This is the fifth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. The links to earlier posts in the series are below.
There will be conflict over the work of evangelism or it is probably not being done.
Luke 9:51 : When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
The Gospel passage says: “he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Some translations say that he “strengthened his face.” – was determined. In the first century, the face was a place of communication and intimacy. The face is also a place of extreme vulnerability. Humans react differently to a baseball heading for their face than they do to a baseball heading for their leg. But also, the face leads the body. Who walks anywhere but towards where their face points? In the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, the translation is “he set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem.” Now, what we know about flint, is that when flint is struck with the right material, it creates sparks which light fires.
This passage comes when Jesus is warning his followers that by going to Jerusalem, at that specific point in time, there would be conflict. The word “conflict” comes from the word “confligare” – to make sparks and fire. All of our English words around conflict involve creating fire (as a priest, “hot under the collar” is my personal favorite!) .
This gospel is a source of comfort to us as we do work which, if done well and effectively, will create some conflict in all but the most centered congregations.
- Asking people to work together with accountability by using Come and See Pledge cards
- Asking people to use precious free time for Come and See trainings
- Asking people to set appointments with friends and neighbors to visit them for Come and See living room good-news-telling
- Asking people to risk a “no”
- Inviting the vulnerability which clergy and laity will feel if people come and see only to then leave and not come back…
…these are all hard things. You will face resistance as leaders. You will probably feel your own resistance. You may be feeling it today. But we always go back to where we began: prayer and centered leadership. If we are deep and constant like that river we were discussing in Part II, then we will have the ballast to manage the rapids of leadership in storms and passages of many river-rocks.
But we must do hard things as leaders or we abdicate our responsibility. Leadership is a privilege and should be removed from those who abdicate the responsibility of their leadership. The question is not IF we lead, but HOW we lead. We must work as hard at reaching out to preach the good news as we work hard at reaching in to care for those whose life situations require tender care. And we will face conflict if we set our face like flint on Jerusalem. There will be sparks.
The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire. The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.
This is the fifth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. Click for earlier installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4. Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.