell you where to go.  Obviously no one told that to the woman who opened the door in our first street.  She talked about her conversion to Buddhism from an atheist background, or “Buddhism the way we do it in the West”, as she put it. She had questions about God, the after-life and her observation that Christianity is impressive, except when people think they can just “sin” all they like and then say sorry, before going out to do it all again. Couldn’t disagree with her there.

You’d think too that when you wake up a baby by knocking on someone’s door they’d chase you off.  But again, no!  The young mum wanted to talk.  “Just let me get the baby” she said.  We apologised and said we’d be off, but no, she had some questions about what we were saying.  We chatted for ten or fifteen minutes as she stood there, bub on hip.

And what about the crazy dude – Bob! Overweight, sitting on his chair in the sun, surrounded by his carefully crafted homage to gardening – stone angels, huge pots of geraniums, lines of measured plants against the wall, a hosed down driveway, and two expensive cars in front of a pretty average house.  Didn’t move from that seat.  We had a great – loud – chat over the low hedge. Bob has read it all.  Thinks there’s a God, thinks Jesus is his son, thinks we’re worm food when we die.  Why?  Because there couldn’t be anything worse than floating around for ever on the clouds.  Had to agree with him there too.  It is amazing how much Christian caricature shapes peoples’ understandings of things.  I gave him the NT Wright killer line -“Of course we’ll go to heaven when we die, but it’s not the end of the world.”  We left on good terms, though his put down of his wife as she walked out the door saying “Eh?” probably wiped the smile off his face.

And then there was the young indigenous bloke, friendly, reflective and the product of a Catholic boarding school education which he loved, but which left out a whole chunk of his life, his tribal beliefs.  He’s not sure how they fit together, but he’s trying to do that.

And so it went on.  I gave out an “Essential Jesus” to a young woman babysitting a bunch of kids, a few short gospel explanations to some others and a few business cards.  The most poignant was the lady in the house with the monster Kenworth rig sitting in the drive.

“We don’t have any spiritual beliefs,” she said, though she was happy to do our survey.  We got to talking about the rig.  Her hubbie was the son and grandson of truck drivers.

“He was as good as born in a truck,” she said,  “But work’s dried up.  We’re almost ready to pack it in.  He loves it, but what can you do?”

I said we could pray, either here and now, or after she’d closed the door and we’d walked away.

“Pray here,” she said, “And if we get work by the weekend I’ll see you at the Midland Sports Complex on Sunday morning.”

The last door we reached had a sign “No Religious people. No Sales People.” Well, since we were neither, we took a deep breath and knocked. Just kidding!

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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