The prophet Joel speaks of “the valley of decision” and I think it is here that we ought to meet and engage people in our efforts toward mission and evangelism. People who are in valley of decision are considering a new way. They are pondering different options. They are seeking for answers or light or truth. It is at this juncture in life when our friends are open to new possibilities that lie in the Gospel. There may be times when collectively we are in the valley of decision. I remember there being a new questioning after the Twin Towers crumbled and our safe North American world was shaken. But the valley of decision is more often travelled by solitary sojourners. He is struggling as he faces unemployment. She is seeking answers as she watches a friend waste away of illness. A young person seeks to ‘individuate’ but doesn’t know yet who he or she really is. The executive has been climbing the corporate ladder but now wonders if it is leaning against the right wall. All these are in valley of decision though it may seem like being stuck in indecision. These scenarios and millions like them are being played out all around us and we cannot afford to be oblivious! It is in the situations that people are ready to hear the Good News as it is shown as relevant to them. Thousands upon thousands of people are in this valley at any given moment. Writers, who are wiser than I, call this experience “liminality”. It is describe as that space between letting go of the old and latching on to the new. It is the place of change. It is the valley of decision. Liminal is from a Greek root which would translate into English as threshold. People find themselves each day in this liminal space. This place of deciding to let go but not yet firmly decided to latch onto something new. It is here on the threshold that we can best meet and influence people toward decisive Gospel oriented outcomes. If we are waiting for these searchers who are in this liminal space, to come to church for answers, we will be a long time waiting. As I have written earlier the institutional attractional church has already been discounted by 21st Century seekers. But when we engage in incarnational and missional activity, when we meet people as we engage culture in relevant ways, we can meaningfully impact folks in these liminal spaces. That we don’t have opportunities is our shame. I believe that the fields continue, as ever, white unto harvest. But the harvest is in fields not in the church. We find that we engage people most effectively in what are described as ‘third places’. These are places that are not our homes or our work but are places where we feel a sense of belonging and comfort. There are many such places where we can comfortably meet people and if there are not we can create them. This is what incarnational mission is all about. Creating third space is not the goal though. Building trust loving relationships is the goal and third place is a convenient venue. As we build these relationships our friends will share with us their “valley of decision” that is their liminal space where all decisions are made. Through the integrity of our lives and the power of the Gospel people may well consider God as they decide, if not this time then perhaps next time for we can be sure that we will all visit the ‘valley of decision’ again in the not too distant future. In conclusion, let me ask you to be prayerfully sensitive to the liminal spaces your friends are experiencing. Lovingly share the reason for the hope you have. Let’s continue to build trusting loving relationships, finding or creating third places to be homes for our incarnational mission.
The Valley of Decision