A friend of mine – Jim Henderson – has recently published a book on what I am calling the new DWI or ‘depth witness intentionality.’ The book is entitled ” a.k.a. Lost: Discovering ways to connect with the people Jesus misses most” As he winds his ways through a virtual book tour of the blogaverse, he talked about the book with Rachelle Mee Chapman at her blog on ThursdayPM:
R: So Mr. Jim, I hear you’ve got a book out. Congratulations! Want to talk to us about the title?
J: Why a.k.a. Lost? Because evangelical Christianity has dehumanized and objectified a group of people Jesus loves and turned them into a “Them” as in “THE” Lost. We’ve become casual and cavalier in how we speak about the people Jesus misses most. Also, I like to pick fights.
R: Ah yes, The Provocatuer! That should be your superhero name! …You spend a lot of time listening to stories. Now tell us one. How lost are lost people? I mean, do they feel lost? Are they wandering around asking for directions or something?
J: In all of my lost interviews I have never had a person defined by evangelicalism as “lost” admit to being lost. Once they open up to me, they admit to feeling lost in the same way you and I would feel lost at different times in our life — such as “I feel lost” in my attempts to be the person I would like to be. They are however intrigued by the possibility of a God who “likes them” (which is my working definition of the gospel). They are pretty much done with religion (for which I applaud their insight.)
R: Have you ever bumped into someone who seemed pretty oriented to reality even though (or maybe even because) they don’t have a “personal relationship with Jesus?” Or to put it another way, ever met a lost person who knew something about God that you didn’t?
J: This happens to me frequently. I practice the art of “bumping into God” and anticipate finding him (or her) in lots of places. One of my first questions to lost or missing people is, “Tell me about your spiritual experiences.” Once they get going I like to interrupt them with observations like, “Wow!” or “How did you figure that out?” People like it when we are unusually interested in them, and are taken off guard when we serve them our attention rather than asking them to serve us theirs. Somewhere Christianity got into the wrong business – the religion business — and we learned to invite people into religion or to catch them (and each other) at not be good religionists. Jesus is at the center of the vortex of reality. It is reality that people need (and want sometimes). So when I find reality, I find Jesus.
R: Now here’s the tricky part for our listening audience…your book is about (gulp) evangelism. For many Christians-in-Recovery (a.k.a. postmodern/emergent types) evangelism has become a dirty word. You work with a lot of postmodern/emergent church types. How do you connect with them on this?
J: I suggest that they renounce evangelicalism and stay connected with evangelicals – since that is their primary people group anyway. I believe that each one of us are attempting to convert people to our viewpoint much of the time. In emails, in blogs (why else do we have these?), over the phone and over coffee, and a few of us we get to stand on a stage and try and convert a bunch of people who look like they care. I am a conversionist. I want people to join Jesus. I think it is a great idea. Someone else wants me to forward an email in support of Darfur or The One Campaign or whatever. The issue is not what we want each other to do but how we go about doing it. One of my hobbies in life is to reinvent evangelism so that ordinary Christians can have fun doing it. If it’s fun and real they will do it naturally and in non contrived ways.
R: Many recovering Christians think that evangelism is inherently manipulative. What do you think about that? Can someone be intentional without being manipulative?
J: We practice non-manipulative intentionality. The art of guiding the conversation toward reality without controlling or “steering” it. A great movie on this is The Big Kahuna –see it! I feel that followers of Jesus should intentionally and purposefully connect with people who are looking for reality and guide them toward it – in partnership with the center of reality – Jesus – who is like the magnetic north star of reality, the ontological center of life. We should function like the Spiritual Concierge for our friends and communities.
R: Talk to me about why this bumper sticker appeals to you: UNSAVED PEOPLE SUCK
J: Because it exposes in one simple phrase the mean spiritedness that evangelicalism has fostered in the hearts and minds of many Christians. I plan to hire someone to wear it at one of my evangelism conferences and have them tally up the kinds of responses they get from attendees.
R: Riddle me this, Mr. Jim, what’s the goal of all this evangelism stuff? Conversion? Church-going? Getting people to see that we’re right?
J: Jesus is reality – get them connected to reality, or at least to know the name of the person who is behind the reality they are enjoying, frustrated with or whatever.
R: Since you stopped “witnessing” and started paying attention and giving away attention, what’s shifted in your life?
J: I discovered that out little idea is actually part of a larger idea which we are now beginning to think about – We ( Off The Map) wants to devote our best energies to encouraging A New Kind Of Christian – globally, locally and personally – Anyone who would like to help us please email me or the Urban Abbess. Thanks for being interested in my little world.