Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Evangelism in America: Welsh Style.

It is fair to say, I am still culturally confused.

About 3 weeks ago we had a church-wide outreach. I ended up in the evangelism group. Mission: to go to local laundromats with quarters and pay for people's laundry and share the Gospel. Awesome idea.

Note: People need to actually be in the laundromats for this to be effective.

So we took our baggies of quarters and headed to a local park instead. Personally, I wanted to offer people quarters for a moment of their time, but that's not the direction we went...

As conversations began and ended I couldn't help but chuckle. There were times, when other Christian Americans (duh, I'm in America) were speaking that I felt so uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable because of the Gospel: uncomfortable with the presentation. So forward. So direct. Interrupting people's day. I began to notice that my approach (the British approach) was very very different.

Just in case you're not tracking with me, let me explain what I mean.

American approach: The moment we introduced ourselves and said that we were walking around telling people about Jesus, I shriveled inside. Really?! Just walk up to people, interrupt them, impose upon them your name (as if they care) and carry on yacking their ear off about something they couldn't care less about?! Yet, I was more uncomfortable than those we were talking to. You see, they also: are Americans. (I know, you're shocked.) It's not offensive or invasive in this culture to "impose" upon someone your name. Or start talking about yourself. People here are friendly. Sometimes, overly so. We're all up in each other's business and space: constantly offering our opinion about everything...

British style: One of the few conversations I initiated went like so: I passed an elderly woman and her husband walking. I turned around, noticed her cross necklace and commented as I kept walking that it was beautiful, where did she get it? We both started slowing down to a stop to talk. She got it in Italy. She's Italian. Well, I LOVE Italy, so there we go: a cultural conversation began. As she continued on, I brought the conversation back to the necklace: "So, does that have any sentimental value, or significance for you? The cross, I mean...?" Turns out, she's Catholic. And in a matter of moments we are discussing the death of Jesus Christ, His atonement for sin, and the glorious and dumbfounding truth that He has established and maintains our right standing with God. The Gospel was being preached.

In every conversation I had throughout the day- whether I began it, or commented here and there, I found myself using "Assembly sayings." The words and phrases the GAP Team used time and again to explain the Gospel in simple terms after the sketches we did in assemblies. Things like,

"God took all His anger for all the bad stuff we've done, and put it on Jesus. He punished Him as though JESUS did all that wrong. And then He took the good stuff that Jesus did, and gave us all of His goodness."

I smiled inside thinking of the big cardboard Whale we used that ate Taige in the Jonah sketch. Or the "Gospel smack-down" my character gave in the Christmas assembly. Rack, Shack, and Benny in the fiery furnace...or unforgettable "and with the swoop of His shining axe" line from Easter. Wow. Easter a year ago; crazy.

Every person I passed, I commented on the weather. That, is totally British. Except instead of moaning about it being dreary and dark and horrid, I was gloriously declaring the beauty of the blue skies and tremendous warmth! Others didn't seem quite as amazed or enthused as I was. Trust me, the weather here rocks.

I left being amazed at the "training" I received in Wales that I didn't even really notice. The pastors did such a good job helping us transition- it must've been so awkward for them in the beginning. I couldn't believe how British I'd become in just a year and a half.

Oh, cultures. In every way shape and form, our culture affects us. How we think and act. How we communicate and dialog. Neither the British nor American approach is right or wrong...but, as I discussed with Ivy the other night on the phone, the American approach when it comes to evangelism, does not translate in the British culture...but the British approach can very much translate in the American culture.

It was so strange to have every person we talked to profess to be a Christian. It is the exact opposite in Wales. Church was something they'd never been in except for a weekend at Granny's once when they were 4...and it was boring.

So, as much as I love my country, as of now while I'm still getting used to this invasive culture :) , I resolve to go about things the roundabout nonchalant way. Right now, it seems I know it best. Not mentioning my name until the end of a conversation. Acting like dialogging with someone is an accident. Speaking of the weather constantly. This, over time, will probably wear off. (But I vow to never stop using "Cheers.")

Yet, in this "resolve," I must take caution. For Paul warns the Corinthians (and we do well to heed the same caution) that we are not to preach with lofty speech or words of eloquent wisdom...lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The POWER of the Gospel is not affected by the cultural approach or format one chooses. The POWER of God IS the Gospel itself. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. We must not lose sight or grip on that: for only He can save. Both the British and the American.


Anonymous said...

Janelle! You go girl! This was SO encouraging to read. Thank you so much for taking the time to write down you experence...It's the same here in Oz. Praise God for our lessons learned in Wales!

My year in Wales... a memoir in the making said...

Praise Him that is in Christ Alone and not our communication style! God uses even the weakest attempts to share the gospel! said...

I just started reading your blog last week I think. Thanks for blogging about your experiences. No doubt their is some culture shock. I've never been to the U.K. but they'd probably be shocked by my overt friendly mid-western American ways, not to mention my constant use of the word "HOWDY."

Anyway your blog reminds me of this verse .....

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (New International Version)

"19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

I didn't grow up in the church, I came to Christ when I was 15. The evangelism style I typically use is relational evangelism. (two good books or small group studies for that are.... Walk across the room, and Becoming a Contagious Christian, by Bill Hybels.