Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Light thinking for a Tuesday night...

I've been thinking about the word "evangelism" a lot.

I'm not sure what that means anymore. I've been trying to get past dualistic notions of "spiritual" vs "physical" and other garbage that doesn't have anything to do with the teachings of Jesus. But even when adhering to a holistic gospel, its difficult to define things like evangelism.

I believe I'm part of God's story. I don't think that ended with the canonization of the New Testament. Its perhaps one of the best things Rod has ever taught me--that our stories are just as important as those that were recorded in the Bible. The story hasn't stopped. The story is ongoing. And if I'm part of it, and I tell my story, is that evangelism?

I just don't think any of the definitions of evangelism I was taught growing up making any sense when I read the New Testament. I don't think I can condense the story of God into a tract, read it to someone, expect them to make some telepathic deal with God, and that make a difference. I just don't. I think that talking through the "Romans Road" with someone doesn't do any good but to convince them that you're out of touch with a postmodern society. I think it was probably one of the weirdest, most awkward things I've ever attempted to do in my life. It made no sense. And then I was made to feel guilty if I didn't "evangelize." Like that's what's gonna make the difference in the end of someone's life--whether or not I tried to convince them in an uncomfortable conversation to agree with my statement on belief and God.

I don't know. I think we have a lot of definitions all jacked up. I saw a video the other day where a well known pastor was trying to explain the term "missional." I think he missed it. He missed it by a mile. But a lot of people were talking about how it was such a great explanation.

Perhaps some people just want to co-opt buzzwords. Who knows? Maybe evangelicals will be calling themselves Emergent so as to be cool in ten years. Or perhaps I get too hung up on definitions. Maybe the living and being is more important than the explaining. Or maybe watching LOST tonight has got me thinking too much.


Joe said...

I hear you JD. I understand those conversations are awkward and weird and perhaps out of touch with postmodernism, but what were the Apostles doing in Acts? It seems to me they tell the story of Christ and then urge repentance and belief. If that isn't what we are to do on a personal and corporate level then what are we to do?

In Christ
Joe Hussung

JD said...

There's lots of things we can do. Lots.

I don't think a message of "repent and believe" is the sole purpose of the Church. That's missing the forrest for the trees.

Its not the first century AD anymore. There aren't any of the Apostles hanging around. Things have changed. People have changed. The world is not the same as it was 2000 years ago.

Joe said...

Did I say it was the sole purpose? I just said it was a purpose. And from your post it sounds like you don't think that it is a purpose at all. Perhaps I have misread you. But it seems what you accuse me of you are guilty of the opposite. missing the trees for the forest. If what I have stated isn't what we are to do in evangelism then what it is? And what is the message that we bring?

JD said...

Sorry. I was going off your last sentence: "If that isn't what we are to do on a personal and corporate level then what are we to do?"

I didn't say I had an answer for what evangelism is. That's why I wrote this blog. I'm not sure what it is--but I'm pretty sure what its not. I don't think its meant to be a "6 steps to God" tract. I don't think its knocking on doors of strangers and try to force a conversation. I don't think its talking through the "Romans Road" verses with someone. I don't think its convincing people that they are depraved and in need of a existential transaction with God.

Whatever we do should focus on the fact that we're holistic beings. To borrow a line from CCDA, we should carry a message that "deals with the spiritual, social, economic, political, cultural, emotional, physical, moral, judicial, educational and familial issues of each person."

Joe said...

I agree that the message we carry should deal with all of these issues but I would argue that the message of the Gospel in terms of redemption and reconciliation is a message that includes these issues and the issue of us being depraved and needing to reconcile ourselves to God through repentance and belief. I know of nowhere in the bible that speaks of the reconciliation that is universal in scope that doesn't right on the heals of or right in the middle of it talk about a personal redemption that is given to individual people. i.e Colossians 1:15-23 being the best example. My point is that it is reductionistic to say that evangelism is "6 steps to Jesus" but I would also say that if (and really mean if because I'm not sure if you are excluding the "evangelism" that you grew up on or the methods in which they carry it out) you would say it is only about bringing something other than the message of the gospel in word that too is reductionistic. It is both and. The message of the Gospel is something that affects our relationship with God and with man and with creation.

Sorry about the length

JD said...

My point still stands: I think most of the common concepts of evangelism are pointless. I may be wrong. I'm still wrestling with it.

But, right here, right now, I'm at a point where convincing someone that they're "depraved and separated from God and that all that will be fixed if they telepathically tell God they're sorry and that if they don't they burn forever in hell" makes no sense from a biblical perspective.