Article 06 | Evangelism
I don’t know how your theology works, but if Jesus has a choice between stained glass windows and feeding starving kids in Haiti, I have a feeling he’d choose the starving kids in Haiti.
How can we make disciples who make disciples?
Should we have home churches or buy sports arenas?
The current question within Christianity of whether the church should be attractional or missional in its Evangelism is well intentioned yet misinformed. From the example of Jesus, we are to be both and yet more. The New Testament consistently shows Christ using the occasion of His teachings, exorcisms, and healings to “attract” people to the Gospel of the Kingdom. In addition, the “mission” He gave his disciples was to make more disciples of Him wherever they went, throughout the entire world.
Yet, even this is not the whole story. The picture of Evangelism Jesus provides in the Gospels of “the way” is far more organic, one of light mixing with darkness, one of salt that is flavored by God mixing with the staleness of the world under the control of sin and death. Thus, as people who are learning to turn from sin and become disciples of Jesus, we individually and corporately blend into the ordinary fabric of existence, into the structures that create and uphold society and culture such as commerce, media, education, and the arts. In so doing, we model, proclaim, and invite people to the way of Jesus and bring the good news of the kingdom of God to a world that is searching for hope, or may in fact may have given up on hope long ago. This is Evangelism as lived and taught by Jesus.
In contrast, if we set aside this organic, salt flavoring, and leaven adding way that Jesus taught and lived we find ourselves confused and frustrated as we shuffle between methods that either don’t create disciples or that create disciples that don’t resemble Jesus in their style of life. We tend to arrive at these results via three similar models of Evangelism.
The first model is the attempt to evangelize our surrounding society by becoming one with the culture and it’s popular trends. This way forces us to abandon Jesus’ specific teachings and way of life, in favor of the current culture and it’s own way.
The second model is the rejection of the good and appropriate cultural elements that God has created for the benefit of human life. We do so, in an effort to remain unstained by the world and in a well-intentioned attempt to provide an alternative way of living to the world that is biblical. Unfortunately, by rejecting culture to this degree, we betray Christ’s engagement with the world on its terms and in the process we become sectarian to such an extent that we’re irrelevant to the world at large. The result is that we become a cultural and religious oddity that provides little significance to the world it inhabits or even to ourselves.
The third common way of error is rejecting the society and culture we inhabit because it isn’t “Christian”. We then attempt to make non-disciples, “act Christian” by working through the established governmental structures to create laws that demand it. By embracing this method, we easily become mean, angry and self-righteous people who are encouraging people to follow Jesus but are unintentionally driving people away through the medium of coercion which Jesus profoundly taught against in Matthew 7: 1-12.
The balance of Evangelism we’re advocating and the tension that comes with it is one that all Christian communities since the first have wrestled with. The essential point is this that we are to model and give witness to the kingdom of God and do so in such a way that the medium of sharing the good news, doesn’t conflict with the character of God, his kingdom or his message of reconciliation, regeneration, healing and life.
Recommended Reading: The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. Resident Aliens and Where Resident Aliens Live by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.