Kenda Creasy Dean made a statement at this year’s NYWC that I’ve been ruminating on the last couple of days. She said that we don’t share God’s love because it is what we are “supposed to do”, but it’s because we can’t help it. I’m not sure many of us see things that way.
When we think about “evangelism”, we usually consider methodology, practices, choice of vocabulary, visual support to add to the discussion, timing, etc. The church at large, and especially youth ministry, has spent untold dollars trying to train people to share the truth about Jesus. Kenda’s contention would fly in the face of that entire understanding (and industry).
When we think about creation in Genesis, we’re told God breathes on the pile of dust, and Adam comes to life. That word for “breath” is the same word for Spirit. God’s Spirit enters Adam, and he becomes something grander, greater, and more beautiful than a pile of dust. In the book of Acts, Jesus breathes onto the disciples, and later the Holy Spirit comes to them and lives in them in a new way. Think about the miracle of speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit enters these guys as the breath of God, and what happens? They exhale that same breath. What comes out? The Gospel.
Where have we lost that? Now, understand, I don’t believe that Pentecost is normative for us. I don’t think we are to run around each day, speaking foreign languages, and leading thousands to Christ at a time. That never occurred in the same way again in the Scriptures. But does that mean we are off the hook for all of this breathing?
When we turn our lives over to Jesus, He promises that the Spirit will come and live within us. The Breath of God will be in us. So, do we exhale? Our former President took a ton of heat over whether or not he inhaled. But what of us? Are we exhaling?
When we hold our breath, we suck in air, and then refuse to let our bodies breath out. Try it if you want. Tug a big breath in, and then hold it as long as you can. It gets uncomfortable really quickly. In fact, if you force yourself to hold it in long enough, you’ll die.
Yeah, if we don’t exhale, we die.
Kenda’s point is well taken. I’m working through the pragmatic side of how in the world I can help students to fall in love with Jesus. I don’t think I need to teach them a new technique. Maybe in years past that was the issue. Maybe. But my kids have no trouble bending my ear on long van trips about their favorite band, game, friend, etc. Maybe they need to be given the Breath of God. The breath that makes them more than a pile of stagnant dust. The breath that transforms to something grander, greater, and more beautiful. In all of us.
Lots to think about.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
4 thoughts on “Breathe In. Breathe Out.”
Pentecost has “become normative” in the majority world. In fact, the explosion in Christianity around the globe has come since 1900 when the Church came back to its Pentecostal roots. You should read, The Next Christendom, by Philip Jenkins.
Scott, I agree with your point. I probably wasn’t clear enough on what I’m thinking. My point is that as the Spirit works, often in miraculous ways, He doesn’t reproduce the exact event of Pentecost every day in every faithful believer’s life. Sorry for not being clear. Thanks so much for helping me with that!
Breathe in…now breathe out…where does the power to do that come from? People are not a bellows that we squeeze and expand to move air. In evangelism, do we ever really ‘lead someone to Christ’? Or are we actively observing participants in the work of the Spirit as the Spirit draws a sinner closer? Do we impart anything? Yes! Share the Gospel. Participate as lost – yes, they’re lost – people develop a new relationship with and confront their own sin. Let them be broken by God. Methods, activities, programs, etc., don’t save people…we don’t save people…God saves people…God gets the glory. What an awesome God that allows us to watch Him work, participate where He allows us to participate…and breathe!
Mark, I love your heart. I tell people all the time that as we are obedient, God allows us to sit on the front row and watch Him work. It sure does take the pressure off. My challenge is how to create a student ministry that truly honors His role, and engages students. I have so many questions and ideas. I’m glad He’s in charge!
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