May 31, 2009

Evangelical, Non-Evangelistic

Is that so or is that not a contradiction in terms? Either way, I suppose I'm probably only "Evangelical" in theory. That is, I believe in evangelism but I do not tend to urge or practice evangelism. But it occured to me profoundly today that evangelical scholarship is so darn obsessed with refuting unbelievers because it is so, DUH, evangelistic. Well, so am I. Sortof.

I was partly raised on Young Life. I still passionately believe in Lifestyle Evangelism, but I believe it most properly requires a church, not an individual, to lead someone substantially and profitably both towards and into new and everlasting life in the Lord. (Translation: I'm not much into catch and release.) I promised myself fourteen years ago, the moment I find a decent church to be part of, I'll start contributing to evangelism again. Maybe it's my fault that hasn't happened yet (you may well say) but the point is still valid. Without a strong, heatlhy church, what on Earth is there to evangelize somebody TO? It needs to be evidently true that Jesus Christ IS the visible image of the invisible God. That don't happen so often in pews. (At least, certainly not in my experience.) But believe me, I long to bring people - believers and unbelievers - to HIM, in bodily form. I'm not a pure idealist, but the best way to come to the Lord, is through the Church!

Anyway, one happy accident of holding this position is that I wound up spending a decade focused on christians and postponing evangelism. Among other things, that gave me what seems to be a less common position among those attempting to do faith based scholarship. "Hang the Enlightenment. Assume Scriptural details are historically factual. Then just preach to the Choir!" (That's my practical approach, not my complete view of what all christian academics should be about.)

Simply put, I think ONE of the needs we must meet, in order to grow a more well developed body of christ, is to give christians a more well developed view of the New Testament Story.

At any rate, that largely explains how and why I got here. For today, I'll just leave it at that. ;^)

4 comments:

Celucien L. Joseph said...

Hi Bill,
What I understand from what this post is that you conceive evangelism as the task of a "healthy church" and not the responsibility of individual believers, outside of the corporate body (?). And in your former experiences with churches, you have yet to encounter a healthy church, therefore you're always postponing your evangelistic task. Am I correct?

In conclusion (again If I'm reading you correctly), evangelism should not be done by individual believers in Christ, rather in concert with the church they belong to. Therefore, engaging in "personal evangelism" endeavor is a false proposition or statement . What you're advocating is "corporate evangelism," with the "sending church" as its fountainhead.

Please clarify further...

Bill said...

I'm a bit embarrassed I even posted this, actually. But since you asked.

Sure, individuals can lead people to the Lord. I simply believe we best do that by leading them to the Lord in his body. If I knew how to locate the corporate Christ in my part of town, nobody would be more eager than I to point it out to people.

Of course, no church is ever ideal. Half my point was that I admit it's a bit perfectionistic, but it gave me an interesting perspective.

Still embarrassed...

Celucien L. Joseph said...

You're not afraid to hold different perspectives on theological (I know you probably don't like the term "theological") matters, even if you are to stand alone:)

Honestly, I like that about you.

Chris said...

No need to feel embarassed, Bill. I'm glad you mentioned your quandary.

Personally, I'd say you are barking up the wrong tree. Read the works of folk like Luke and Paul and you quickly get a taste of the church in its earliest years. Did outreach depend on having a local gathering to take people to? No!

How about Peter at the house of Cornelius? Cornelius and his entire household believed and received the Holy Spirit. They were baptised and, in fact, became a local gathering.

A pre-existing community of believers is not a prerequisite for evangelism to take place. If you share the good news and someone believes, try meeting with them in their own home for a meal and suggest that they invite friends and family along. Meet with them regularly for Bible study, prayer, and questions until they're established and then visit them from time to time.

It's a natural process. Plant a seed - water it - tend it - and when it's strong enough leave it to do what comes naturally, grow, flower, and produce more seeds for planting.

Over the centuries we have been taught to bring people to the church. Don't do it! Instead, take church to the people. Christ doesn't reside in particular physical locations, he lives in the hearts of his people wherever they happen to be :-)

Besides, I'm glad you've been granted the time, skill, and inclination to pursue church history in a new and refreshing way. That too is valuable!

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