Tag Archives: Evangelism

Relationship Building

This British guy gave a sermon at my church the other day…forget his name, but his accent alone gave him far more authority than almost anyone who has occupied that pulpit on a given Sunday.  I don’t know why, but all you need to be able to sell a manure sandwich is a British accent.  In that event, I’ll buy it off you, no questions asked.

All kidding aside, it really was a wonderful sermon, for the most part.  The whole thing was an encouragement to get us to take better advantage of the opportunities we get to share Christ more with non-Christians.  That subject is very near and dear to my heart, for a lot of what we get from secular society, and sadly, other pastors and other Christians, amounts to an excuse to keep the light under a bushel.  Seems like we rarely talk about sharing Christ these days, preferring to focus on more popular and sexier subjects, like…well…sex. 

Not that the latter subject shouldn’t be talked about, not that we are past that–our culture makes it necessary that such a subject be addressed aggressively and often–it’s just that if you were to go by the amount of time a particular topic gets addressed, you’d think that having great sex is a more central Bible message than sharing Christ’s salvation with the lost.  This particular sermon, therefore, was quite welcome.

His points were great, two of which I especially remember: most of the best opportunities (to share one’s faith) come as unwelcome interruptions, and most of the best opportunities come once you’ve won the right to be heard.  Yes.  I’ve let quite a few opportunities slip by myself because they were “unwelcome interruptions” to my agenda.  The opportunity didn’t fit my feelings and desires (ie, I didn’t feel like sharing at the time), so I let it slip by.  And: if you don’t walk the walk, as they say, you will get zero opportunities, and make great effort to really “get into people’s lives,” taking a genuine interest in them, rather than just keeping to yourself all the time…that was the jist of the second point.

At this point, however, I do need to interject a bit.  The problem with that last point isn’t that it’s somehow unbiblical or false…it’s that many soft American churchgoers will subtly turn it against the first point, making it into an excuse to let many opportunities pass them by. 

I see this happen all the time, and I hear people recommend this way of thinking a lot: when an opportunity arises, many folks let it pass by in the name of “building a relationship first” with that person.  Many more also fail to create opportunities themselves (that *is* a biblical thing to do, by the way…read Acts.  Many of those episodes were at the disciples’ initiative.), thinking they always have to get to know somebody extensively first.

When has enough “relationship building” taken place, anyway?  A few months?  A year?  Five, ten years?  I’ve seen instances before where the “needed” amount is always and forever on the horizon, just a little ways away.  “Not wise to share with my friend just yet.  Yes, I’ve known him since childhood, but I still need to ‘build a relationship’ with him so I can ‘win the right to be heard.'”

I’ve seen other instances where a person is building a relationship with a friend/coworker/whatever, and said friend/coworker moves out of the Christian’s life, without the Christian ever taking a step to share.  He was so focused on building the relationship in order to avoid rejection, that he never actually got around to sharing.  The “relationship building” got in the way of a great opportunity.

I just gotta call it: this whole “building relationship first” thing is, too many times, an excuse.  Our agenda is to avoid rejection, so when an opportunity arises to share that might potentially get in the way of that agenda (notice I said “potentially.”  Many times it is an unfounded fear), we baptize our agenda in spiritual language and biblical concepts in order to avoid exposing ourselves to risk.  A legitimate principle, that of living in such a way so as to not damage your witness, gets turned into an excuse.

So I’ll just say it: you don’t always have to “build relationship” for some vague, undefined time first before speaking of Christ.  If you get the opportunity, just take it.  And don’t be afraid to take the initiative and broach the subject yourself either.  Yes, here and there you might need to be quiet…but, I dare say that those instances are far fewer in number than we make them out to be.

Once, when someone asked him about building relationships with non-believers first, I heard a fellow evangelist say “oh yes, I’m all about building relationship.  Sometimes, when I’m in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I build a relationship for up to a *full minute* before sharing with someone.”

I think he’s got the right idea.

Powerless Pulpits

Preach it:

Becoming a Three Thirds Disciple

My friend Brett Kunkle, who works for apologetics organization Stand to Reason, recently sent me his newsletter.  I’m going to quote some of it to you, for it highlights something about the role of apologetics in disicpleship that people often miss.

