Monday, May 05, 2008

The Importance of Posture

The following is from The Tangible Kingdom. It's one of the best parts of the book. (Click on the title of this post for the direct link).

Posture is important because it can either obscure the message of truth or it can enhance and pave the way for a clear rendering of the truth. In North America, people don't have any sense of the true Christian message anymore because the face of that message looks so unlike the founder. Christianity is now almost impossible to explain, not because the concepts aren't intelligible, but because the living, moving, speaking examples of our faith don't line up with the message. Our poor posture overshadows the most beautiful story and reality the world has ever known.

Sometimes I wonder how we got to this point. Why did pagan onlookers hold the early church in such high respect, but today's non-Christians view the modern day church with such disdain? I think one of the main culprits has been our paradigm of evangelism. In the name of "getting someone saved," we have primarily focused on communicating a message of truth to the world. There's nothing wrong with that, except that we've prioritized the verbals over the non-verbals, the message over the method or the proclamation over the posture.

We assume that if we can just get the idea across, then it will be up to the person to respond, whether we do it correctly or not. Maybe we also think that in order to get God's approving glance, it's our duty share "truth" even if our modus operandi is "Obnoxious for Jesus . . . and loving it."

Focusing on what we say without regard to how we say it doesn't work in marriage, with our kids, in politics, or in any other social arrangement. So why do we think it would work with God? Do we actually think he is happy with us for alienating his world?

The idea of posture helps us realize that truth is important, but according to scripture, truth is not the only thing, or the most important thing. The most important thing is whether or not people are attracted to the truth; drawn into the truth, and able to understand and receive the truth.

Consider God's instruction to us through the book of Proverbs "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). That must mean that God cares quite a bit that we be concerned with the "how" of what we say, not just the "what."

Paul shares his insights on posture in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: with those who were coming to faith "But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We love you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." An expanded paraphrase might be, "because we found ourselves emotionally attached to you all, we couldn't just preach at you. We knew you needed time to process your faith and the only way to help you understand the big picture was to stay with you longer. We knew the message would make more sense if you saw it lived out in our lives."

When we focus on the message only, what are we saying to people? Maybe, that they really aren't dear to us? Is it possible that to share four great truths about God without giving them a part of our lives might actually communicate the wrong thing? Paul knew that a message without an attractive tangible person embodying and delivering it would fall on deaf ears or be lost amid all the other faiths of that time. What makes the Gospel good news isn't the concept, but the real life person in front of them that have been changed by it.

Peter also speaks of posture when in 1 Peter 3:15 he says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." These early Christians actually expected that if they embodied the message, they wouldn't have to target people or go after them. They enjoyed the alternative of waiting for people to approach them with curiosity and interest because of what they saw these early Christians being and doing.

In our Adullam Network, we specifically ask people not to try to be "evangelistic." We suggest to them that if people aren't asking about their lives, then we haven't postured our faith well enough or long enough. We're observing that every story of conversion and transformation happened without anyone being approached with a message. The message certainly has gotten out, not as our main priority but as our gentle response to their curiosity.

When posture is wrong, you'll always be perceived to be an enemy or judge. When your posture is correct, you'll actually be perceived to be an advocate, a person who supports and speaks in favor of or pleads for another.

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