This past week, I spent a day at WestGate Church for the Unleashed Conference. The folks at WestGate were amazing and reminded me that mainliners have a ton to learn from evangelicals when it comes to hospitality and event organizing. It was really well done.
I primarily went so I could hear Len Sweet, having never heard him before (and I’ve actually never read a Len Sweet book, if you can believe that). And getting a chance to hear him give a talk and then sit in on his breakout group was totally worth the cost of the event. Great stuff about communication, language, metaphors, our culture today, and what the church needs to be doing that it’s not.
As there was a lot of talk about metaphors, one of the predominant metaphors used by male speakers Ben Arment and Disney artist Noah (I have no idea if he has a last name), was that of being warriors. Noah has even started up a Fight Club as a form of discipleship for men.
I know these kinds of groups are out there, and I know churches that host MMA fight viewing parties and all of that, so this isn’t new to me. But I find it disturbing, unappealing and not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ that I believe in. Maybe I’m not enough of a “man’s man” to appreciate it, but I think it might be more than that.
During a Q&A time at the end of the conference, I asked the first question and just told them that I struggled with the violent imagery of being warriors for Jesus, and wondered if that really was the best metaphor for reaching out to our culture. I think people see a lot of violence and violent language from the church historically and the church today as well. And then to use that same language and those same forms as methods of evangelism? That doesn’t make sense to me. Although, it doesn’t make sense to me how an organization with a name like Campus CRUSADE for Christ is still able to exist…
I was a bit shocked by the response I got from Len Sweet. He said that in order to do male evangelism, you might have to use fight club/warrior metaphors, or at least start with sports. Really? The response I got from the panel was predictable. The artist Noah said that is the only way he can get guys who he hangs with interested in talking about faith, if it’s couched in the language and actions of a “fight club.” Ben came back to me with the predictable and uninspiring “Hey – we all need different ways and different metaphors to reach different people.”
Sure. I get that. But what if your metaphor is just WRONG? What if your method of evangelism and discipleship actually is refuting the very gospel that you’re trying to share?
Yah – that’s a problem.
Before someone leaves a comment and says something like, “Well – there’s all sorts of imagery and language in the BIBLE about violence, spiritual warfare, etc…” let me say, yes. You’re right. I know this. But does that mean the same language should be used in 2011 that was written thousands of years ago? Probably not.
My question to those guys, and others who communicate the gospel in warrior/violent language, still stands. Aren’t there better metaphors we can be using to describe what is going on in this world, and how Christianity can make a positive effect in people’s lives in this world and whatever comes next…? Isn’t it time we stopped using violent, war-filled language to communicate a gospel that is about bringing peace and God’s shalom to the world? Isn’t it time we stopped assuming that men are going to only relate to MMA, fight clubs for Jesus and other wild at heart lingo?