A bit of background: oftentimes when Brett speaks to Christians in high school and to youth pastors, he first poses as an atheist to the crowd.  They don’t know he’s really a Christian, so he engages them and slowly picks apart their faith.  He “comes out” later and walks them through the challenges, but his main goal in doing the posing is to wake the audience up to their need to learn how to defend their faith.  Most can’t do it very well.  Most can’t do it at all.

On to the letter:

It was eighty against one.  Not good odds, but when I role-play an atheist with the typical Christian students, I like my chances.  But these weren’t students.  They were adults.  And not just any adults, but Christian leaders on the East Coast.  Pastors, youth pastors, parachurch leaders, school teachers, and administrators.

I launched in to my “Why I’m not a Christian” arguments.  Debate quickly followed.  From the start, a number of adults appealed to their experience of the Holy Spirit–“I know God is real because I’ve experienced His Spirit.”  I quickly shot back, “How do you know that’s really God?  Mormons say the same thing.  Do you think they’re experiencing God as well?”

One man in particular was emphatic.  “I just know it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to me.”  He tried to bolster the argument, declaring God had spoken to him through the Bible as well.  I responded with a typical atheist challenge.  “The Bible tells us that God spoke to Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his son.”  Then I looked him in the eye and questioned him, “If God asked you to kill your son, would you do it?”  He joked about his son sitting there next to him, but he could not answer the challenge.

In fact, there were only two leaders out of those 80 who gave me real trouble during the exchange.  The first, a youth pastor, launched into the moral argument for God’s existence.  I tried to take the “morals are determined by society” route, but he calmly pinned me down.  The second, a deacon and Sunday school teacher, offered a design argument, articulating Michale Behe’s argument from irriducible complexity.  I quickly changed topics.

 

Brett goes on in the letter to reveal that both men had included thinking skills training in their discipleship to Christ: both made extensive use of the training materials from Stand to Reason.

Then, Brett continues:

Later, the man who claimed he just knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking to him approached me.  He wanted my help.  “My son, sitting next to me, is doubting everything.”  Then he burst into tears.  Embarrassed, he grabbed my arm and pulled me around the corner.  As he wept bitterly, his son’s story emerged.  A bright kid, grew up in a Christian home, led friends to the Lord, on fire for Christ, even preached in their church.  But now, he questioned it all.  He begged me, “Will you talk to him?  Please, will you talk to him today?”

After my final teaching session, the son approached me, quickly launching into a laundry list of objections to Christianity.  A lenghty conversation ensued, covering topics like objective moral truths, utilitarian ethical theory, Kant’s categorical imperative, retributive justice, divine hiddenness, intelligent design, and the experience of the Holy Spirit.  From the conversation, I guessed he was a graduate student in philosophy.  Wrong.  He was a high school senior.

His objections boiled down to this:  “I’ve been taught that Christianity’s truthfulness is confirmed by my experience.  I am no longer having powerful Christian experiences.  In addition, I’m reading arguments against Christianity.  I now wonder if it’s rational for me to remain a Christian.”  He had just rehearsed his father’s argument for Christianity…and its shortcomings.

I listened, offered thoughts to reframe his view of Christianity’s truthfulness, put personal experience in its proper place, and introduced him to apologetics.  He thanked me and we parted ways.

He ends by making a request to pray for the young man.

Brett’s letter underscores a few important things.  First, the Christian worldview has the resources to answer the objections and questions that are posed to it, but few believers are actually even partially equipped to grasp and communicate those resources.  Brett’s experience of the majority in the Church that he recounts in this letter is pretty standard for him. Just think: these were not youth group kids, but adult leaders.  When pressed, the only resource all but two of them fell back on boils down to a certain felt experience.  That is a biblical part of the life of the Christ follower, but it is of little help when doubts from within and challenges from without come…and both of those will come.

Secondly and relatedly, when we as the Church fail to value the life of the mind, we leave our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ naked and defenseless against the harsh winters of doubt, and we leave non-believers (those who are not easily persuaded by an appeal to a felt experience–which is most non-believers, I’d think) with nothing to grasp onto but “I know because I know because I know.”  Brett’s conversation with the high school senior bears this out.  Seriously, how is that valuing and loving them?  There are lots of smart folks outside the church.  When we have nothing to appeal to but the experience of the Holy Spirit, does that take their intellect seriously?  If we truly love them, the least we can do is prepare ourselves to be able to walk them through the answers to some of their nagging questions and doubts.

