The Gospel of What We Don’t Know

I can never remember who, but some theologian of mission made the provocative suggestion that the best analogy the church has for evangelism is journalism. Telling the good news is a journalistic task: Christians are witnesses of real events that are unfolding in real time concerning the Kingdom of God and the salvation of the world. If anyone knows who that was, please tell me.

I  heard that a decade ago, and it’s had a grip on my imagination since. It’s why I subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review and listen to On The Media and read Jeff Jarvis’ blog.

Jarvis wrote yesterday that, in the aftermath of journalists’ coverage of last week’s Boston bombing and pursuant manhunt, he’s convinced that journalism’s value lies in telling the public what we *don’t* know. Here’s the money quote.

The key skill of journalism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*.

Yes. Yes. And . . . Yes.

Let’s try that quote again, but replace “journalism” with “evangelism.”

The key skill of evangelism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*.

Hmmmm . . .

Here’s why this excites me: In the same way that journalism is an enterprise transformed by the modern avalanche of information and channels for the public to share information, the church’s witness to the gospel is coping with a public that is swimming in religious “information” and sharing that information with ease. The church has competition now for reporting on The Meaning of Life. It ceased a while ago to be the Great Grey Lady of how to be a good person and live a fulfilling life. Now there a Pinterest board for that.

What if we took this analogy seriously? What if we shared the gospel by saying first what we don’t know?

“It’s being widely reported that faith is no longer relevant to modern people, but it is unclear at this hour how people are measuring relevance . .  .”

“Witnesses describe widespread displeasure with the plight of the poor, but lived experience of poverty could not be confirmed . . . ”

“Sources say the Bible is anti-gay, but questions remain about the historical context of that stance, its literary function, and its effect on the lives of gay people today . . . ”

“We’re hearing that people are prosperous, autonomous, and happy, but at this hour we can’t account for the social isolation people are experiencing at the same time . . . ”

What do you think? Does the church have value to add to the world that consists in elevating what we *don’t* know?



Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a weekly post reviewing Sunday, the busiest, most stressful, most gratifying day in the week of a pastor/parent/spouse/citizen

Song of the day:

6:00. Out of bed to look over the order of worship for the first time all week and put some thoughts together for Time with The Children. Instead, spend the time commenting on Landon’s blog. Brewed the last of the Klatch Roasters Flavored Christmas Blend. Christmas 2013 come soon!

9:00. Respond to Jr. High student’s suggestion of a “Nerf war” at youth group with, “Sure, sounds good.” Consider it worth entertaining overt gun violence for the sake of student leadership.

9:15. Sit in with the high school Sunday School class to learn that my presence makes the volunteer teacher nervous. Spend the rest of the day wondering if my newly shaved head transforms me into a menacing spectacle.

10:17. Introduce the guest musician during Time with The Children without warning him. He looks up from his last minute preparations flustered, obviously happy to be here.

10:36. Curse myself for giving away my worship bulletin to the acolyte. We’re singing off the inserts, music the guest musician has written himself. He notices my hands are empty and he lifts his hands from the keys to retrieve a song sheet from his Bible, peering over his glasses and offering it to me. Shuffle over to the piano. Retrieve it. “Thanks.” Tuck tail back under robe.

10:43. Nudge Parish Associate towards the piano to retrieve the next song sheet we don’t have. I had my turn.

10:52. Offer communion. “The cup of salvation.” The cup of salvation.” “The cup of salvation.” “The cup of salvation.” “The pup is dalmation.” “The cup of salvation.”

11:43. Family grocery store run. Wife peels away to get a B-12 shot. That’s a thing, right? Shots in the grocery store? Sure. Okay. I’ll get some peas.

1:27. Assemble four jar salads from ingredients wife has carefully selected, chopped, and arranged in a grid on the kitchen table. Woman of Valor!

2:17. Recline on the couch, dishes to clean yet, droopy-eyed, and mutter into a pink Disney Princess walkie-talkie: “This is daddy. Need a nap. Over.” Four year-old obliges, coming downstairs to retrieve the radio from my fake sleeping chest and covering me with a blanket. Burst with delight.

2:35. Text high school students about youth group: “I’m cool. Please think I’m cool. Please come to youth group tonight so I don’t feel like a useless stooge. Ha ha.” Or something like that.

4:53. Dive into the Digital Literacy and Citizenship lesson with junior high students. Screaming, yelling, arguing, dog-piling (translation=good lesson). And this video:

5:41. Cut junior high student leader loose to orchestrate his Nerf war. 17 minutes of set-up followed by three minutes of the war. Good activity. See you guys next week.

7:08. Atone for jar salads with two slices of pizza, six cookies, and a Coke. Youth group food will kill me.

7:34. Catch my breath. Riotous laughter with high school students and adult leaders. Note in the moment gratitude for this community of 10 or so people who genuinely like each other and who have only come together since September. Wonder how this happened.

8:41. Attempt to lead students in Lectio Divina reading of Isaiah 60. Watching one student sleep, open-mouthed, reclined on a couch through the whole exercise. Not watching the time. Parent arrives for pick up during last reading. Resolve to replace batteries in youth room wall clock.

9:02. Adult leader pats my shoulder and says, “That was good” on his way out the door. Esteem tank, full.

9:17. Cajole gas station attendant into turning on the air compressor for free. No cajoling needed; she’s happy to do it. People are basically good and kind. Squint at tire print for max PSI. Can’t see it. Use phone as light. Use phone to look it up. Dummy.

9:34. Watch highlights from day’s football games, recalling the days when I could actually watch them. Note prior self-pity over this arrangement mostly gone. Mostly.