Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Making a Difference: Hospitable Evangelism

Back in 2005, the Washington Times had an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of L'Abri.

There is no question that L'Abri has had a great impact...just read that article and you will get a taste of that. This influence was present before and after Francis Schaeffer died. One example given in the Washington Times article is:

In the fall of 1960, Jim Hurley, a 16-year-old American agnostic studying at a nearby Swiss private school, dropped by "to laugh at the fundamentalists."
"He was talking about a God he knew," he remembers of Mr. Schaeffer. "He believed in people having honest questions and him giving honest answers. There weren't any unfair questions [or] unaskable questions."
Mr. Hurley became a Christian the next spring and is now a family therapist teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss.

L'Abri's guest list is quite interesting and diverse. Some of the characters to have visit L'Abri over the years include: Jerram Barrs (speaker/author), Timothy Leary (counterculture figure), Rebecca St. James (musician), Mark Heard (musician, Larry Norman (musician), Nancy Pearcey (author), Irving Hexham (author), OS Guinness (speaker/author), Katherine Harris (U.S. House Rep), and Hans Rookmaaker (author). Some of these were athiest/agnostics/etc. when they arrived, and some left remaining as such. That L'Abri would be interesting enough to attract visits from both Timothy Leary and Katherine Harris tells you something about its diversity!!

The Schaeffer's were adament about insisting that people should NOT try to copy their methods and expect the same results. They always insisted that the idea was to be obedient to God's call, and find creative ways to reach people--not to try to reproduce a method that is supposed to work. The last thing needed, they reasoned, was to have throngs of people thinking L'Abri was a pattern to be applied in all sorts of other situations that may or may not fit well into other unique environments.

In reflecting on what I've read about L'Abri, I wonder.. do we ("we" being conservative western Christians) have a cold and clinical view of evangelism? Ie. Trying to win souls without caring for souls? Trying to win souls without wanting to even spend time with them? Trying to win souls without being concerned about any other aspects of their being? Trying to win souls, preferably at a distance and without getting our sleeves dirty? Trying to be an ambassador while living in what essentially could be symbolized by Alcatraz?

For those who are much like me (born and raised in a Christian environment and who are currently a professing "conservative evangelical" Christian, maybe we should consider the following questions...

1. When was the last time I've had someone over at my house that (a) I've known for less than 1 years, (b) is not a believer, (c) is from a radically different cultural context, (d) is not a family member, and (e) they stayed for more than an hour?

2. When was the last time I've had a conversation with a stranger that lasted more than a minute and which both parties would desire to continue? When is the last time I smiled and said 'hi' to a stranger?

3. When was the last time someone (other than a friend or family member or church member) asked you for advise on some issue in their life?

4. When was the last time I've went out of my way to be around or help a person who makes me feel uncomfortable?

5. When was the last time I did something for my next-door neighbour? Or even talked to them? How about the one that hasn't done anything for me?

The more I think about these questions, the more I feel like a hermit. Being an intoverted thinker may distinguish the way we interact, but it isn't an excuse for a totally disconnected life. I think many people living in North America (even very outgoing types) can feel a sense of failure on these matters. And as Christians, we need to be very concerned about this. Think about it, how many new people do you actually run into throughout the course of your day? And is that number increasing or decreasing as the years go by?

God definately uses different personalities and levels of outgoingness, but I don't think we can be ambassadors for Christ unless we are willing to sacrifice to connect with people. "Hit-and-run" may work in self-defense and baseball, but it seems to be a poor excuse for evangelism and probably to some degree has opened up the door for many to dismiss Christianity as a shallow, hypocritical religion influenced by marketing gimics more so than any deep commitment to truth in all of life.

Now.. where does one begin?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


Excellent article! I am pretty

type A and every time I go to Labri

I nearly always meet a lot of

"nerdy engineer" types. I think it

is so easy to use the life of the

mind as an escape from reality (our

insecurities) rather than a way to

come to terms with them.

I think a good start to your

question of where do I begin, is to

have a vision of what it would be

like to be a student of the

smartest man that ever lived.

I think if we hear what He says

and watch what He does and DO that

then we will be able to do what He

said we could do best.....proclaim,

manifest, and teach the Kingdom of

God. We need to move from having

faith IN Jesus to having the faith

OF Jesus. When this becomes what

we genuinely WANT then we will act

as if all this is true.

So many of us know what we

believe, now we need to believe

what we know.

Blessings to you,


4:43 AM  

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