Recently I finished reading the book, More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren. As a Christian man who is hopes to be a good witness (and respectful) to non-Christians, this book was very beneficial to me.
Beginning to read, More Ready Than You Realize is exciting to me because I like the idea of evangelism being less about an “event” and more about a “process.” I think the main reason I am excited to learn more about evangelism being a process is because I came to know and follow Jesus through a four year process. I was the product of “good evangelists” like those McLaren defines as, “people who engage others in good conversation about important topics such as faith, values, hope, meaning, purpose, goodness, beauty, truth, life after death, life before death, and God” (pg 16). That describes the process that I was engaged in for four years before I finally became a Christian and it is encouraging to see that McLaren encourages others to be that way too.
Reading McLaren’s thoughts about “keeping the conversation going” is a great insight. No one likes being told what to do and what to think. McLaren tells us how we can avoid telling others what to think by answering their questions when he writes, “the most important skill of spiritual friendship is learning to respond to questions with more questions, so that instead of telling your friend what to think, you help your friend to keep thinking.” Next comes the most important part. “I believe that as long as people keep thinking, they’re giving room for God to work in their lives” (pg 52). Jesus modeled this for us by always answering questions with another question. We too need to strategically ask questions of non-Christians in a way that will give them room to think about and dialogue with God.
When I was a non-Christian reading the Bible I had a lot of trouble understanding what was being communicated. I often read the many stories Jesus told in the Gospels without understanding the message Jesus was attempting to communicate to me. I definitely agree with McLaren’s statement that “The Bible is an extremely difficult book for modern and postmodern readers alike” (pg 74). However, this gives us as strong Bible reading Christians an opportunity to help non-Christians unpack the principles and lessons taught throughout the Bible.
I am grateful that the church I attend, Enclave Community Church is a place where we allow people to attend and be part of the church before they “believe or behave” as Pastor Brian often declares. Perhaps Pastor Brian has also read McLaren’s book where it is written, “Sometimes belonging must preceed believing” (pg 89). So much of what being a Christian consists of is living life with other Christians. And what better way to give a non-Christian a picture of what their life will be like than by allowing them to live side-by-side with other Christians and observe and learn what it means to follow Jesus. This allows the non-Christians to know what they will be committing to, it helps them realize that their faith does not have to be rock solid everyday, and it will allow them to know that their life will not magically become perfect once they commit their life to Jesus.
It is important to note that spiritual friendship defined by McLaren is not just about conversations over long periods of time. It also includes an evangelistic event at the “right” time, which, as McLaren tells us, is “an essential element of spiritual friendship—being sensitive to God’s Spirit, who guides us in what to say and do through what some people call ‘promptings’—or what I’m here calling a ‘nudge’” (pg 114). This is important because once we have developed a strong spiritual friendship with someone and that person feels ready to make the commitment to follow Jesus, we need to show them how to make that commitment and lead them to it. That is our time to be a little more assertive and lead them to make that commitment. Being spiritual friends is not just about being buddies, it is about calling something out of that person at a given time when they are ready to make that decision to follow Jesus.
On page 130 McLaren talks about April worrying and being concerned about her closeness with God waxing and waning. This is a concern for April because she is not sure if it is natural or if it means she is not close to God. McLaren explains that like marriage, often it is the commitment to something that helps us stick with it, even if we do not feel close to it. This is a good concept to communicate to non-Christians and it is one of the benefits of letting them hang around us before they believe. When they hang around us and other Christians they get to see that Christians are not perfect and that they do not always have their act together which means at times they do not feel close to God.
The most impactful and insightful statement from Brian’s book is actually written by April in the “Afterword” where she shares that she does not “remember much of what he [referring to Brian’s emails] wrote. What I do remember is something far deeper and more important: that there was someone who was really listening to me and who was responding to me, not in formula or in quick clichés, but sincerely and thoughtfully” (pg 169). It is often said that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care, and that was true with April. The reason she has become a Christian and dedicated her life to Jesus’ ministry is because someone cared enough for her to listen to her and walk with her. That, too, is what we are to do with our spiritual friends: to listen to them and walk with them.
Question: What are your thoughts on this book from what you have read in my post?