Monday, April 25, 2005

Evangelism as proclamation

On the way home from town today I passed a street preacher, which reminded me about something I had intended to post on after cell last Thursday. I used to get quite cross with these street preachers because I thought it was not a good advertisement for the gospel and was just an awful way to communicate it, as no one really listens. Recently though I have sympathised with them a lot more. My thinking on evangelism solidified a bit during cell last Thursday (which was on personal evangelism). There are a number of possible reasons for this but they no doubt include the following:

  1. My recent history. An incredible frustration post-university that there are so few opportunities to talk to people about God, and that the ways we are always told to do it (living a holy life to provoke questions) are very hard for ordinary sinful human beings. As a former student very influenced by UCCF style Christianity, it is hard to live with people who don’t ask questions like students do. Coupled with this is that God seems to be doing so little in the lives of the non-Christians in my family that I care about so much.
  2. God deserves better. Karl Barth, Lesslie Newbigin, and supremely the bible seem to picture evangelism primarily as proclamation. You tell people what God is like, what he wants, and what is on offer and people react how they like. But God deserves to be proclaimed/shouted, not to be mentioned in a conversation which gets round to what you do on a weekend. This back-foot proclamation that seems to dominate western Christianity seems to be so inconsistent with its content that it virtually denies it in itself. Much like how Newbigin talks about the nature of our life is the “hermeneutic of the gospel” to encourage holy living and a social concience; the actual context of the message is also of huge importance to how it is understood by the Non-Christian.
  3. Not just God but Non-Christians ‘deserve’ better. A passage, which constantly haunts me, is Ezekiel 3, which talks about a watchman who fails to warn the inhabitants of the city that disaster is coming. Verse 18 and 19 give a flavour: When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. It is rare that you hear about wickedness today, but as a Christian I have to think about this subject and how to tell people about it in a loving and humble way, both with regard to them AND with regard to God.

In the light of these thoughts, how do I do evangelism in the world in which I live, in a way consistent with who God is? It seems clear to me that the street preacher hasn’t got it right in today’s culture, but there is something to be said for him.When I think about it I have known people who seem to have done it right, interestingly it seems very connected with their passion for God. Seek ye first The Kingdom of God…?


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