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By Mike Edwards

My fellow blogger recently posted on this subject Is It Our Duty to Convert Others? After reading I wanted to share some thoughts that came to mind about God-followers/Jesus lovers/Christians trying to convert others.

The Bible doesn’t say about evangelism what you may think

Jeff Banman shared some thoughts about the Apostle Paul, who is known as the primary evangelist/starter of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus: Wise Evangelism | Jesus Creed |  Paul’s emphasis wasn’t as much going out and preaching the gospel but living out Jesus’ ways that can attract others to reasons behind our ways. There don’t have to be forced but natural conversations if others are interested.  Relax and simply be loving!

Does the Bible really require certain beliefs to be saved and go to Heaven?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jeremy Myers says it best: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”  See here.

But few what to talk about God

Some may avoid spiritual discussions because they are only interested in pursuing a self-centered life. This isn’t most of my friends. One reason many avoid spiritual discussions is because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away. It’s wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do, without advising upfront your agenda. I have huge regrets about some of my past actions. Parents or bosses inspire because of who they are.

What does evangelism look like in my life? 

In my twenties I felt that I had to convert others to accept Jesus as their Savior or go to Hell. Turns out the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t biblical in my opinion. See here.  Wouldn’t we be shouting “FIRE” from the rooftop if we believed Hell was real? Then, I begin to accept that God draws others to God, and I stand ready to share. When conversations take a natural tilt toward spiritual matters, I see if others want to discuss the influence God has had in my life.

God through their influence has made me a better man, husband, father, and friend or at least better than if on my own. If others see something in my life they desire in their life, I can’t wait to share what God can do in our lives. The only outward thing I may do is at the end of my email is a list of my blogs and books written. I view as an invitation to others who may desire spiritual conversations, and they think I may be safe.

Confession

Honestly, I would be lying if I said God conversations are often. They are rare. It is why I started blogging, so I had some way to discuss thoughts about God. People know I am into God because I am often asked to say the prayer at gatherings, despite not being a church guy. (I pray they don’t burn in hell of course). Actually, I just have a conversation with God in front of others out loud. I consider myself now open-minded and non-confrontational when it comes to God. Say something racist is another matter! Still such conversations are few and far between with those I know.

Relax!

Each has to decide how they think best to share their relationship with God with others. I am convinced there is a Creator who desires a loving relationship with each of their creations. But I respect those who aren’t convinced or have doubts a Creator really exists. That doesn’t make me more moral. Conversations should be natural and mutual. We don’t have to convert people. We don’t have to feel guilty because we aren’t convincing others about God and their love for them.  God can take care of themself!

MikeEdwardsprofilepic125

Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like  He can be contacted by email at: medwar2@gmail.com

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by Mike Edwards

Do you hear things about God that lead to not wanting to even bother with God? Are you a person of faith but some teachings about God create questions or difficulties in talking about God to others should the subject naturally come up? I heard teachings about God in the church that just didn’t seem true of a good or loving God. It is only human nature to have a close relationship with those you respect. Why wouldn’t that be true of our relationship with God? Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we hear about God!

What can we know about God?

Even scholars can look at the same passages in Scripture and come up with different interpretations. Jesus spoke in hyperboles and metaphors which can lead to vastly different interpretations. Besides, the Bible can’t be the only way to know what God is like since over half the people born in this world never had a Bible to read. We all seem to have an inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated – there are “oughts” in our relationships. God surely has given us a moral, intuitive sense what a loving God must be like.   

God can’t possibly be a homophobe.

It makes no sense to me why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. Some only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. So, shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

God can’t possibly be a sexist by favoring men in leadership positions.

God surely knew what many of us sense – appointing men as authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. The same writer had just assumed women, without condemning, could prophesize during worship (I Cor. 14:34). See here for rethinking if God is a sexist!

Hell!

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Our traditional understanding of Hell is no more a translation of the Greek word Gehenna (the name of a real valley near Jerusalem) in the New Testament than Atlanta is for Chicago. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies!

Can God be dogmatic about which religion you choose.

The majority of people born in this world have never heard of Jesus in the Bible. Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God through Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The vast majority of people born choose or rebel against the religion where they are born, whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Those who have heard of Jesus often have a distorted view of God. When the Bible speaks of being saved, it isn’t about escaping hell and going to heaven but allowing God to help avoid self-destructive ways for our own best interests. Do you believe that? 

God doesn’t encourage hidden agendas in relationships.

People often avoid God-folks because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away. It simply is wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do without advising them upfront of your agenda. God-folks struggle to talk about God, for how do you explain a good God is supposedly a homophone, sexist, or sadistic torturer. It turns out God wants for our relationship what we want – not a means to an end (conversion) but an opportunity to share life and love one another.

God can’t be a religious extremist.

Extremists wish to force you to believe what they think is true of God according to some Book. What is not acknowledged is literature requires interpretation so their understanding may be wrong. A truly, loving God would never force one to love but give the freedom to love or reject Them. Forced love is an oxymoron. You can’t get enough of a person or God because you have so much respect, not because you are commanded to love. Love by force only leads to brief obligations out of guilt.

God is not cruel by being invisible and inaudible.

If God cared why doesn’t God make their Presence obvious? God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parent push their agendas, even if in their children best interests, they may rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may more allow moral development for lasting convictions. A Creator may not reveal themselves for reasons we haven’t thought of and would accept in time. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing personal convictions may better lead to heart-felt lasting choices that turn out to be in our best interests.

Imagine God really is good news!

Listen to your moral inner voice. You may be right about God! If God claims to be Love and encourages us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5: 48), how can we follow in God footsteps unless God has empowered us somehow to know. And what loving Parent, earthly or heavenly,  doesn’t seek to help you be the best you can be for your best interests and the interests of others!

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What happens when people begin to question church? Millions of people are “leaving church” each year as they begin to question the deeper meanings and structures of gathering together. They’re asking a fundamental question of, “What does it mean to participate in church and what would happen if we did something different?” They are not abandoning God, ignoring Scripture, or giving up on Jesus. While a few do leave for such reasons, the vast majority report that they leave church to better follow Jesus, obey God, and live out their faith in meaningful and relational ways. They stop attending church to pursue something more intimate and personal. Finding Church explores these stories of people leaving, switching, and even reforming their basic understanding of church. It will open your eyes to a growing trend in culture for people to take responsibility for their faith.

List of Contributors
Lew Ayotte, Carey Crawford, Michael Donahoe, Glenn Hager, Wayne Hobson, Judith Huang, Mike Keffer, Travis Klassen, Tyson Phillips, Tara Pohlkotte, Will Rochow, Brian Swan, Genevieve Thul, Shannon Brisco, Jessica Bowman, Lauren LaRue, Kellen Freeman, Eric Hatfield, Wayne Hobson, Kimberly Parker, Felisa Reed, Sam Riviera, Cara Sexton, Alan Brisco, Kris Camealy, Daniel Darling, Melody Harrison Hanson, Dan King, Alan Knox, Sonny Lemmons, Travis Mamone, Mary C. M. Phillips, Bill Reichart, Aubry Smith, John Walker, and Markus Watson.

Available for Presale – Publishes December 1, 2012 from Civitas Press
http://store.civitaspress.com/books/377

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