by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
As we finish talking about the Great Commission and head to Pentecost, you may be feeling uneasy. Like me, you may have had unpleasant experiences with people who want to testify--or worse, who want to save you, even when you patiently explain that you were baptized as a baby.
In this week, we've had a Pew Research study that tells us that more and more people are identifying as unaffiliated with a religion. You might think that Jesus would want us to get out there and recruit those people.
But that kind of mentality can be a serious turn-off. And some of us are deeply uncomfortable with that approach anyway. What's a shy believer to do?
I believe that if you're living your beliefs, then you're behaving in a way that bears witness. You don't need to do any more evangelizing than that.
It's what I call the Buddhist teahouse approach to living an integrated life--but it can work for Christians too. First, some background.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, poet Jane Hirshfield explains, "Teahouse practice means that you don't explicitly talk about Zen. It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse by the side of the road. Nobody knows why they like to go there, they just feel good drinking her tea. She's not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn't say, 'This is the Zen teahouse.' All she does is simply serve tea--but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it. No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it's just there, in the serving of the tea, and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups" (Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, page 112).
Can this approach work? Can a quiet faithfulness to Christian practice be similarly attractive? I believe that it can. People are drawn to people of faith who are living what they believe. People are turned off by those believers who talk loudly and behave badly.
Or is that me wimping out on The Great Commission? Jesus didn't say, "Go live a quiet, but good, life a life that makes everyone want to be around you and wonder what your secret is. Thus you will bear witness to me."
Or did he?