Things I have learned at night
Well, I am coming to an end of my 6+ years working the night shift or third shift as some call it. I took this job as my post-missionary job never intending to stay long but soon found out that I liked it and that, at times, I never felt more like a missionary to the unreached than on third shift.
I thought I might share some of the things I’ve learned on third shift that have to do with reaching others. This is not a scientific list of propositions, merely observations. In some cases my observations put me in direct conflict with what I’ve been taught and still read about evangelism. If that is the case I present my ideas not to refute these more learned studies, just to say that I am not so sure.
- Most of what I was taught a generation ago in evangelism is ineffective now. As society drifts away from any sort of Biblical understanding the tips, techniques and methods of 20-30 years ago often start with a presumption of understanding that is not present. For example, the EE question put in the mouth of God, why should I let you into my heaven, more often produces blank stares, guffaws or annoyance among people who have no concept of heaven or God.
- We are concerned about the wrong kind of atheism. While atheist books and celebrities are real, I see intellectual atheism as less of a threat than what I call casual or indifferent atheism. I’ve run into many people who work on the assumption that there is no god, and nothing but the here and now. Almost to a person they have never heard of atheist celebrities and they have never been taught any serious reasons to refute God. Making intellectual arguments for the existence of God has no interest or effect.
- The poor, and not the rich, seem more resistant to witness. I’ve been taught, and still can read, that it is the rich and highly educated who are turning their backs on God based on an intellectual assumption. My experience says otherwise. While I meet some people like that it is really the poor who seem unreached and living far from anything we might call a Christian life.
- Yes the mantra “I love Jesus but hate the church” is real. The good news is that Jesus still has an allure to many unsaved people, particularly the young. Yet they remain unalterably convinced that we “hold him hostage” as one young man said. They almost always claim to see nothing about him in us.
- Political action by Christians is having a negative impact on our ability to reach the unsaved. The church is increasingly seen as interested only in political gain or power and in trying to force our standards on society at large. People who have never actually read the Bible are convinced that Jesus was not interested in politics and never tried to influence it. While this is not entirely true, it is breathtaking how Christian political action drives many people away from us.
- I’ve come to hate the word “agenda.” I’ve heard terms like “the homosexual agenda” or “the feminist agenda” in churches until it comes out of my ears. Well, we are seen as having an agenda too, “the evangelical agenda.” Sadly this perception has almost nothing to do with our actual agenda, reaching people for Christ.
- Many people are spiritually hungry but they don’t know what for. In fact, they don’t even identify it as spiritual hunger. Enter there’s gotta be something “more” or “better” or “else” into Google and you will see what I mean.
- It takes time to dig through the wall of resistance and befriend the hard core unsaved. But it can be done. One of the joys of the effort is the day you can see the light dawn in their eyes that “this guy is not so bad” even if he is a Christian.
- Once you are a friend to the unsaved, evangelism techniques are not needed. My best conversations about spiritual matters are not ones that I have started, I am just responding.