Friday, March 30, 2012

The Campaign - Becky

Tonight I led some songs at church during a women's campaign to get more ladies in the Church. The ladies of the Iglesia de Cristo (Church of Christ) here in Jinotega have been planning this "campaƱa de mujeres" for weeks. When they first brought it up, I wasn't sure what to think. I mean, of course it is a great thing to try to bring more people to Christ. But, the logistics of such a thing can be very tricky, and, at first, due to the language barrier, I couldn't get a satisfactory explanation of what a campaign actually is. Also, a part of me was nervous about what specifically they were planning to teach, as I am still trying to get a handle on what the members of the Church here believe. I guess, about the whole thing, I was picturing something like a Salvation Army troop parading through the streets. When they asked if I could help, I did everything I could to get more information first. However, I did agree to be one of the song leaders, a role with an acceptable level of embarrassment to myself (much better than handing out leaflets or something and asking random people if they "know Jesus"—at least on the embarrassment scale).

Well, apparently, a campaign here is basically a Church of Christ gospel meeting. The plan for this particular campaign is to meet at the church building for an hour each night from Thursday to Saturday. Each night is to consist of (more or less) a regular church service with singing, preaching, and praying, except that it is completely conducted and attended by women. Prior to these meetings, some of the ladies visited the homes of various women who are not already in the Church, and they advertised with signs and announcements in the street. Again, the skeptic in me really hoped these ladies wouldn't end up disappointed by a bad turnout after they had worked SO HARD. Maybe I just doubted that any person who is not already a Christian would want to show up for something like that. In the States, from my perspective this kind of thing is pretty old school.

I have to remind myself, though, that Nicaragua is not the United States. I guess they like these things here because we had more people in that building than I have ever seen, I would guess twice as many as we normally have on a good, "full" Sunday morning (which includes both men and women). I was impressed. Despite the fact that I was surprised by having to lead singing with a microphone, I was impressed by how seriously they were taking the whole thing. I was impressed by the confidence of the girl who gave the sermon. I was impressed by the table of books and pamphlets they had set up by the door. I was impressed by how welcoming the whole thing felt. Contrary to my fears, no one was yelling at the "sinners" to "repent," and the people in attendance actually seemed to participate wholeheartedly. Everyone was very gracious and encouraging towards me as a "gringa" trying to sing (in front of everyone, over a microphone) in Spanish.

We still have two nights to go, but so far I am VERY PROUD of "my" ladies. They have been enthusiastic about this from the beginning, and they are pulling it off wonderfully. Of course, as one of them pointed out tonight, God is the one who is really doing it. This is HIS thing, and we are just His instruments... which brings me to my point:

Who am I to judge someone else's servant?

I don't know why, but "evangelism" has been a weird thing for me in my life. I grew up hearing that I should invite all of my friends and neighbors (and random people in the grocery line) to church, and for many years I lived with a lot of guilt that I wasn't doing that. During this phase, there were times when I actually tried to talk to my friends, but instead of sharing with them the love of Christ, it came out more like "Here are the rules. You need to be following them." That didn't go over so well, so rather than push people further away from Christ with my hypocrisy, it made more sense to me that evangelism should be through example. Words can do harm if they aren't the right ones, but a godly life can speak volumes by itself. What I wasn't willing to admit to myself for a long time, though, is that this way of thinking is a major cop out.

Obviously, since I am now a missionary, I have come to some different conclusions than before. I am still far from where I need to be in my thinking (and practice) of evangelism, but it has become a very huge priority to me now (like, the biggest priority of all) to try to bring people closer to God. Before, my motivation was fear. Now (I hope, at least most of the time), my motivation is love. I do have some specific thoughts on what methods of evangelism may be more effective in different situations, and I have started to figure out which of those methods work better with my personality. For example, I know that I fear rejection of my message, but, even more, I fear being cheesy (hence my initial reluctance to join a "campaign"). Rather than confronting people with my "churchiness" head on, I prefer to encourage people through relationship. What is most comfortable for me is to to give people that I know personally a whole lot of love and then to talk about spiritual things when they come up naturally. (Although I have failed MISERABLY at this more times than I want to remember, you'd be surprised how often spiritual things DO come up in a loving friendship.) I guess that way I am using words AND example. There are other evangelism methods that I will employ, even though they are not as comfortable for me. Because of the whole love thing, I want to do whatever I need to do to help reconcile people with God.

