We recently discussed evangelism and it's role in the church in class. I thought it was a full discussion and really cool. we used William Abraham's book "The Logic of Evangelism" as a starting point.
The book was written in ’89 and 20 years later, it’s still really relevant and brings up some great questions and problems with certain models and definitions of evangelism.
The most common definition is Evangelism as pure proclamation. the pro's of this style is that it is not results based and allows the work of God to happen. namely that if people don't listen, the evangelical would just knock the dust off his or her shoes and continue on just as in Matt 10:1-16. however, the problems here out weigh the pros as it dismisses the idea of the MAKE disciples of all nations command that implies a bit of formation. there is a disconnect between the ideas of preaching and teaching and tends to emphasize preaching as in "crazy street corner guy" like Brother Jed.
The Pirate did a great job on articulating the difference between Evangelism and Proselytizing in this post.
Another definition of Evangelism is using certain techniques or methods of church growth. This approach is cool cause it values insights of Social Sciences and looks to what people are doing in context. There's an emphasis to the here and now and not to the 'great beyond' and a practical approach. however, the downside is that many church growth leaders, namely the mega-church pastors, have become pretentious concerning what they have achieved. Growth has led to some questionable things including: Harvest theology, theological disarray, shallowness and indifference.
Yet Abraham proposes that evangelism is an initiation into the Kingdom of God. It's actively seeking participation that is communal, intellectual, moral, experiential, operational, and disciplinary. It does not seek to simplify complex things so that they are easily handled. it involves formation and communal action and individual responsibility.
I enjoyed our reading of this book and the in class discussion. so often Christians throw around Evangelism without thought to what it means. it was helpful and i would like to put my own two cents in here.
At Trinity, there is a sign that hangs in Nancy’s office that says “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” Like Harvey Milk stated at the top, I'm here to recruit you. Like an apple tree, my purpose here isn't to produce apples, it's to produce another apple tree.
wait, wait... did I just recently write on Sabio's blog that i'm not here to convert anyone? right! well, isn't that contradictory to what you just wrote in the paragraph above? no, let me explain:
An apple tree drops a ton of apples in the hopes that they will be eaten and the seed will be spread around. I have a diverse set of readers here and they are reading my dribble and considering it and responding to it both negatively and positively. each discussion helps both people sharpen their own views and become a better person within their own tradition. if a reader meets another person who has similar thoughts that are expressed here, it is my hope to be networked with. i want to change the image of a monolithic Christianity. i want ppl to get the idea that there are other types of Christians out there than the pop-understanding.
if these words jive with someone, it is my hope to be a resource in their journey. but it's not an active conversion experience, it's a passive one. much different than the "by the sword" or "slash and burn" method used by active evangelists. it's organic, based in love, and on the principles of Natural Church Development.
I hope to steer away from the modernist viruses in the church which resulted in conquest and control models, mechanism, analytic reductionism, individualism, organizationalism, and consumerism. i find myself in the "wide-stream" the generous orthodoxy of Christianity and i love it. yet i see the faults certain traditions have. like a river, parts can be too deep, too muddy, too shallow, and some are filled with garbage. should there be some determining ethos to say "this image of Jesus should be in bounds, while this Neo-Nazi Jesus is unacceptable" yes. how can we do that? well, aren't we called to judge a tree by it's fruits. if a particular image causes people to hate their neighbor, why isn't that image out of bounds?
in conclusion to this long rant based on a great class, i would like to say that i'm not here to convert you. i'm here to recruit you to the idea that there are other Christians out there. that maybe you'd like to be a friend to these type of Christians, that there is value to a community like this, that service is a good thing regardless of the grounds for it, and history and tradition is important for followers of various principles, systems, and philosophies. I hope to sprout some new apple trees yet will not be discourage that they aren't Lindon Apples and that's it's okay if there are some Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Sabio's, Jay Bird, John T, Yael, and other types of apple trees out there... or even if they are orange trees. or whatever.