Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WSN Interview: Chip Scivicque (part two)

Continuing a quick interview with our Bible teacher for our time together in Copper Mountain. Click here for part one.

WSN: So I’m sure you’ve heard the St. Francis quote, “Share the gospel with everyone, if necessary use words.” Would you say that’s the same thing or taking it too far?

CHIP: The best way to communicate the message is in word and deed, mixed together, blended together appropriately so that we can respond the way that Jesus did when the friends of the paralytic let him down in front of Jesus. If you read the account of the friends of the paralytic, they tore a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus because they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. That man had two pressing needs. One, he must have needed forgiveness, because that’s what Jesus gave him. That’s where Jesus started. “Your sins are forgiven.” The man also needed to be healed of his paralysis. And it says that Jesus seeing their faith, he responded to that by healing him. But there’s no indication that Jesus wrestled with, “Well, should I share how he can be forgiven and know God even though he’s a paralytic, or do I heal him and hope he gets it, that I’m God and I can save him.” He did both. He touched his human need and healed him of his paralysis and he spoke words of forgiveness.

WSN: I imagine some people would hear what you’re saying and say, “This is a great new evangelism technique. I can do something nice for someone and then they’ll listen to the gospel.” What would your response be to someone like that?

CHIP: Eric Swanson says that when we’re feeding human need, if it’s refurbishing a school, doing renewal in the community, or working at a soup kitchen or working in an orphanage, “Salvation is always our ultimate motive but it’s never our ulterior motive.” Of course we want to see people come to know Christ and be redeemed and live forever. That’s so much bigger than whatever human need they have. But we don’t do good deeds as a means to an end to share the message and chalk up how many people we shared the message with and how many decisions we got and how many members we got into our group. That’s not Christian.

WSN: It sounds like what you were saying earlier, that someone who is culturally very far away and would never sit down and listen to the good news, instead they saw it in action and realized that it could be a part of their life.

CHIP: Exactly. When they saw Christians serving sacrificially and when they saw them up to their ankles in nasty, moldy mud in New Orleans gutting these homes they said, you know, these people actually do have something to offer and that’s compassion and love.

WSN: How did this happen in your own life, how did the paradigm shift happen for you?

CHIP: Several factors converged. By God’s grace he’s given me a love for the Bible. I’ve read it over and over. For most of my life I’ve tried to read the Bible through every year. And as you read the scripture, it is so obvious that God cares about widows and orphans. Prophets always are condemning Israel for their lack of concern for the people on the margins of society, for the poor and oppressed and Jesus took up that same message when he came. So the first thing was looking at scripture and looking at my own life and the ministry I was in and saying, you know, we’re not really touching those groups of people. We’re just sharing the gospel message with the young, the bright and the beautiful and even when we do come in contact with the poor and needy we’re just sharing the gospel message with them and not really helping them with their needs. So that was the first thing, God’s word.

Number two, we went to Thailand in 1983 and I was 30 years old and the human need in Thailand began to get my attention. There were lepers on the street, there were deformed children on the streets begging. There were 70,000 orphans in the country and we, early on, began to visit orphanages. And the wealth and the poverty there was a lot more mixed in. Here in American we’ve done a great job of partitioning the poor off into certain sections of town that we upper-middle class white folk don’t have to go in and we live our lives and do our shopping and working and playing in these nice upper-middle class areas and never have to go through the depressed neighborhoods of our community. In Thailand it wasn’t that way. Wealth and poverty were all mixed together and you lived among the poor. That was helpful for me. It opened my eyes to the needs of this world.

The biggest thing in Thailand was in 1991. We walked into a handicapped babies home that had 450 children with all kinds of birth defects and we got involved in that orphanage and volunteered there regularly for two years and actually adopted a little girl from the orphanage. That, too, opened my eyes to how much human need is in the world and as I observed the Christians who were working in this government orphanage I realized what a beautiful thing they were doing and that sharing the gospel message among the bright and the beautiful is not the only thing that God values. I know he loved what these folks were doing in that orphanage. Then, coming out of Thailand, a big thing for me was—Thailand is 95% Buddhist, 4% Muslim and 1% Other. The Protestant population is still only about 4 to 6 tenths of one percent. And that’s after 200 years of Protestant missions.

WSN: Wow.

CHIP: So obviously the gospel has not been experienced as something powerful or effective in Thailand, so I wrestled with our own lack of effectiveness. Mine personally, Campus Crusade, Evangelicals. I just looked at the landscape and thought, there are all kinds of Christians here. We have people who are theologically liberal here doing mercy ministry and not sharing much of the gospel message, we’ve got people on the other end who are real conservative who are sharing the message but not doing much compassion ministry. We’ve got high church and low church, the stiff Presbyterians and some wild, crazy charismatics and nobody is responding to any of this. As I thought about that the thing that I saw was, you know what, everybody over here is either meeting human needs and hardly ever talking about Jesus or they’re talking about Jesus all the time but they’re not actually showing any concern for the poor and the needy in this country. So I walked away from Thailand when I was 40 saying, I wonder what would happen if someone were to put those two things together in a place like this?

WSN: And then the tsunami hit….

CHIP: When the tsunami hit we did begin to put those things together. And it’s been phenomenal. In the hardest hit province of Thailand, before the tsunami hit there were three churches. A year after the tsunami hit there was an article on the front page of a Thai newspaper that said that there were now 65 churches or Christian centers in that province. That’s in a Buddhist country where there’s never any Christian news because the Christian population is so insignificant, but on the front page of the Thai newspaper there’s an article about all the Christians who had been down there responding to the tsunami and how much good they had done as far as cleaning up, relief and re-building and –by the way—there’s now 65 churches where there were only three a year ago.

WSN: That’s pretty amazing.

CHIP: It really is. My buddy Mike Christians led a park ranger to Christ that has gone on in his faith and is still walking with him two years later. This guy received Christ with tears rolling down his cheeks and then turned around and shared with his friends and family and Mike said, “I’ve been here for twenty-five years and I’ve never, ever seen a Thai respond to the gospel the way this man did.”

WSN: I guess it does show that we’ve been presenting these different pieces of the gospel, but not the whole thing. And the whole thing put together is pretty compelling.

CHIP: It really is. I was talking with my friend Jay Lorenzen about this one day and he said, “I guess we as Christians have to bear the weight of the gospel’s implications before our message has any power.” That is so true. The gospel’s about a great God who condescended and came down to man not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. That’s what the good news is. So when we live that out, when we lower ourselves and humble our upper-middle class white selves (or whoever we are in the world) and go anywhere not to be served but to serve and to spend and be spent on behalf of the people’s needs and tell them the gospel as we go, it does become a really powerful thing.

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