I have never eaten lobster, but I am told that to cook one, you have to put them in a pan of water and gradually increase the heat (poor lobster) until it is boiled (although must be a more humane way to cook it).
I guess there is logic here, if you tried putting a lobster into hot water it would just jump back out this way the boiling water sneaks up on him.
I have been thinking a lot about Mission and how we reach out to people… And I’m not advocating putting them into boiling water, but I am advocating gently and carefully increasing the heat.
I have been caught with two equal and opposing dangers, I brought a mate along to an event, the Canon and Ball Gospel show, which was so heavy that my friend Lee looked like a Rabbit stuck in the headlights and asked to go at the interval.
For Lee it was a bit like he was the lobster and this was the boiling water, and he couldn’t get out of it fast enough.
Yet that evening another mate of mine Jason made a commit to follow Christ, which is is still doing (and sadly as far as I know Lee still isn’t yet a Christian, but I haven’t seen him for years, so I might be wrong).
Yet I realised that evening that there is both the Damascus Road (that blinding moment of realisation) and the Emmaus Road, that granule journey of realisation of who Christ is and what he has done for us.
I remember my vicar in York shared that he got so exasperated with his Christian friends NOT talking and answering his questions about Jesus and faith, that he threatened to punch them unless they told him!
Sometimes in Churches we love getting a crowd to things, we love bums of seats, but we run the risk of becoming so nice and fluffy that no one ever hears a gospel challenge of the life transforming message of Christ.
It is like putting the lobster in a pot if cold water but not putting it anywhere near the flames and so it will never cook.
This can be true both of Church corporate or us as individual Christians.
We can either leap in either with “zeal without wisdom” as we “scalp” those around us or we are people who never mention or refer to Christ
A quote I love is “too much salt just makes you sick whereas a little salt makes you thirsty”, therefore we need to “let our conversation be seasoned with salt” (as Paul says in Colosians).
Rico Tice, the evangelist from All Souls Langham Place, talks about in mission gently pushing the pain barrier, a challenge slightly further than we might nomally be comfortable with.
The Mission Shaped Ministry Course talked about faith being a journey, or a stream, a scale, where where people move at different speeds along a journey towards faith in Christ and following him (Engle famously did a scale talking about this, which is helpful, but a little over simplistic).
The MSM talk about gaining a crowd, but then having steps along the way with progressively more Christian content and Kingdom Challenge, often with the numbers of people wanting to explore this decreasing to a small number of committed people (a bit like a picture of a funnel).
My friend, Paul Hinkley, a local vicar, says that at his Church they talk of events being ‘one chilli, two chilli and three chilli type events’… Where on the journey are people at and which is the best thing to invite them along too?
One Chilli -an event where people meet up together and any Christian content or gospel challenge is quite low key… And there might be people who are happy in this Korma eating existance for long time, possibly always.
Two Chilli -a bit more spice, people going that bit deeper, a little more challenge, maybe the event is too a little bit more explicitly Christian?
Three Chilli -Maybe a vindaloo!! Its something which is unashamedly and overtly Christian where people have the opportunity to clearly hear and engage with the Christian message and be able to respond to it.
Also, talking about being Christians who have ‘one chilli, two chilli, three chilli’ conversations too…
One Chilli, being able to get alongside people, make conversion, mention faith but not intrusive, natural, normal conversation.
Two Chilli, where there is some depth, some discussion, some sharing and warmth in the conversation.
Three Chilli, those conversations which are real heart to heart conversations, being real and honest about faith and what it means, with opportunity to make a response.
Sometimes we can meet a stranger on the bus and the conversation becomes a like a shared vindaloo in minutes, three chilli’s straight off.
Other times maybe a friend at work which is mainly around a Korma and occasionally moves a little bit more spicy every now and again.
People like curries are not all the same, and you need to be wise how you handle your chilli!
The apostle Paul talks of being a “moving from milk to meat”, as we seek to fulfil the great commission of making disciples, we need to be in step with the spirit as we ask how can we journey with people and help the to make the next step.
Lets learn to boil our lobster carefully making sure we adjust the heat.