All this reminds me of a friendship I had with a colleague at my former school.  We talked about questions and objections to Christianity often (he was an agnostic) in the same manner that Brett talked with the young man.  After a few years, one day my friend remarked to me how satisfying it was to be able to talk to me intelligently about such things.  I was the only Christian in his life he could do that with.  Though the compliment meant a lot to me, I had a certain sadness in my heart: I was the only one?

Thirdly, I know many shy away from training their minds because they think that it’s somehow unChristlike and they view it as combative.  Visions of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly quickly pop into their heads, and they say, “no thanks.”** 

But apologetics need not be like that.  Used properly, it is conversational and relational.  The conversation Brett engaged in was natural.  I know the guy: he doesn’t walk around with a Evidence that Demands  a Verdict holster, and he doesn’t have a belt of William Lane Craig bullets strung across his chest.  He’s normal.  Furthermore, because he has trained his intellect, he can confidently converse with any non-believer, whether he be seeker or skeptic, full-time professor or full-time mom.

If you have nothing but an experience to stand upon, consider devoting your intellect to Christ too.  You need not get a phd in philosophy, though that’d be nice.  All you gotta do is…do something.  You can begin here.

**That’s not to put down either man; it’s just that many would rather not be so aggressively combative, and the two men fit the stereotype.

Quote of the Day

“Saying ‘Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words’ is like saying ‘tell me your phone number, and if necessary, use digits’ “~ J.D. Greear

I got into a bit of a row on Facebook about this one on Sunday.  St. Francis’ saying (“preach the gospel at all times.  If necessary, use words), is quite popular today.  Regardless of what St. Francis meant by it, many today use it to subtly drive a wedge between words and actions.  An undercurrent of the quote is that words aren’t necessary to “preach” the gospel.  Some pastors even use it to quietly discourage their congregation from sharing the gospel message with proclamation and discussion.  This, however, is neither biblical nor practical.

Think about it: did Jesus, the apostles, John the Baptist, the Church Fathers, or any New Testament or early church player live by this mantra?  One glance at the Bible and church history will tell you “no!”  They all used both in tandem, and they used them often.  What’s more, they took the initiative.  They didn’t keep silent for months and years and wait for someone to say “hey, there’s something different about you.”  They were up front and vocal about the saving message, in addition to doing good works.

Practically speaking, most folks, whether they go to church or not, aren’t going to “hear” the gospel just from your actions–if we define “action” as it is defined through the common modern-day interpretation of the St. Francis quote. If you just “live out the gospel with action” like that–say, you serve at a soup kitchen, do an AIDS walk, volunteer your time for troubled youth, etc–folks are more likely to think you are a Mormon than a Christian. Most Mormon folks I know are just that way–very nice, incredibly moral and loving, but not too keen on talking about Jesus/religion/spirituality with non-Mormons…they aren’t even that keen on talking about Joseph Smith (unless they are on their mission).

In short, “how will they *hear*, without someone *preaching* to them?” I know the word “preaching” is a 4 letter word today, but so what? Some might insist that you can preach or proclaim without words, but let’s get real.  Don’t even try to water down the meaning of that term to make it sound like doing social good works *alone* (key word…I’m not bashing on good works) is preaching.

Others will misconstrue my point by responding, “if you don’t back up your words with actions, your words are meaningless.”  This is true, but my point isn’t that actions aren’t necessary–they are. All those examples I gave above are excellent, God-honoring, and praiseworthy.  My point is that words are equally as necessary. One ought not split the two, and that’s what many try to do with St. Francis’ words.  Saying that words and actions are both important really shouldn’t be that controversial, but for some reason, it is so hard for many folks to simply admit.

Tebow and the “Despicable Doctrine”

Tim Tebow is the source of much commentary in the sports world, for a number of reasons.  Most often the commentary is praise and adoration.  But this was not the case in USA Today a few weeks back.

football-prayer-4

courtesy of markdroberts.com

 

Tom Krattenmaker, author of a new book, Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers, leveled some pretty heavy critique at the very evangelical Tebow and others in his theological camp:

 

Anyone who watches pro and college football or follows the drama of the baseball playoffs can’t help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion.

