TC's guidelines and principles of life #26: "Motivation fades. Inspiration lasts." When I was getting my undergraduate degree from Christ for the Nations Bible College in Dallas, TX, I had to take a course called Evangelism.
The whole point of this course was learning how to convert people to Christianity.
For the final exam, I had to memorize a script, go into a neighborhood with several other classmates, and use this script to get people to accept Jesus into their lives.
I hated this whole concept. I felt that we had turned following Jesus into a cheap parlor trick of some kind. I decided to stay disengaged from this transactional approach to expanding God's kingdom.
I didn't know it at the time, but I believed that if you remove relationships with people out of the evangelism, it can quickly become very toxic. A game based solely on numbers rather than the relationships Jesus calls us to create as we 'make disciples'.
Because God is funny, the teacher of this class -out of dozens of teams - chose to embed herself into my group. So much for disengaging. I was going to have to stay involved in this exercise if I wanted to pass this class.
We walked through the streets of a particular neighborhood and met several people outside. Each time, one of us would go into the sales pitch we had been required to memorize.
Everybody we talked to prayed a prayer of salvation with us.
As we headed to the rally point, the other members of my team were celebrating the results of the day.
I felt no such joy.
I worried that we had turned God into a magic password.
Say Jesus and you get to go to heaven.
I have been to rallies designed to convince teenagers to give their lives to Christ at the end of amazing music, lights, and speaker.
I wonder what will happen to these kids when they return to their lives outside of that weekend.
I am a follower of Jesus. Not because somebody convinced me that the carrot of heaven is worth running after. Not because of a rally with great production values. Not because I just believe what my parents believe (I don't).
I am a follower of Jesus because I have caught a glimpse that the God who made everything in the universe also made me. He knows everything I have ever done, said or thought, yet loves me anyways.
Instead of being motivated to avoid hell, or shame, or being left out when everybody else is giving their life to Jesus at a rally, I have been inspired by the new, richer life that Jesus offers to me.
I don't follow Jesus out of fear or for a reward. I follow Jesus out of love and gratitude.
Hype, motivation - you can use these to get somebody to do something for a short period of time. Either you have to keep hyping and motivating them, or they'll fade away. Hype is like fireworks: beautiful and captivating, but quickly faded and forgotten.
Depth, inspiration - these things will last. These things change our lives. These are the impacts that Jesus had in the lives of those who encountered him. Inspiration is like the sun, constantly shining, giving us the ability rely on it day after day.
That is why he asks us to make disciples, not converts.
Fireworks light up the sky, and everybody enjoys them; but the Sun, with it's steady, constant glow gives life to all beneath it.
35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.