J.C. Hoekendijk has numerous penetrating things to say about evangelism in a post-Christendom context. Not one to soften anything he says, this quote, like so many others of his has a bit of a strong edge to it:
Traditional method of evangelism generally presupposed the existence of Christendom, of the corpus Christianum. Wichern, the father of the Home Mission movement in Germany, provided the classic formulation of this idea: the task of evangelisation is the winning back of the masses in Christendom that have fallen under the power of sin, and are no longer reached by the ordinary methods of the Church’s working. The presupposition that we are working in the Christian world has given its character to all our idea of evangelistic work. It was a work of winning people back. Its aim was to bring back to people’s memory something that they already knew.
There is a fundamental similarity between the methodology that Hoekendijk describes here and the entire tradition of American Protestantism, which, historically is based in the tradition of revivalism. Both the first and second Great Awakenings were predicated on this notion. In both cases there was something there, immanent within the cultural complex that could be awakened and revived.
Hoekendijk goes on, in talking about evangelism in a post-Christendom context, however:
Since Christendom in that sense no longer exists, such a method of working no longer has any significance. In many parts of the world, we find ourselves in that which is in effect a non-Christian society. Here new experiments have to be tried, and in these the mission field can give much guidance. Many of the new evangelistic experiments which have been made in this No-Man’s-Land shew remarkable similarity of structure. The pattern of work of these new methods may be summarised as follows: to make clear the meaning of the word of proclamation (kerygma) by means of a life lived in fellowship (koinonia) and finding its expression in simple service (diakonia).
This strikes at the heart of so much of what Hoekendijk has to say about the nature of the church and/as mission in the modern world. What is central for any theology of the the church’s missionality is this notion of comprehensive shalom, which finds expression in the threefold pattern of kerygma, koinonia, and diakonia. Most of Hoekendijk’s work centered on exploring different methods of instantiating and embodying these ecclsio-missional qualities, in fact for him, they server as the very definition of the church as the sign of God’s kingdom.