 

Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. (See University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his eye-black, touting Scripture.)  These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.

 

So far so good.  If he were merely commenting on the fact that many of these displays are hypocritical (Barry Bonds, anyone?), or superficial, he’d have my sympathy.  I’d agree entirely if his  commentary was focused on how many players, when they pray, merely ask for the win, erroneously citing Phil 4:13 for support.

 

But he focuses on something other than that: the exclusivity of the Gospel message touted by many Christian athletes.  He acknowledges that these athletes have a right to express their faith, but, somewhat paradoxically, thinks it is time we remove the exclusive claims of what he calls a “far right theology”:

But Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to “everlasting punishment separated from God.”

 

Urban Meyer, Tebow’s coach at Florida, has praised his quarterback’s faith-promoting ways as “good for college football … good for young people … good for everything.” Such is the rhetoric usually heard from those who defend sports-world Christianity as wholesome and harmless.

 

But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as “our team” — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?

 

…If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong.

…It’s not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.

 

After noting that Tim Tebow does missionary work for his father’s ministry, which adheres to a “far right theology” (Should I point out that such beliefs are hardly far right?  For the whole  of Christian history, they have been smack dab in the center, hardly considered controversial in the Church.  Perhaps Krattenmaker’s loaded language is misplaced, then?)  that Christ is the only doorway to salvation, Krattenmaker concludes:

 

Certainly, Tim Tebow must be applauded for the good he does working on his father’s missions, but he should be seen, too, as one who promotes a form of belief that makes unwelcome judgments about everyone else’s religion. Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving Jewish kids and parents, for example, or by champions for interfaith cooperation, when adored sports figures like Tebow use their fame to push a Jesus-or-else message.

 

The irony is lost on Krattenmaker.  In taking Tebow and his fellow evangelical believers to task about saying “everyone else is wrong,” Krattenmaker foists himself on the same petard.  That is, he’s a pluralist–all roads lead to God, and every (or most) religion(s) is (are) right for each individual.  The Jew’s path is right for him.  The Muslim’s path is right for him, and so on.
Sounds nice, but what him and many others don’t realize is that by taking exception with conservative evangelicals, he is saying that “if someone disagrees with my belief (in pluralism), they are wrong.”  While Moral Therapeutic Deists (more on Moral Therapeutic Deism in youth) in America might hold to pluralism in like manner, he unwittingly pits himself against the majority of  the world.   According to  Islam, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.  Jesus is not the King.  Jews are in error, etc, etc.  According to Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah.  They think Christians are wrong.  Same for much of the Hindu and Buddhist world–they’ll balk big time at many of Jesus’ statements.  Even if you listen to a follower of B’hai, you’ll hear exclusivistic statements left and right–they think they’ve got it right (that all the leaders of the big religions are prophets) and evangelical Christians/Muslims/orthodox Jews are wrong!  That’s a big chunk of the world right there.

 

Krattenmaker thinks he’s right–otherwise, why would he be writing the column chastising the likes of Tebow–and evangelical Christians are wrong.  Period.  Why is it that when he takes that stance, he’s just right, but when Tebow et al take the very same stance in regard to their beliefs, they are suddenly intolerant?

 

As one commenter noted:

 

Ah! So it’s just the conservative brand of Christianity that needs to receive condemnation for being divisive. Why? You don’t think that liberal Christian theologians think that they have a more accurate summation of Christianity? Islam? Hinduism?

 

Face it: truth by nature is exclusive.  When you say something is right or true, that means its opposite is false…can’t get around that.  Why is Krattenmaker so sensitive to that when those he disagrees with point that out, but he’s ok with his theologically like-minded friends standing upon that principle?  His sensitivity to the nature of truth is popular, but odd.  Imagine if I said, a la Krattenmaker above, “Let’s not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving evangelical kids and parents, for example, or by champions for Chuck Colson’s prison ministries, when adored sports writers like Krattenmaker use their fame to push a pluralism-or-else message.”

 

My message to Tom K: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

 

What’s more, I don’t know why he thinks its important that a majority of what he calls “Christian” Americans agree with him.  Since when have numbers mattered in determining what is true?

 

You might think I’m making the same error when I talk about the majority of the world disagreeing with Krattenmaker, but my point is different: it is ironic that he takes to task those who are narrow in their theology when his own theology is narrow by his own definition.

