an emotional outburst on evangelism

October 30, 2007

When you get to your fifth year of theological studies at TUKS, you will be doing a course in Faithful Witnesses. And the time has come for us. Now I must way, I went in quite negative, so read whatever I say against that light. It was because of some stuff that happened in the near past, it was also because I came out of an EE3 house, and faithful witnesses didn’t get a very good rating, but most of all, it is because I’m very skeptical about any form of evangelism course. Well, it’s not the first time you might have heard this from the emerging type people?

So this evening I was sitting with Tiaan and Maartje, just chatting away, and we started to try and think about this whole evangelism thing. And this is a couple of thoughts I’m having now.

I think one big problem with evangelism courses is the way they reduce the gospel to one or two elements. If evangelism is sharing the gospel (the euaggelion, see the link please English people, for the Afrikaans people, it’s easier, as evanglisasie is om die evangelie te deel), what does it mean? The early church developed the term gospel to refer to the whole story about Jesus, with all the theology, christology, the narratives, the teachings etc. Mark starts out his gospel (where do you think do this word come from), saying : “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. And everything that follows for the next 16 chapters, and also the other ways of interpreting the Jesus story, Matthew, Luke, John, maybe even some others, that is gospel. It’s not reducible to a 4-point, or a 5-point plan, and also it’s not only communicated by telling the story, but also by becoming part of it and living it.

So, when I was asked what my definition of evangelism is (that is one of the early exercises of Faithful Witnesses), I said that it is “to link people with the Jesus story”. But I guess this still has a lot of working out to do.

Don’t get me wrong, in spite of my critical theology, and in spite of openness to people of differing faiths, I am really positive about linking people with the story of Jesus. But I can see that generally people aren’t that positive about evangelism. Maybe the thing Jim wrote about somewhere in Jim and Casper goes to church, that no one really like to debate people are very true. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m good at debating, I can debate almost anything, but I don’t like arguing about faith, I like to dialog, in all it’s forms, about faith.

Another thing which I think hinders people to talk about the Jesus story, is the fact that we have clouded the story in so much metaphysics, and a specific metaphysical worldview, that we aren’t really comfortable with it. I mean come on, many make is sound something like this:
There is good forces and evil forces, and if you don’t watch out, you’ll be on the side of the evil forces (most of the time non-intentionally), and then you will end up with them in an evil place. This evil place is a place where there is a lot of hot flames but you won’t die, you will suffer and suffer and suffer. You become part of the evil team, by not being in the good team (rocket science?), this happens when you sin, Sin is something that you do against the leader of the good team, God. No, you won’t always know that you have done this, and it won’t always mean that anyone else will be bothered by it, but God will know. So, since all of you are part of the bad team, let’s become part of the good team by saying a sinners prayer, oh, and believing would be good afterwards as well. And then, if you are thankful (since I was a kid I wondered what would happen with those not thankful), you should go do some stuff. Now, this is the lightweight version, many are spicing it up a little with some demons and angels, or the rapture, or some heavy apocalypses about the end of the world within the next 3 years. No, I know that some of these ideas are very dear to people, and don’t get me wrong, they really work for some, but not for all.

I don’t have that mayor issues with the reformed understanding of faith, but I really think we are extremely scared to share this, cause we think it’s crazy. You know, it’s still OK to share this with others that share the churchly worldview, but when it comes to those who really look at things differently… well, it’s only some fanatics, and a few who have been heavily trained in theology, and who have built up this theological system to such an extent that they can answer any possible critique, that really consider this kind of evangelism, the rest of us just don’t like it. And that’s it. And sometimes I wonder, do we really really believe all this? And is this really all that it was about? A gospel of sin management?

Is this the gospel? Why did Mark decide to tell the story of Jesus instead when he wrote the gospel? Why was his theology imbedded so deeply into the way in which he told the story?

It’s obvious that all the well-known evangelistic methods (or styles, or whatever you want to call them) worked at some stage, or with some people. But it becomes problematic when we take the answers that was presented to certain questions, and make them the final answers to all questions. If a certain method worked with a certain group of people, with a certain set of questions, then this do not necessarily mean the same method will be working with a different set of people asking other questions.

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4 Responses to “an emotional outburst on evangelism”

  1. attie Says:

    Cobus.
    I se you like to refer to yourself as part of the emergent movement. I do believe that the emergent movement is contributing in a special way to the church worldwide. I also read quite a few of them. Scott McKnight is a friend of the emergent but also speaks some critique (very friendly) towards the emergent movement. i think you will enjoy reading him as he is discussing one of Brian McClarens books on his blog. The point I actually want to make is that he wrote a post today on evangelism. You can read it here:http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=3029. I think you will enjoy it.

  2. Tiaan Says:

    Hey, struktureer bietjie as jy skryf, dit raak moer ingewikkeld om jou te volg hier na die einde toe. En check jou spelling: daar is ‘n groot verskil tussen ‘mayor’ en ‘major’.

  3. cobus Says:

    ja ja, dis waarvoor mense soos jy en Maryke daar is, om die spelfoute wat die spelchecker nie optel nie uit te wys. Sal try om te onthou, ek wonder altyd oor daai een:-)

    Attie, thanx for the link, used to follow McKnight, but he blog so much, I struggle to keep up.

    No, I will never call myself part of the emergent movement. To some this might seem technical, but I consider emergent to be equivalent with emergentvillage, and I’m not part of that. Yes, I do like Mclaren’s books, Tony Jones’ blog, read some Doug Pagitt, etc etc. But I consider emergent to be an American conversation.

    However, I like the word emerging. I tried to explain how I understand this at the beginning of the year, obviously some ideas might have changed since them.

    I’m more and more starting to realize that what is happening in the “official” emerging/emergent conversations are happening at a lot of other places as well. It’s been happening to some of us long before we heard the terms. And many theologians have been writing about this, long before it became popular and practicalized (my own word I know), by some people in the last 10 years.

    But if anyone want to read something on evangelism, read Transforming Mission p474-488!


  4. […] 2nd, 2007 I got an e-mail with some critique on my outburst on evangelism. Especially my mock-up of the metaphysics with which the gospel are communicated, saying that I’m […]


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