A couple weeks back Michael and I went with a friend to the local Psychic Fair. It’s an all-weekend event that takes place twice a year here in the Kansas City. We went in on a Friday evening, bought tickets and spent the next couple hours walking around the place. Each and every time we step out, we learn something new. So it’s always good to have a time of reflection afterwards to discuss how things went and what we could have done differently.
A lot has changed in our technique when it comes to ministering. We come from a strong background in apologetics – which is great if you want to argue, not so great if you want to actually build long-lasting relationships. And most people you run into at the psychic fair are already well versed in the Christian message. A lot grew up in the church but left after being hurt or abused in some way, so they’re familiar with the ugly side of the system. They’ve intentionally turned to a culture where the people are less judgmental and more “accepting” of their differences. Apologetics simply doesn’t work in a place like that. They’ve experienced the all-talk-no-walk Christianity and laying out a well-reasoned argument to “convert” isn’t going to get you very far with them. So that’s where most Christians stop. They see people who have blatantly turned their backs on God as “bad” or beyond their reach. But in reality, the fields are ripe for harvest, you just have to have the eyes to see it.
Love is a battlefield
I’m sure many of you have seen and heard a growing number of Christian’s proclaiming God’s impending judgement of America. He’s likened to a ticking time-bomb, waiting for that trip of the wire. We’re all on thin-ice with him: just one more abortion, one more memorial cross removed, one more gay marriage – and then it’s punishment time for America’s sins. But if it is in fact the case that God is planning on releasing judgement on America for all her failings, wouldn’t the Church be the first place He’d pay a visit? I mean, whose fault is it really if this nation isn’t reflecting the Kingdom? We kind of have an unfair advantage, don’t you think? We have the Alpha and Omega, the Light of the World, the One True God, the Living Word living inside of us! We’ve been given everything we could possibly need in Jesus. (Phil 2:14-16, Col 1:13) What about the rest of the world? Can we really blame them for participating in excessive, addicting, harmful or sinful behavior? Let’s be real. If Jesus were Donald Trump he’d tell the Church she was fired for not doing her job. We’re the light of the earth and yet we don’t shine for others to find their way out of the darkness.
A lamp is not hidden under a bowl, and yet the Church today seems to be particularly fond of residing within elaborately constructed “bowls” otherwise known as cathedrals. We prefer the “saftey” inside our church to the outside “dangers” of the world. So in the meantime, we neglect the thing most treasure to God, human souls, and leave them to fend for themselves. We have forgotten that the Lord, not a building, is our refuge and source of strength. We think we have a choice in the matter so we disobey and stay underneath our four-walled shelter, foolishly believing we’re protected from all the “evil” outside. But the truth is we have forgotten that we were once lost and no more deserving of salvation than those we presently call enemies. Before Jesus, we were all open rebels of God. We lived our lives in direct opposition to His sovereignty. How quickly we forget! And rather than bring more glory to God by sharing the good news we freely received, we pathetically hide out behind a weak and ineffective religious fortification.
But now, more than ever, Christians must move from their defensive strongholds to take on forceful offensive advancements. The time for holding a defensive position for the sake of your pride or tradition ended with the ministry of John the Baptist. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11:12) We have nothing to fear, Jesus has overcome the world! Jesus said He has “given us authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Lk 10:19) He tells Peter again in Matthew 16:18 that even the gates of Hell will not prevail over his Church. By contrast today, it is yet a popular defensive position to demonize Wiccans, pyshics, mystics, atheists and those in the occult. But Jesus loves witches. Jesus loves fortune tellers. And He loves them enough not to leave them where they’re at. He wants them to stop being abused by the darkness they’re in subjection to and find freedom in His relentless love for them. And he wants you to be the one to show them His love. How can you show them that freedom and acceptance if you’re busy trying to protest their events and shout hideous names at them? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not preaching tolerance. I’m calling for a shift in thinking. I’m asking the Church to be renewed in their mind and mature in their thinking. I want to see a radical change in the Body of Christ from defending the Kingdom to bringing the Kingdom.
When will we learn that it’s love that changes? Want to end abortion? Then stop focusing on how evil Planned Parenthood is and start focusing on how scared those women are. Want to help people with alcohol addictions? Then stop spending all your time condemning bars and start focusing on how lonely people feel. Want to see more people accept Jesus? Then stop calling the world “bad” and start putting your money where your mouth is. If this Jesus we know is so good and loving then what are you doing to prove it? From a Kingdom perspective, protesting an abortion clinic with shouting and signs is just as ineffective as sitting in a bible study complaining about the state of the world. Jesus said “Go!” That does not mean holding a rally against the devil. And it certainly does not mean holding a meeting in his name to pray for God to come down and put a Republican president in office. Let’s grow up a little, Church.
