Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Centred Set vs Bounded Set Evangelism

I'm loving my new Cultural Anthropolgy subject at Tabor, fits in really well with my Forge stuff too which is a bonus. Not particulalrly theologicall challenging but thats how it is sometimes.

Had John D'Alton last week who was brilliant, such an inspiring cross-cultural missionary here in Oz, and this Les Henson guy has some a pretty well grounded approach to church and mission stuff.

He was talking about different Biblical models of conversion (a word I don't mind now, as its much more about an ongoing process rather than salvation-which I do believe in,but am not prepared to say I understand-which I've often heard used to give an all too narrow understanding of faith) and how many churches and evangelistic crusades (don't even get me started on why I don't like them!) seem to focus too heavily on the Pauline model of a dramatic conversion;as opposed to the more up and down model of Peters conversion or the steady constant conversion we see in somebody like John.

He was talking about the Bounded Set model, which I believe we need to move on from, which likes to box people as Christian or not, in or out, and the goal is to take people out of their world and bring them into ours. If you've made a decision, you're right. I've seen many people operating out of this model who too often approach evangelism as an arrogant pouring out of knowledge, rather than a conversation between friends-where both sides have something to learn and to teach.

The Centred Set is centred on Jesus and the lines of in and out are a lot more fluid, its not about us trying to tell somebody their eternal destiny, its a place where religious titles and adherence to strict doctrine mean less than faithfulness to God and love of others take precedence. He used a different diagram, but its a similar line of thinking to the whirpool analogy I used a while ago when writing about Forge.

It was an extremely encouraging and liberating day, it confirmed and gave Biblical back up for some ideas I've been brewing on, and gave me some great new material to chew over.


mason said...

maybe i should do this subject sometime... :)

Digger said...

Yeah now there's an interesting thought hey Mase ;)

Can you understand the concept of what I'm talking about here though?

Ruthie said...

Have you come across Dave Andrews book, 'Christianarchy'?

Its quite a read and he explores this issue.

Also, this might interest you:


Anonymous said...

Love the point about teaching/learning coming from both sides of an interaction in an 'evangelical conversation' - (is there such a thing?)

Also, i could be barking up the wrong shrub here but, is it possible that, by employing the centered set evangelical model, we can find it easy to avoid the point of heaven vs hell thing?

Even so, should we as christians place a heavy importance on the heaven/hell reality to effectively evangelise to our culture?

Garth said...

Sounds great Digger. Its interesting that we can launch into evangelism of all sorts because its part of the 'program' for christian living. I would throw in that we need a basic love for people before we can be effective, regardless of our model or approach.

I now struggle with formalising in my mind that a friend is the focus of personal evangelism. Yet keenly persue any conversational leads they offer. Yet I don't want them to be some sort of project, no matter how innocent. I'm not suggesting you are either mate. Just struggle with formalising an approach with a 'label' and prefer a more fluent approach to connecting with people. Whatever happens happens, and just 'do life' with them and try to create as much community with them in some sort of combined world as I would if they were part of the church.

Digger said...

Yeah I know of it, but haven't read it. From what I've read of his, he seems pretty switched on. Another on the 'to read' list!

Digger said...

Yeah I purposely avoid focussing ont he whole heaven and hell thing to be honest. I made a commitment to myself a couple of years ago that I would never try and tell somebody their eternal destiny, for a couple of reasons:

1) I just don't know, at the end of the day, its up to God

2) Too many times I've seen the 'if you got hit by bus today, where would you be going?' question used in manipulative and coercive ways to try and make people make a commitment

I saw this just today, a speaker came into school and was there telling the kids they were all lost (which I actually do believe in many ways) and needed to have a relationship with God or else they'd burn. I'm just so over that method of evangelism, I had to just walk out.

Digger said...

Yeah I hear where you're coming from Garth-I too sometimes struggle witht he integrity of mission and evangelism, particularly incarnational mission.

If you don't care about more than the persons spiritual wellbeing you may as well not bother.

Its like that old story of the African who said to the missionary 'Do you love me because you want to convert me, or do you want to convert me because you love me?'

Garth said...

I think you have a great balanced approach to your faith mate. You have managed to have passion without the bull in a china shop approach.

mase said...

hey digs
yeh i think i'm following.
The whole "IN OR OUT" thing i've sorta accepted without thinking too much, but really, as if we can really know!
The only thing is, what about the thing in the bible where Jesus said 'whoever's not for us, is against us' (or vice versa? or is there both?).
Would be interested in learning more about people like Peter and John and how they operated as distinct from Paul (who we hear a LOT from).
I agree that we can't box people in to 'Christian or not', it just sets us up for so many falls.
Where love for others and faithfulness for God is seen to take precendence (as you described in the Centred Set)...well that sounds right on the money. Resonates within me!
Also see that you said it gave Biblical back up...awesome.
I guess not knowing where people are at exactly with God can make things harder. if someone has been baptised, clearly they have chosen to follow God (if they are being genuine, and therefore, according to the Bible, they are goin to heaven, and someone who has not 'accepted ' Jesus (another black or white type concept) is not. i dunno where i am goin with this, just random musings.
no, i'm serious this time. maybe i should do this subject...

Roo said...

hey digs, i will be over to see my boy grant in july and to goto the forge summit, so i look forward to meeting you then!

On the centred/bound sets, the way i see it is that a bound set is about conformity whilst the centred set is about relationships.

This key problem with a bound set is that your acceptability to the community is determined by your keep ing to a certain moral code, and being present at all community meetings. If you fail in either area, you are no longer really a part of the community, and not welcome.

A centred set allows movement towards and away, and your belonging to the community is determined more by your depth of your association with that which is at the centre.

You are never in or out really, but you can be close or distant from the central theme of the community....

Is the centred set the best way of doing things? Maybe. I think some people need the bounded set, they cant opperate in a centred set. So it isnt an either/or question.

Rivett said...

Alan Niven talks about the different stages of conversion, the rational, emotional, ethical, eclesial, there may be one more but i can't think of it.

Basically it is a model of conversion that takes into account the entire person and considers that while an emotional commitment or conversion may have been made that does not mean that it will not have any impact on ethical decisions.

I will try to find the docs on what he was on about and post them.

Digger said...

Yeah thats an interesting verse to ponder Masonic, I wouldn't mind checking it out.

Yeah thats a really good summary Roo, thanks for adding that in. And I totally agree with what you say about it not being for everybody. Its something I've thought about a lot actually, how some people really need the security and stability that your more fundamentalist type churches tend to provide.

And yeah I'd look forward to ya posting that stuff thanks Pete.

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desperatedanx said...

I think centred set is also about the direction of travel, or our personal journey to salvation.

For instance Jesus said to Pharisees in Matthew 21:31 "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

In other words while (arguably) close to Jesus theologically, they were moving away from him relationally, unlike the tax collectors and prostitutes.

However, at some point we hope that a decision to opt in (be born again etc) is made.

Regards from the UK, Dan

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