Okay, that sounds good, but the bad thing is that I am at a point now where I have strong opinions about evangelism (how to spread the message and, also, what message to spread), and, unfortunately, many of those opinions come with baggage. Not only do I get snobbish about how I want to go about evangelizing but I may start to look down on how someone else goes about it. However, my experience with the campaign reminds me (I will repeat what I said earlier), Who am I to judge someone else's servant? In all of my evangelism efforts, the point is to reconcile people to God. But, that's God's thing. Yes, I believe that it is the responsibility of those of us who are part of the Body of Christ to reach out to others, but God is the actual "recipient," if you will. Humans are HIS people, and He is the one who has had the plan all along for making right our relationship with Him. In trying to help with this, I am only His servant. If He calls someone to minister in a different way than He does me, what is that to me? Yes, I should think seriously about different evangelism methods and weigh out what seems to make sense, but when the sweet women of a little congregation in Jinotega want to go old school (well, "old school" to me, not to them), I should roll with it and give them the support that they need.

Speaking of evangelism methods, really one of my main goals is to give as much help as possible to the locals here who are already ministering to their own people. And they DO. Even beyond this women's thing, so much of the evangelism that happens here is Nicaraguan to Nicaraguan, and I LOVE THAT. They do need help (in the form of various resources, as well as someone to preach/sing/pray alongside them), but they have such fervor about what they are trying to do. If I can get my nose out of the air and acknowledge that they actually do know more than I do about what their own people want and need, I feel like God can really do something good through us.

So, what are YOUR thoughts on evangelism? Do you ever feel bothered by how others evangelize? Are there times when it is right to question how evangelism is done, or do you think that any way of preaching Christ is valid?



  1. Thanks for using your lesson to teach ME today! I have many of the same hindrances to evangelism as you do...and now I am challenged to look them square in the face.


    1. I am glad, Natalie (that you are challenged, not that you have hindrances). :)

      I have to confess, though, I hesitated before using the word "like" in my post because I thought, "What if the Poluttas read this?" Haha, well, I'm glad that you did and that you were able to get something out of it. It's always good to hear from y'all.

  2. Wow, Becky! This is good stuff. First of all, how fun does a campaign sound?? I want a campaign! A gospel meeting for women? Right on!:) (Seriously, part of me is thinking, how can we have a campaign in the Woodbine neighborhood? may not work that well:). But the idea did get my brain spinning about other outreach possibilities.)

    Secondly, I had to laugh at your hesitation to join in at first, because I have similar baggage as you do regarding evangelism. I think that growing up, I was told that certain ways of evangelism were best, but all around me, I saw evidence to the contrary. My peers simply did not respond well to the traditional style. I definitely spent lots of time denying reality and participating in various cringe-worthy door knocking campaigns, out of some misguided sense of duty to my cause. Now, though, I have come to most of the same conclusions as you do. People want love and relationship. And they want and need God. The first is the doorway to the second. Our love for them and relationship with them should mirror God's love for them and the relationship He wants to have with them.

    Anyway, this is a great post. Thanks for making me think this morning. (Oh, and keep up the great work in Nicaragua. This is a different subject than evangelism, but I have been thinking a lot about the nature of mission work, due to some of the blogs I read on the subject. It seems to me that you guys are doing all the right stuff: working through the local church and following their lead, instead of swooping in to "save" them all. I love to hear how you are learning from them, even as you help them do what they do best. Good stuff!)

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  3. "... do you think that any way of preaching Christ is valid?"

    Great question, Becky. It reminds me of Philippians 1:15-18 where Paul says that even improperly motivated preaching is of benefit to the Kingdom. I love how your experience in Nica is showing that their grace-filled ways, which may seem stale to us, are fresh in Christ.

    I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this story as it unfolds.


  4. Me too, Tim. :)

    I like that idea of things being "fresh in Christ." Really, that's what Christ does, I guess; he makes everything fresh.

    1. Re: Christ making everything fresh - Revelation 21:5 is awesome!