Monthly Archives: June 2011

Book 1 – Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism

Carl Medearis is a guy who can frustrate – even make you angry – the first time you meet him. He did that to me when he came to stay in our home and join us for some conversations a few years ago in Cambridge.

It always seemed to me and some of my friends that he was being a little cagy. He wouldn’t answer questions. Kept saying that he didn’t know – even if we asked him basic questions from theology 101. It was annoying – especially in the shadow of the Philosophy Department and Harvard Divinity School.

But Carl’s annoying, cagy way stuck, and what happened in our InterVarsity staff team and the lives of a bunch of grad students was profound. So I’m glad he finally wrote it down.

In truth, Carl isn’t really cagy – he is being completely direct and clear. And the one thing he wants to be most clear about is Jesus. Period. Jesus is all he wants to know and all he wants to talk about. Many of the things that people like Christians and missionaries (both banned words by the way) want to talk about are a distraction and a barrier to…  well…  loving God and loving others.

THINGS I LIKED (and this will be my format for future comments during this reading project):

1. Carl quotes Paul (p. 30) from 1 Corinthians 2:1-3 and this is the text that guides his witness.  Actually, Carl would say that Jesus guides it – this merely explains how. He knows nothing but Jesus and him crucified. The rest sort of follows and he invites the rest of us to join him in doing the same…

2. Knowing nothing but Jesus means his followers don’t need to defend Christendom, its history or its reasons. If it is really all about Jesus, then taking on and defending the religious history of the West (p. 48-55) doesn’t help. Carl tells us not to do it.

3. The tendency to draw a circle that defines insiders & outsiders and to try to persuade people to come inside by thinking the way I do isn’t helpful and it isn’t the way Jesus rolled. Carl opts instead (p. 90) for the invitation Jesus made to his disciples in John 6:60-64 to have him inside us – not everybody liked that idea, even in Jesus’ day!

4. I really like Carl’s stories – if you want to hear more, click on our HGSCF website and scroll down to the talk he gave in the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard in 2005. Imagine forming a discussion group on the Gospels (p. 92) and naming it “What the Hell?” I laughed out loud. On the other hand, his story about following Jesus (Isa) to Basra (p. 132 ff.) left me shaken at the hardness of my own heart.


1. Given his simple focus on knowing nothing but Jesus and speaking only of him I was left wondering how then to make sense of the whole Biblical narrative. Of course, if I ask Carl he might just say, “Gee, I don’t know. But, speaking of Jesus…”

2. Carl’s context in Colorado Springs differs significantly from Cambridge. I understand his interest in drinking coffee and working at Poor Richard’s Bookstore downtown. I tend to agree that this is where Jesus would be hanging out and drinking his double espresso. The question I have is, where is he hanging out here in Cambridge where we all swim in a strange brew that mixes power with fear, academic achievement with posturing and does it all in a manner that my friend Dave Schmelzer calls Grim Drivenness? It isn’t a new question or an academic one for many of us. Where is he and what would it mean to know nothing but Jesus here. Does the way of Jesus look different in Harvard Yard?


An Invitation

I’m doing some reading this summer and hope that others will join me in reading and engaging on some of these books.

In particular, I’m reading books about Jesus.  Books that discuss what people say about Jesus. Books that talk about the things that Jesus said and did.  Books that talk about Jesus in view of our multicultural and spiritually plural world. Books that talk about how to talk about Jesus – Speaking of Jesus.

Some of the books are easy and fun. Some are more challenging. I’m convinced that there are important lessons in each one of these texts. Lessons that may be useful for me personally as well as for how I do my work as a campus chaplain with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Maybe some will be useful to you too?

So here is my invitation… Take a look at the list of books about Jesus and pick one or two or three.  Read them by the date suggested.  And be prepared to share what you learn. I’ll post my own reaction on the blog each week and invite you make your own comments.

In case you’ve just stumbled on this blog, here is some more background on me…

I’m a follower of Jesus and serve as a campus chaplain with graduate students and faculty at Harvard. I’ve been at this for some time, having come to Cambridge in 1983 after seminary. A significant part of my work is advising and organizing Christian fellowships at the graduate and professional schools (HGSCF). Another part of my work is with the Harvard Chaplains and you can read more there.  I’m a fan of U2, and I love how they speak about Jesus.  I’m husband to Tara Edelschick – she has her own great blog: The Homeschool Chronicles. Tara and I have three kids – two boys and a girl – we’re all having a lot of fun!

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