June 20, 2008
Donkey in a Box
Today at Likewise Books, base camp for Strangely Dim, we held our bimonthly Donkey Congress, where we discuss a publication (sometimes one of ours, sometimes another publisher's) that has even the most dubious bearing on our publishing program. Today's discussion was on I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus, written by Likewise poster-child Don Everts and InterVarsity's regional director for campus ministries in Southern California, Doug Schaupp. (Pause for breath.)
I Once Was Lost is not technically a Likewise book, but neither is it a book by some random other publisher. It bears the imprint of IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a member organization in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. IVP Books for short.
Despite the absence of the Likewise donkey (we like to call him "Jack") from the book's cover, I Once Was Lost struck us as particularly appropriate for an hour-long conversation. As it turns out, it was appropriate for an hour and a half, and honestly, we probably could have gone longer. (I can be pretty long-winded.) We had two guests from outside Likewise Books, both serving as pastors in our area, both of whom offered helpful insights to our discussion. It strikes me that there might be others out there who could spare an hour to talk about how faith is shared in postmodernity, so what follows is a script for your very own do-it-yourself Donkey Congress. Please feel free to buy the book (sneaky, huh?) and use or deconstruct what follows as a framework for your discussion.
Five Thresholds of the Postmodern Path to Christ
· What are the contributing factors that make "distrust" the default posture toward Christianity among postmoderns?
· What makes Jesus compelling in a post-Christian culture? How do we present Jesus as compelling without commodifying him in some way?
· On the television show In Treatment, a therapist characterizes the New Testament thesis as "God good, people bad," and the intrinsic appeal of self-loathing as the principal reason Christianity spread so quickly. What makes "life change" a particular value of Christianity? If "life change" as a value is unique to Christianity, how is it made compelling to non-Christians?
· Is a focused search for Jesus a realistic expectation of people in a frenetic, multitasking culture with constant ambient noise? How so or why not?
· How ought our posture change toward a person who has entered the kingdom of God?
The Farmer Versus the Friend
· What does it mean to be different in a pluralistic culture? What do you suppose our non-Christian friends want for us?
· How does the movement of the church from the center to the periphery of culture affect our relationship to non-Christians? Is there such a thing as "Christian privilege" (similar to white privilege) that we should give up expecting or even repent from? If so, how would you characterize Christian privilege?
· What complications emerge from the dual relationship of "farmer/soil" and "friend/friend" described in this book? To what degree is an evangelist unavoidably unfriendly?
The Thresholds of the Evangelist
· It's become a cliché that short term missions changes the missionary. Does evangelism change the evangelist? In what ways?
· Much methodology associated with evangelism presumes that the evangelist is interesting. That is, frankly, not always the case. How does one become intriguing? And to what degree does this refashioning of your personality reinforce distrust?
· What thresholds does an evangelist need to pass through to have an authentic, redemptive relationship with a non-Christian?