 

Perhaps I’m not being wholly charitable to him.  Maybe his problem isn’t with the exclusivity of evangelical claims (though much of his column does suggest that), but with the preaching on hell: those who don’t believe in Jesus go to hell.

 

I can see how this doesn’t make sense to a pluralist.  Many well-meaning Christians, in an attempt to stand for their beliefs, awkwardly defend and explain this part of Christianity.  Put the way it is–if you don’t believe in Jesus, you go to hell–doesn’t make much sense to the typical non-believer.  It sounds as if a few sincere errors on a theology quiz can condemn a person to hell, regardless of behavior or the state of his heart.

 

But when one considers our natural state as rebels against God, and when one considers the depth of our rejection of God and the serious nature of our rebellion, the belief makes more sense.  We aren’t good (you’ll need the following to view the link: ID–pugnacious  PW–irishman): our problem isn’t a few errors on a quiz.  Rather, we don’t bring a clean resume before God–we bring a lengthy rap sheet.  Our moral crimes have earned us not God’s gifts, but His judgement.  This goes for those in the West and the East.  But God, in His love for us, graciously provided us amnesty.  The thing is, since we’ve offended God, forgiveness is on His terms, not ours, and His terms are through Jesus.  We should be grateful that He provides a pardon at all, not offended that He provides an infinite number of possible pardons that suit our tastes.  It is us in the dock, not Him.

 

If Krattenmaker still has a problem with this, then I suggest he take it up with Jesus, not Tebow.  It is Jesus who spoke of hell and God’s judgment more than anyone in the Bible, and Tebow is merely faithfully communicating the message of his Sovereign.

 

Lastly, I suggest conservative Christians take note.  We have been accused of being intolerant for our beliefs for some time now.  Actually, Jesus and His disciples got the same treatment.  As Albert Mohler points out, things will only continue to go in this direction:

 

You can count on seeing these same arguments appear anywhere evangelical Christians express their faith in public or within ear-shot of those who may be offended. The belief that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation is now at the very center of secular outrage.

 

Consider this: Tom Krattenmaker ransacked the website of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association in order to find the statement that caused him to criticize Tim Tebow as espousing “a far-right theology.” The outrage directed at Tim Tebow is not just about a Bible reference written in eye-black. The outrage is directed at the sincerely-held beliefs of a young man and an evangelistic association.

 

Tom Krattenmaker suggests that Tim Tebow should adopt a “more generous conception of salvation.” And now we all know the price of being seen as “more generous.” Just abandon the Gospel.

 

I am confident that Tim Tebow will withstand this pressure. He has shown enough theological maturity and strength of conviction to earn that confidence. But, we have to wonder, how many others will fold under the intimidation?

I echo Mohler’s encouragement: it is my hope that conservative Christians buck up and refuse to be intimidated by the passive-aggressive “secular outrage.”

Not Karma, but Grace

Last night as my wife and I were walking to Kinko’s, a homeless young man was sitting on the sidewalk.  He looked up and asked, “can you all spare some change for me?”

 

My policy is not to give money out to homeless persons.  Too often it is abused, so many times it functions as an enabler for a destructive habit.  I prefer to give the person food, help to a shelter, and a some conversation, even if only for a moment.  This is what I did with the young man, who happened to be named Justin.

 

My wife and I went into Wahoo’s, bought a taco meal and a drink, and gave it to Justin.  As we were getting a bit of his story from him, he expressed his thanks.  I just mentioned that there was One who has helped us out (referring to Jesus…I should have just said the Name), and we only wanted to extend a bit of that to him.

 

He took it as a reference to karma.  “Oh sure,” he joyfully said, “everyone needs a little karma.”

 

This was a wide open opportunity to explain the point of grace to him.  It turned out to be an opportunity that I didn’t fully grasp (I’m afraid I’m a bit timid and often not very quick on my feet in situations like this.), for all I could manage was, “oh no, I’m not talking about karma.  I’m talking about grace, something we don’t deserve.  God changed our lives because of his grace, and I’m thankful He didn’t give us what we deserve.”

