Well, I am back. Actually, I’ve been back in the great and wonderful land of Oregon since last Saturday, but couldn’t resist extending my blogging seista a bit longer. But now I am truly back.
The question that’s been recently on my mind is that of evangelism. This is currently a topic that my congregation is exploring, mainly with a view towards figuring out how our common life can be turned towards evangelism. Now, part of what makes any sort of discussion of this topic difficult is the sordid conceptual mess that obtains in most western churches that strongly emphasize “evangelism.” In broad strokes I think most Christians assume to quickly that they know what evangelism is, and given a rather superficial understanding thereof, find themselves stuttering about oddly constructed tensions between “evangelism and social justice”, or between “being the church” and “being missional”.
In light of some of this I’m going to turn my attention back toward William Abraham’s excellent book The Logic of Evangelism and a handful of other books on theology of mission that I’ve stacked up for the last few years. I’m sure I’ll post more on this topic in days to come, but for the moment let me leave off this discussion with a couple of points and some questions.
The first and most important point I would emphasize is that evangelism is an ecclesial practice. Evangelism is not something that takes place outside the context of the church in which individual Christians (sic) invite non-Christians to establish an individual relationship with Jesus. At the very least our definition of evangelism must emphasize that the Christian practice of evangelism is the action of the Christian ecclesial community in which that cultural body makes itself visible to the cultures of the world and invites persons from those cultures into the culture of the church. Evangelism is about the manifestation and presentation of a different way of being and becoming persons in community.
Thus, my second claim would be that evangelism is fundamentally political. The church is called to be about embodying an alternative cultural reality which centers around the acknowledgement that Jesus alone is Lord. Evangelism is nothing less than the political proclamation that all other claimant to people’s loyalties are false gods and false lords. To practice evangelism then, is a dangerously subversive activity that calls persons away from their bondage to the principalities and powers and into the new life of the church, which is actualized through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Now, here are some questions I would pose:
What is the best way to define evangelism?
How does evangelism relate to the doctrine of the Trinity, particularly the reality of Jesus as the Logos?
What forms of evangelization are appropriate for a post-Christendom church?