Going on the offensive
That night at the psychic fair we prayed for many people. We prayed for people’s legs to grow out, backs to be restored, pain to go, and the peace of God to fill hearts. We drew attention to ourselves (not that Michael doesn’t do that already being six foot something with his dreads and brightly colored bandanas!). We drew some dirty looks, scowls, and snickers. At one point someone at a booth even grabbed one of their skulls and began petting it, I assume, as a way of coming against what we were doing. But it doesn’t matter. Jesus loves! The love of God that brought Jesus to the cross is the same love that raised him from the dead. Love isn’t a defensive tactic, it’s a premeditated choice. It conquers fear and sets up freedom in it’s place. (1 Jn 4:18)
I spent most my time that evening with a woman named Mindy who was doing henna tattoos. I found out the reason she loves drawing mehndi is because it gives her a sense of peace. I hear people all the time describe that when they participate in certain activities they feel “alive” or “in their element”. Sometimes if they’re Christian, they’ll say they feel God’s presence with them. I would say on occasion, I feel similar when I’m dancing or singing for the Lord. Mindy may not know who Jesus is, but she does know she experiences peace when she draws her henna. So after she drew mehndi on my hand and we left the fair, I wondered how I could have used that knowledge as a way to introduce Jesus. I thought of Paul as he walked through Athens:
“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.'” (Acts 17:22-28)
Using Paul’s strategy, I could have explained that the same peace Mindy feels when she draws henna comes from Jesus, the King of Peace. But I didn’t say that and I walked away feeling like I failed to communicate the gospel to her. She did witness Michael grow two of her friend’s legs out and one of her friend’s back was healed in Jesus’ name. So she definitely saw demonstrations of the Kingdom, she just didn’t receive any teaching on the Kingdom.
Looking back it was simply a case where we used the name of Jesus to put on yet another show among many at the psychic fair. And it made me think: I want to be careful to remember that Jesus isn’t a spokesman for this great product we call Christianity. He is our life, our love, our Lord. Psychics, atheists, and transvestites are all familiar with the hypocritical salesman version of Jesus. They’re not interested in yet another holy guru who had a few wise sayings then checked out of town. What they need is is the manifestation of the True Living Person: Jesus the Christ. They haven’t met the One who sat at dinner with sinners and tax collectors, who loved prostitutes and reject disciples. Who will introduce the real Jesus to them? Who will be a light to those lost in the darkness? You can’t do it sitting in a pew Sunday after Sunday. You will have to go out among them, as an ambassador and representative of the Lord. It will cost you everything to be available and build meaningful relationships. It will mean late night phones calls, cooking dinners, and paying someone else’s bills. It means laying down your life in the same way Jesus did for you. “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” (1 Pet 4:6)
Epilogue: Making yourself a conversation piece
|Mehndi done in Lajpat Nagar during our last trip in India
In the days following the psychic fair I had a lot of people ask about my mehndi, which wasn’t unexpected since the same thing happened after I returned to the U.S. from India. People would point to what was on my hands, and I would reply: “Oh, it’s a temporary tattoo that uses henna and I had it done while I was in India.” Then the conversation was pretty much over. It was suddenly not so weird that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman had orange-maroon doodles all over her hands. After all, most people are aware that mehndi is a popular practice in India. But this last time I didn’t get it done in a culture where it’s a common practice. This time I got it done at your neighborhood psychic fair. No easy explanation for that!
I had to go to the DMV the following Tuesday. I came prepared to wait, so I had my Kindle and a friendship bracelet I was working on. While sitting there, a older woman sits down on the bench next to me with a little girl. Noticing my Kindle first, we strike up a conversation about how awesome eReaders are and the latest books we’ve enjoyed. Then as politely as possibly she stops asks, “Um, so what is it that’s all over your hand?” I had a brief moment where I wasn’t sure what to say. If I tell her I got it done at a psychic fair she’ll think I’m into New Age stuff and that isn’t cool. But if I’m not careful when I tell her I’m a Christian and went to the fair to pray for people, she’ll think I’m one of those bible-beating Christians… So I say, “Well, I went with my husband and a friend to a psychic fair to bless and love on people and I decided to get some mehndi done.” Silence. A funny look. Then, “Oh. So what do you mean by ‘blessing’ people?”
From that point on I was able to explain what we were doing and in the process discovered that this individual, who I’ll call Ms. M, was a Christian. Ms. M also shared that she was single and had adopted three girls. She had spent the past several years fighting Lupus and had just reached a point where she could live some quality of life. I was able to lay hands and pray for her and her daughters and bless her before it was my turn in line. We exchanged phone numbers and have remained in contact since that day. I look forward to developing a deeper relationship with Ms. M and being able to remain a help in her life.
That was just one instance of several over the next few days that made me realize something: I want to find ways of making myself more approachable and available. Yes, I can set apart time to go on a Treasure Hunt or compartmentalize my ministry time. But as I go I want to be expectantly ready for conversation and potential connections. That conversation at the DMV practically fell in my lap, but just think how things would have gone if I hadn’t been prepared? In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he instructs him to be prepared in season and out of season (2 Tm 4:2). Remember: we’re not civilians, we’re soldiers and we’re on duty. We train by spending time in prayer and the Word, so when we have to go places like the DMV, we’re armored for battle. It’s not a dreaded errand, it’s a critical mission to rescue hostages from the Enemy.
Are you challenged by the idea of introducing Jesus through everyday means? Can you think of practical ways to manifest His love to those you run into during a typical day?