 

It was late and we needed to get home, so after a few more moments, we said our goodbyes and went on our way.  I couldn’t help but reflect on the small divine opportunity, though.  It was a poignant reminder to me that God has given my wife and I exactly what we don’t deserve, and it’s a good thing.  I’m not just talking about a decent living, good relationships, and a meaningful job.  I’m talking about the blessing of being adopted into His family through Christ in the first place.

 

If God operated by the law of karma, we’d get nothing but wrath and hell, for that is what we deserve.  Far from being pointless groveling in the mud, this is simply a recognition that my wife and I were both, at one time, rebels in arms against God, and the wage such treason earns isn’t a happy eternity.  We ran from Him, not to Him.  Sure, we did good things, but due to the fact that we had quite a rap sheet account of breaking God’s law, this “resume” was spiritually meaningless to God as a used menstrual rag is to a courtroom judge.

 

Sometimes we both are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but one quick comparison to the Ten Commandments cures us of all that.  We fail miserably every day.  While this has gotten better since we bent the knee to Christ, we still fall woefully short every day of the week.  This isn’t just mere breaking of useless rules either; such a lifestyle leaves lives hurt and God’s creation marred.  This was sobering…it still is sobering.

 

But God (the two most beautiful words  in Scripture) lavished His love and grace upon us, forgiving our debt to Him and bringing us into His family.  As I said earlier, thank God, not for karma, but for grace.

 

To those that are fellow adoptees, I hope this spurs you on to greater love and good deeds to your fellow human beings.  For those that have not yet taken God’s offer of adoption, I hope and pray that this motivates you to grasp a hold of God’s offer while it still stands.

An Incredible Opportunity

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with a kid who is thinking about quitting his sport.

 

This young man is a devout Christian; he goes to and/or leads several church and youth functions.

 

One of the points I made to him was that his sport is a ministry; it is an incredible sphere of influence.  “Look at your teammates,” I said.  “They are in need of Christ.  Share the gospel with them and talk to them about Jesus!  If you quit, you won’t have that opportunity.  Sport is an incredible platform for the gospel because there’s something about bleeding and sweating with your teammates that bonds you and brings you close.  You can, of course, still share with them if you quit, but you won’t have the same respect and authority.”

 

His eyes kind of lit up when I said that.  I wonder how many times he’s heard that before.  Probably not many.  I haven’t yet heard it in any of the messages that have been given at the one student Christian group I attend.  I’ve heard about “hurting God’s feelings,” but not about talking about Jesus.

 

This reminds me of what commenter Tim said the other day in reaction to one of my posts:

 

I agree that talking to people about salvation through Jesus Christ is important, but do you think you might be working with a narrow definition of evangelism. By calling it ‘evangelism proper’ and referring to this as the act of talking to people about your religious convictions I think you miss the wider meaning of what evangelism is. I think we could agree that the word evangelism comes for the Greek word euangelion or good news. The good news Jesus says he came to proclaim in Luke 4 says nothing about belief or faith or doctrinal convictions. Instead he speaks of release of captives, blind people seeing and the downtrodden freed (sounds a lot like social justice to me).

 

All I’m saying is I think it’s a both/and kind of situation. Unfortunately the majority of traditions have chosen to major in either one or the other and not both.

 

I can certainly agree with Tim in the last paragraph.  It’s a both/and.  That’s what I’ve been arguing a lot lately.  In a certain sense, I can also agree with the first paragraph.  The problem is that in the church’s effort to embrace a wider definition of “missional,” it is very, very easy to leave the “talking about Jesus” part out.  It’s unpopular.  It’s just not sexy.  People will speak ill of you and regard you as slightly annoying.  Many in church leadership, who are trying to bring the Church a little positive PR, might subconsciously drop that and still think, “hey, we are sharing the gospel.”

 

Speaking and proclaiming and dialoguing about our sin problem and *the* solution Jesus offers (the only adequate solution!) is not sufficient…but it is necessary.

 

Yes, in Luke 4 Jesus might focus on the “social gospel” and might speak little or nothing of doctrinal convictions and such and salvation by faith, but both Him and His apostles do elsewhere all over the place.  That needs to be emphasized.

 

My point is not that we should dump the “freeing the downtrodden” part.  My point is that we need to correct the imbalance and emphasize sharing our Savior via proclamation more.  If we don’t, we’ll be missing an incredible opportunity, just like the young man above.