Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mexico: Part 6 (Evangelism)

When I got the itinerary for our trip I was excited, it looked awesome, but I was also a bit nervous. One of the things we'd be doing was "door to door evangelism". The only door to door evangelists I had ever encountered were Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. The Open Door has done "door to door" work, but only to pass out flier and to ask our neighbors how we can pray for them. I've actually enjoyed doing door to door work here in the East End. The door to door part did not bother me, it was the evangelism part that bothered me. I think part of it was that door to door evangelism is about as far from "missional/emergent" ways of sharing Christ as you can get. We, as a church, focus heavily on the importance of relationships, believing Christ works through our relationships to draw people to himself. We believe it's a slow process, the process of building trust, building a friendship, understanding each other's lives, and even sensing belonging with a group of people who are active followers of Jesus. That said, I didn't think door to door evangelism would work, I thought it was a relic from the past century. What I tried to remember was that "missional/emergent" ways of doing ministry are all about context. Maybe our way of sharing Christ is not the way to do it in Mexico, or at least not the only way. I was ready to be stretched and try to allow Jesus to work in different ways. This of course was not my home, we would have to trust those who lived here to teach us the context, teach us who people best experience Christ in this place.

So, after hearing amazing stories from those who did the door to door evangelism on the first day in Ahuatitla (see prior posts on this village) I went out with a team the second day. I did have a big problem, the people we were to evangelize were "Catholics" the Ahuatitlan's had told us. In Mexico you are either Christian (which means charismatic and non-traditional) or Catholic. This was problematic for me. Through conversation I had learned that the Catholics in the rural areas were very different from Catholics in the US. Supposedly Mary was the main subject of worship. So, I was uncomfortable, but convinced that some of these "Catholics" were not really followers of Jesus and could benefit from our stories of following Christ.

It was Arturo, myself, Becky (from our group), and Manuel from Ahuatitla (many of use were actually staying at Manuel's house) who spoke the native language, Nahuatl. We got out of the car and began walking down a dirt path toward a house that looked very traditional, no cement block, just hand cut wood beams. The house looked like the picture above, but it was not this specific house. A woman looked at us and then retreated into the house, I thought to hind from the crazy approaching Christians. I was wrong, she was infact setting up her small living space with chairs so she could invite us in. As we approached we noticed that one room of the house (of only two or three rooms) was devoted to Mary. A shrine was set up with an icon, flowers and candles. The woman at this house spoke only Nahuatl, and was dressed in the traditional clothing. Her house had dirt floors and pretty much everything looked hand made from materials gathered in the surrounding areas. Arturo did most of the speaking since Manuel, our translator to Nahuatl, only knew Spanish and not English, we didn't want to do too much double translation. The gist of the story was that she had been a Christian, but reverted back to "Maryology" (I call it this because they really don't worship Jesus, but Mary, it doesn't even seem Catholic). She did this because the Christian church in the area did not help her when she was in need. Very interesting! Arturo was tough on her, stressing that she needed Jesus, not people. I felt for her. She clearly heard the message of Christ, before our visit, and from Arturo, but she needed to see Christians actually living the way Jesus taught us to live. I think Manuel has a pastoral heart and will be back to her house in the coming weeks to share Christ through his actions. After this first visit I was still skeptical. I did learn that people are eager to talk, eager to invite strangers in, even to talk about personal things like faith. I'll write about other encounters later.


Keith D. said...

John, you have hit on something that has always bugged me a little about the emergent movement. It also has always bugged me about the classic evangelical way. There are many ways to lead people to Christ. It depends on the context, the situation, the messenger, etc. When I was a part of Campus Crusade for Christ in college, I did not like how they were all about the "Four Spiritual Laws" and sharing your faith with complete strangers. It was obviously not where my gifts were and I never really bought into it. Having said that, there are people who have a gift for that and can be pretty effective in these situations. Trust me, I lean way more towards the building relationships and ministering to the community way of emergent. Especially in this country where so many have been turned off by Christian evangelicals and their pushiness. We should just never say God can't use other ways to bring people into His Kingdom.

By the way, I think you need to form a worship death-metal band now!

John said...

Worship-death-metal I never thought I'd see such a thing!

Keith, you bring a great critique of emergent types. The missiology of emergent is that the gospel is contextual - it speaks differently in different cultures. And yet we can get arrogant and think that our "new" way is the only way that works. So, in some ways even emergent thinkers need to embrace postmodernism MORE, and believe that the way God works is relative to the context.