Convincing, Converting, Manipulating Authentically

“…and convincing is all about manipulating…our job was not to convince, not to convert. It was to live authentic lives and to help people who want to know the Jesus I know.” http://www.thegodjourney.com/audio/2008/0328h.mp3

I’ve been giving “The God Journey” podcast a listen and this is a quote from one of the hosts. (I don’t know which one said it as I have not placed the names with the voices yet.) It’s neither my desire nor my intent to take issue with either of these two former pastors. I just want to interact with this statement.

“…convincing is all about manipulating…” This is certainly true of some folks. There are religious people who NEED to convince us so that they might control us. Sounds sinister doesn’t it? If you knew what hackles were, you would get them up about now wouldn’t you? However, I think that there is a class of religious people whose motivation to manipulate isn’t so much sinister as it pathetic. They need to shore up their own doubts and insecurities by creating numbers (of people) in which to find their strength. They’re not interested in having power over others so much as creating security for themselves. It’s still wrong, but it’s pathetically wrong and not aggressively evil, don’t you think?

“…our job was not to convince, not to convert.” I think that there is a sense in which the job of those who follow Jesus is to convince which leads to conversion. The problem is motive and method. Do I try to convince others because I am insecure and need their conversion to make me feel secure? That’s a bad motive. Do I try to convince others because I love them and want them to “know the Jesus that I know”? That’s a good motive. Biblically, we see God invited his people to reason with Him; we see Moses giving signs to the elders convince them that YHWH had sent him; we see Elijah having a showdown with the priests of Baal in order to convince the people who was really God; we see Philip explaining from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah to an Ethiopian; we see Paul in debate/dialogue with Jews and Greeks in order to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah/Christ. I think our job is to live and interact with folks convincingly so that they might come to see Jesus as King, just as we do. Of course, we first have to see Jesus as King ourselves.

“…to live authentic lives and to help people know the Jesus I know.” Authenticity is highly valued in our culture. We immediately understand what it means when applied to works of art and collector’s plates but do we instantly grasp what an “authentic life” is? Do you live an authentic life? Do I? I think that the term authentic means genuine or even transparent when it appears along side the word life. People who live authentic lives are more than earnest or sincere. They are transparent. What we see is all there is. In matters of religion, people living authentic lives openly express doubt, frustration, anger and other “negative” emotions about God and / or His people. What I wonder is this: when we think of authentic lives, do we also think of people openly expressing faith, contentment, joy and other “positive” emotions about God and / or His people. I’m afraid that this idea of authenticity is only applied whenever someone is in the negative category and not in the positive. It’s the same trap that we fall into whenever something bad happens and we say that “real life is like that” or “Welcome to the real world!” as if only the negative is real or authentic. Is there room for something good to happen in an authentic life?

Again, I just want to interact with the statement. I mean no criticism of the one who made it. I have no agenda against anyone associated with The God Journey podcast. I just wanted to express some thoughts that burst into my mind when I heard these words.

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