Glory Land: A Memoir of a Lifetime in Church
Zondervan, 175 pp.; $14.99
Lyn Cryderman, formerly an editor with Christianity Today and now associate publisher at Zondervan, appreciates his strict Free Methodist past, some of which he's moved away from. In this book, he wonders candidly and at times poignantly about what's happened to him in the moving, as in this condensed excerpt.
"Like most teenagers of my generation who had spent their lives in church, I was beginning to become ashamed of the faith that I had been given. Part of this had to do with the ways we were encouraged to witness. In addition to the stealth approach that used buttons and gimmicks to trick people into asking about Jesus, we used what would now probably be called "the geek method" of evangelism. That is, our leaders seemed to stay up late devising evangelistic techniques that made Christian kids look like idiots.
One summer between my junior and senior years in high school, our youth group leader announced that we would go to a local resort area and witness. He picked a Sunday afternoon because he knew that was when the largest number of pagans would be at the beach, and because he knew there wasn't much else we could do anyway, it being Sunday and all. If you can visualize this one witnessing event, you will have a fairly representative picture of the way a lot of us were forced to win the world for Christ in the '60s.
Families and groups of young people are swimming and sunbathing and tossing beach balls around in a park by the lake when a church bus shows up and out roll 30 or so kids still in their Sunday-go-to-church clothes. We could not wear bathing suits because we did not believe in swimming on Sunday, and we kept our Sunday clothes on because we were ambassadors of Christ. We gathered in a corner of the park a few yards away from the sandy beach.
Talk about embarrassed. We arranged ourselves two deep in a semicircle facing the beach. When our leader gave us the cue for the first song, I swallowed my nervousness and started singing.
Between songs we would take turns giving our testimonies, and I must say, we were better than I thought we would be. A few curious onlookers wandered over and, to their credit, even politely applauded after each of our songs. After our testimonies, our leader invited any who had questions about Jesus Christ to stick around and "we'll be happy to talk with you."
Up to that point, I was feeling pretty good about getting through this ordeal. But having to mingle with others and talk to them one-on-one about Christianity made my blood run cold.
I looked out over the tangle of tan bodies splashing in the water and wondered why anyone would want what I had. And to be perfectly honest, I wanted what they had: the chance to go swimming on a Sunday without sneaking out to do it. Even though I could be easily spotted in my white shirt and tie, no one came up to me and asked how to get saved. In fact, I secretly hoped no one would ever get saved at these things be cause that would only encourage our youth group leader to do it again. That is a horrible thought for a Christian to think, and I don't know whether to blame our leaders for making us do such foolish things for the gospel or myself for not being willing to do something foolish for the gospel."
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