Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism
When I became a Christian in my early twenties I had a problem. The problem was with other Christians, with the history of Christendom and all the hypocrisy, which I perceived when I was an atheist and didn’t want to be associated with when I identified as a Christian (of course over the years as I walk with Jesus he has shown me my own faults and called me out of them; I know I’m certainly not perfect and am often a hypocrite myself). I was drawn to Christianity by the character of Jesus and by the character of a few friends I could see were earnestly trying to follow Him. I felt very liberated when it dawned on me that being a Christian was about trying to follow Jesus not other Christians. Still today when I meet new people and I mention that I am a Christian part of me wants to blurt out “… but not like those guys!”.
I’ve just finished reading “Speaking of Jesus” by Carl Medearis. Carl doesn’t describe himself as a Christian (although he is one). Although it’s a biblical word “Christianity” comes with a lot of baggage. For one thing a lot of bad people have done bad things in the name of Christianity over the centuries. A lot of people identify themselves as Christians nowadays, but their behaviour (especially to their non-Christian neighbours) is not very Christlike, or even trying-to-be-Christlike. Also, “Christian” can make people think primarily of theology and arguments and not much at all of Jesus Christ. It has the danger of making people think that being a follower of Jesus is about giving intellectual assent to a set of ideas instead of trusting Jesus and following Him. Carl prefers to use the phrase “trying to follow Jesus”, which you have to admit cuts through a lot of the baggage that comes with the word “Christianity”, and with that baggage out of the way there is a lot more room for discussion about Jesus Himself. It also makes those of us who call ourselves Christian wonder if we could just as easily say we are truly trying to follow Jesus. It’s a bit of a wake-up call. We are not saved by our theology, we are saved by Jesus.
Carl has been involved in cross-cultural relations and ministry for many years, so I guess he has the ability to more easily see the cultural baggage that comes along with these words. He’s also more willing to drop that baggage. He drops our cherished terms, but in doing so rephrases things to point us back to the heart of the matter. This makes some people nervous, including myself. I think Carl likes to stir things up, but if you read on past the parts that make you nervous you may be surprised to find that Carl is quite orthodox in his beliefs. Carl loves Jesus very much, he just doesn’t like speaking Christianese. He has thrown the bathwater out but kept the baby.
This is a provocative and challenging little book, and I love it! I don’t agree with Carl on everything and I feel he was a bit vague on a few things that I would love to find out more about, but I got a lot out of this book and it’s given me plenty of food for thought. Carl’s love for Jesus pours off the pages of this book and it’s quite infectious. I got this book last week through the Amazon Kindle Store, when it was going for free. It’s not free any longer, but it’s not expensive either and I would recommend it to anyone! You can read the introduction and first chapter here.
- Book Review: “Muslims, Christians, & Jesus” by Carl Medearis (kyrapedersen.com)
- Book Review: Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis (blogcritics.org)