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Do we pursue others for Jesus for selfish reasons?

Selfishly pursuing others for JesusA thought occurred to me this morning. Maybe we should stop pursuing people in the church, or rather, maybe we should stop being so consumed about pursuing people.

What pursuit feels like

Lions pursue prey. Flesh-eating Zombies pursue victims brains. Athletes pursue trophies. Police pursue suspects. Churches pursue non-church folks. I can imagine a bunch of people pursuing people in the name of evangelism. This isn’t a game of tag in the school yard. No one wanted to play tag with the kid who needed to play tag. That kid was creepy. No one likes to be chased by a someone. Not even lovers courting each other pursue each other like this. The more a lover needs the other or is consumed by the other the less attractive the pursuer is.

Maybe we pursue people because we target them as a part of our “target audience?” Does it feel good to know that a group of people are targeting you?

I’m sure that to some this seems silly, that pursuing or targeting others is something Jesus commanded. For some this drive is rooted in their understanding of evangelism. Perhaps they’ll tell me we are fishers of men (which, out of context, sounds down-right creepy). Maybe they’ll quote Jesus telling his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples. I like these verses too and they could be right I suppose. These verses may have been intended to spur followers of Jesus to pursue people.

I’m not convinced.

“Pursuing” vs “Inviting”

Maybe our need to pursue others (in Jesus name) is actually just another way to selfishly let ourselves be driven by our own needs and agenda rather than God’s.

Edwin Friedman once wrote that “people cannot hear you unless they are moving toward you, which means as long as you are in a pursuing or rescuing position, your message will never catch up, no matter how eloquently or repeatedly you articulate your ideas.”

Perhaps the way of Christ is less about pursuing or targeting others and more about inviting people in to a way of God that you are already living. Perhaps its the fact that so many people in the church only know how to pursue others rather than live faithfully with the people who are already with them? Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that some people don’t want to be rescued and that the more you pursue them, the more you are convincing them that they want nothing to do with you.

So, go and make disciples. Invite people into life with you. And lets all deal with the our own sin, the psychosis, needs and compulsions to misrepresent Jesus by targeting and pursuing others in Jesus name.

Leading the change

My friends in youth ministry might consider leading this charge, but we have a notoriously bad reputation about living in community. Are we participating in a small group that follows Christ and invites others to follow him? Are we finding places to live into the mission of God in whole ways with people younger and older where we are known and use our gifts? Are we a part of a community we’d invite our friends to? Do you know anyone who isn’t in your church or employed by another church?

These are just thoughts running through my head and things I’m thinking about as I try to live faithfully.

Your thoughts? Am I off-base?


Posted on June 2, 2011

  • I think this is a great observation. It seems to me that sometimes when we "pursue" it can come across that we're only interested converting them, or getting them to church, or their salvation. It's much more sincere when we can show that we're actually interested in them, as a person, and care about them more than "winning another one for Jesus."

    Don't get me wrong, I think think evangelism is important. But I think FAR too often, those in ministry are more consumed by the pursuit than the person.

  • Tony Myles

    I like the thoughts here, but not at the expense of the "Go" mandate from Jesus. What you effectively point out is that "Go" cannot exclude "With" and "Be," however we cannot leave pursuit for invitation, nor invitation for pursuit.

    As atheists often point out, if we really believe what we say we do we should exasperate ourselves to share Jesus with them. The challenge, of course, is to not exasperate them.

    • I"m not sure I'd say that Go and pursue are the same thing. Are you suggesting that they are?

  • I have struggled with this big time. A few years ago I read "Now, Discover Your Strengths" and took the 'Strengthfinder test" to discover I had "WOO: Winning Others Over." Ever since hearing that phrase, it has played mind games with me and I have struggled with pursuing people as a means to my own glory, of "me" winning "them over. Thanks for the reminder to invite folks into an intimacy I'm experiencing with my Father instead of treating them as prey. I'm a youth pastor and volunteer Young Life leader and keep a blog (www.YoungLifeLeaderBlog.com) and I plan to process some of these thoughts over there and reference folks in ministry back to this post. Thanks! Drew Hill

  • Joel

    well said Tony……….

  • I like this. I'm all for going, but what are we called to do when we go it the root of the conversation to me. I'm not sure I see Jesus calling us to pursue others in the way most of us often think. Going to disciplize as it says in Matt 28 is a call to do life with others in the way of Jesus. Inviting them into this life to the fullest kind of life.
    Maybe It's just me, but I'm having trouble recalling a time when Jesus pursued someone else in the way the church often talks about pursuit.
    help me out?

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