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8 Responses to “Sequencing”

  1. Chris Harness says:

    Great piece!

    Latency can also be called conditioning. It is when the underpinning assumptions of a position or opinion are assumed to be correct.

    For instance, the position “If you do not support large scale social programs then you hate the poor” assumes the only way you can help the poor is by giving them free money.

    This underlying assumption is the poison.

    CS Lewis would advise us to tell stories about and celebrate people who pull themselves out of povery with a little assistance from caring individuals. That would be shalom.

  2. Chris Harness says:

    Gents! Got to thinking about this piece again.

    How does latency or indirect learning impact modern day evangelism? Are these two concepts not at odds?

    What would “latent evangelism” look like, Mike?

  3. Mike Metzger says:

    Chris – you are exactly right: latent faith is at odds with what you righty describe as “modern day evangelism.” There are several reasons.

    First, the idea of “outreach” is the result of few Christians being “in there” anymore – in our center institutions – and able to translate their faith in a coherent manner in the workplace.

    Second, the scriptures view salvation as being “born again.” New birth involves conception, and conception involves impregnation. These are sexual metaphors – not designed to be scintillating but instructive about the nature of evangelism. In a marriage, sex is enhanced when swaddled in love. If a husband aims for sex with his wife, he generally gets less – and it’s less enjoyable. The wife feels used. If the husband aims for love, the sex is generally better and more frequent. Sex is simply one expression of love.

    In the same way, we aim to love our neighbors. We don’t aim to merely impregnate them with the gospel (as is the case in modern day evangelism). We aim to love neighbors and become part and parcel of the institutions they operate in. If love them, impregnation is more likely. Conception is the work of the Spirit. Latent evangelism is not casual about a soul – it is more constructive and just as committed to seeing the lost come to faith. It simply looks beyond the new birth. Children conceived in love and healthy environments fare far better than those conceived in a single sexual transaction.

  4. Thomas Keppeler says:

    I really like your response to Chris’s questions about evang. . . because those are the categories that the church tends to think in (evangelism, outreach, ministry, .reaching out… etc). Latency is not anti-evangelism, yet where is the place for direct verbal witness that we see exemplified in so many places in the NT?

    To help those in church leadership who take seriously the responsibility to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”, we need to understand how what you refer to as “sequencing” helps people translate their faith in a coherent way in the world/context we live in today. Connect the dots if you will from “sequencing” to Jesus words to us to “make disciples”.

  5. Mike Metzger says:


    In the lectionary for the church – the three-year cycle where the church reads through the entire Bible – the Great Commission is coupled with the Cultural Mandate. What’s the connection that the Ancient Church saw? It’s this: the Great Commission (“make disciples”) is a reiteration of the Cultural Mandate (“make culture”). We can’t make disciples apart from making culture, since over 95 percent of our behaviors are enculturated. We are largely unaware of them. Making flourishing disciples requires making flourishing culture.

    Second, the Ancient Church held that we can only believe in what is believable (Augustine for example said this). Culture is what makes things believable (or “plausible,” as Peter Berger puts it). Verbal witness makes sense when the verbal makes sense. If I speak German, most Americans won’t be able to make sense of it – even though what I am saying might be true. Words need context. Culture is context… it frames facts and makes words meaningful.

    You can see that many of our modern dichotomies are artificial. Latency is not anti-evangelism. it simply recognizes that word need context.

  6. Hank Walker says:

    This is my second whole day of perusing this blog, but I’m already enjoying it quite a bit. The subjects have been well thought out and are compelling – thank you! It occurs to me that the dynamic you’ve described as “latency” in your blog, is a somewhat necessary component to any voluntary, and especially intimate, communication. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, provided numerous living examples of the concept. He met needs and “had compassion” in tangible ways. Once he had the undivided attention of those for whom he had taken action, he didn’t have to ask them for a “hearing.” Our overt evangelistic efforts are too often – it seems to me – intended for a recipient unprepared to receive it. Just like the people who walk near an enthusiastic and loud street preacher without really paying attention to what he is saying (although they can’t avoid hearing his voice), many of the people we would evangelize only hear the “noise” of our message. They hear us – they just haven’t listened to us. Evangelism should, in its latent stage, be more akin to wooing a prospective friend or lover than shouting from the housetops. I heard once that Strong was quoted as saying, “95% of God’s will is above the neck.” Instead of using God-given powers of observation (which we would do in establishing any other legitimate relationship), could it be that we add too much mysticism into the mix of what we think we “ought” to be doing in sharing the gospel. The Bible is clear that a positive response to the Gospel is required for redemption. I doubt that the Bible, however, has called us to operate in ways that wouldn’t make sense in any other context. How awkward might it be, for instance, for the object of a young man’s affection if he approached her abruptly and expressed how beautiful he thought she was – doing so before she even knew who he was. If he had already won her affections, however, her heart would soar with the same words from her admirer. Whether we consider our activities as “latent” or something else, the one thing we can’t escape is the need for “community” if we want our evangelism to be effective. People will listen to almost any message from someone who has won their affections – they will listen to almost no one who hasn’t.
    Anyway, it’s getting late, and I feel like I’m starting to ramble a bit. I’ll be looking forward to reading more entries. Thanks, again, for making me think and thanks for a great venue for meaningful discussion.

  7. the irreverent reverend's wife says:

    Wow. Your analogy re conception as a result of love vs. conception as a result of conquest was right on. Always thought American evangelism efforts were so chauvinistic w/ both their “hit lists” militaristic tactics and their seductive bait and switch techniques. Context equals love. Absence of context equals rape, physically and culturally.

  8. Bonnie Buckingham says:

    Love the connections. Made me think of Robert Coles and his teaching of literature to Harvard Medical Students. He understands the power of narrative.

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