So, Saturday night some of our colleagues at the church were putting on a night of jazz and gospel music at the café Genesis. It was a good night, but also presented clearly the clash between the Evangelical Christian culture that has been dominant here in France and where we are trying to move.
Our friend -- the one we've been telling you about lately -- came along. He and another friend. Neither of them has been in a church setting for a long time. And this -- along with most things we do at Genesis -- was designed to be a non-churchy affair.
Our friend gets there. He's having a good time. Meeting people. Mingling. Having a drink and listening to the music that's being pumped up from the concert downstairs.
Then he gets cornered by a guy I had never seen before. The conversation started about wine. The guy had been a drinker before becoming a Christian, apparently. Then he asked our friend whether he was born again and went into a discussion about the book of Ecclesiastes.
"Actually, it was fine," he said. "He was harmless. But I found myself a little at a disadvantage in the conversation because I hadn't read up on Ecclesiastes."
My friend does know more of the Bible than one might think, however. And he isn't against a good discussion about faith. It's a discussion that is fair game in a relationship, he says.
But that's just it. Evangelically reared Christians need to understand that the problem is not that people are against the discussions. But we need to get the relationship part.
The relationship doesn't even have to be deep. But to ask someone whether he is "saved" or not two minutes into your relationship? Launching into a Bible lesson? And all of this at a jazz soirée?
Problem is, those who have grown up spiritually in Evangelical churches have a hard time understanding the concept of any type of soirée that does not have as it's primary goal the preaching of the gospel.
So I can't criticize this guy for reacting this way. In a sense, he's probably learned it from his years in the church here. How could the goal actually be good music and a good time together?
But that's what we've been trying to do. More than getting people into the church to hear a message, we want to BE the message in our world. If there is something different or appealing about us (I hope that's the case sometimes, at least) then it will be seen in relationship. That's what this café is all about, I think.
It struck me that this French guy has learned a way of being and relating from the French church that is decidedly un-French. At least un-Parisian. They are not into shallow relationships and one-sided discussions. They are into exchanges and sharing and relating. Hearing ideas and thinking them over. Then criticizing them and challenging them. This takes time, of course. And relationship.
And we wonder why we've failed over the years to attract greater numbers of people.
Of course the interesting thing is that the evangelist dude didn't know about our recent discussions and how my friend had recently expressed an interest in coming to our meetings. My friend, in my eyes, is already a disciple.
He's on the road. He's walking with us. We're trusting God to take him wherever God intends to take him.
Hopefully he won't run into to many more people who feel they have do the "saving" in God's place.
(Of course, who knows? Maybe that person was doing exactly what God wanted him to do as well. I need to have grace and understanding going in all directions.)
Lord, help us all to walk in step with you. Amen.