DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Conspiracy of Kindness

Steve Sjogren’s creates an excitement and a hope for new possibilities in the area of evangelism. He describes the conspiracy of kindness as evangelism for the 90% of Christians rather than the 10% of gifted evangelists. I intend to walk my leadership team through the book in the next 10 months. The servant style of evangelism Sjogren describes focuses of showing God’s love is practical ways with no strings attached. The projects he describes as “Low Risk, High Grace” include washing windows, cars, and toilets for free. These projects allow more people (small groups and children especially) to find practical ways to bring the love of God into their neighborhoods and cities. Sjogren emphasizes the importance of showing people God’s love for them before we tell them about Jesus.

In the chapter titled, “Five Discoveries That Empower Evangelism” Sjogren lays the foundation for why he believe servant evangelism is effective. First, “People Listen When I Treat Them Like Friends.” This reminded me of the work being done by Brian McLaren and Jim Henderson to emphasis the importance of relationships in their books, “More ready then you realize” and “Ordinary Attempts Guide to Evangelism.” Sjogren’s second point was, “When I Serve, Hearts are Touched.” The power of service to bring the Kingdom of God and love of God near is a recurring theme in the work being done to redefine the church as missional by Leslie Newbegin, Darrell Guder and many others. The third discovery made by Sjogren is, “As I Serve, I Redefine the Perception of a Christian.” For many years the church and its leaders believed that people were looking for the church to be redefined. Today Sjogren joins voices like Donald Miller (author of “Blue Like Jazz”) who argue that people need to have their perception of what a Christian is and does redefined. Discovery number four is titled, “Doing the Message Precedes Telling the Message.” This is an area where I find servant evangelism to separate itself from other cognitive and apologetically based approaches. Sjogren seems genuinely focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to people rather then supply an evangelistic bait and switch. The final discovery he shares is, “Focusing on Planting, Not Harvesting.” In this section he highlights the mal forming practices of only counting conversions & baptisms as marks of successful evangelism.

I believe Sjogren is championing an evangelism model and program that is fun, easy to understand, and well intentioned. He admits that at the start of any of their serving projects people expect the normal strings to be attached. There is no way to short cut the time needed to build relational trust with those being served. The greatest strength of the approach is its ability to mobilize people to do something loving for their community. Many times we prepare people to death, with little to no action ever taking place.

My greatest doubt about the legitimacy of Sjogren’s model is its connection to the real needs of the community. Servant evangelism sprinkles God’s love all over the city like a salt shaker. Unless the community of churches is willing to take the next step to invite those who “taste and see that God is good” into deeper love and relationship, we are simply making people more thirsty. I am not making a judgment against Sjogren and his community, but rather challenging those churches who might begin this model of evangelism without counting the cost of loving the people who would come for more help and healing.

The theological motivation and practical methods found in this book are a solid foundation for servant evangelism. I hope to process and practice the ideas for bringing God’s love to others with my own leadership team. I have heard the challenge from Sjogren to start doing something (anything) to show God’s love to others in a practical way. It is my goal to combine this passionate desire to love others with the real and felt needs of our community in Salem Oregon.