Just met a guy today. He came around our house to install a cat door for our new moggy, 'Squid'. He was a nice guy, got about his work. His name is Grant, about my age, European around 50. He asked me if I had the day off, I said I was working from home. He asked what I did, and I said I was a lecturer. He asked where I worked, I said Laidlaw, and he asked what we teach. I said, theology, bible stuff, and he said, 'ah, I know about that.' He then asked me whether the earthquakes in Christchurch were the tribulation. Then, as you can imagine, a most interesting conversation ensued.
His story is this. He grew up in a strong Christian home with a mum who was full on. He said that he grew up 'shit-scared' of God, who was a wrathful God, 'hell, fire, and brimstone.' He hated it. He mentioned his distaste for the story of Lot's wife and Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son (I mentioned that God didn't get him to follow through, but he still wasn't impressed – can't blame him). He talked of growing up living in fear of the rapture, of being 'left behind.' Clearly those preaching in his church were full on Dispensationalists, preaching that any moment, China, Russia and the world would converge on Jerusalem, and all hell would break loose. We talked about the end times, tribulations (I was pretty sober on this as you might expect), the nature of God, religion, Muslims (he really doesn't have much time for them), reincarnation (he likes it), and karma (he is into it). Every four word was the f-bomb (doesn't faze me as that was me and mates until I got saved – the odd one still slips out under pressure, don't tell anyone). I kept thinking, this is the sort of guy who Jesus would really love to hang out with – a kind of Peter bloke. He admitted a degree of faith, but complete disillusionment with Christianity. He now has a syncretistic personal faith in God, no heaven and hell, reincarnation, with Christianity as a short-cut. He was into the idea of the bible as written sometime around the 800's AD, so I told him gently about the dating of the NT and textual criticism. He was really interested and intrigued – not sure he quite believed me, but I think he thought I seemed to know something about what I was talking about (more fool him, lol).
So I thought, why not, and I asked him if he was a reader. He said he was, just read The Source by Mitchener, obviously he is into reading! So I said would you like a book I have recently written, and he said yes. So I gave him my book What's God Up To, and said he would read it and maybe give me a call and have a chat.
To me Grant is so typical of the Kiwi European. Grew up sort of familiar with the story, but with a distorted view of it, with a wrathful God who would return anytime soon and met out the punishment. Such a God turns him off, who can blame him? He hates religious zealotism (who doesn't), and his Mum's 'obsession' worries him.
Herein lies the challenge. How to connect with guys like Grant, and to hang out with him, and help him see that God is not so much about that, as he is about all of life, relationships, love, and hanging out with guys like him?
It is funny that this encounter happened when I am in the midst of a Facebook conversation about evangelicalism and the gospel. We have been discussing the need for a full gospel, but still with a call for conversion. Here is a guy who has heard a corrupted flawed imbalanced gospel and it now makes him so hard to reach. We have to think deeply about what the gospel is and share it and live it well!
I will pray for Grant, that when he reads the book, God opens his heart... Come Holy Spirit.