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The ‘Why’ of Evangelism

Friday, 5 March 2010  | Shane Varcoe - Executive Director, Dalgarno Institute

The, at times, aggressive cultural distaste for the term (not necessarily the practice) has rubbed off on the Church and we too avoid its use. In some quarters of Christendom we have tried to eradicate even the echo of this seemingly politically incorrect term! Terms like ‘out-reach’ (or should I say ‘In-drag’?), ‘mission’ or ‘Christian presence’, are all used and preferred over the seemingly offensive ‘evangelism’.

Don’t get me wrong, all these exercises are important, but are they evangelism? If evangelism is defined accurately then it means the preaching and promulgation of the gospel (the Great News about Jesus). Now terms like outreach and mission may provide vehicles and methods to engage people – everything from serving, caring for, profiling activities and even ideas – but do they facilitate the presenting or the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ – the Gospel? They may be a clever cladding that invites people to unwrap that that is before them and investigate, but again, is the Good news actually shared? Are the credentials, claims and call of Jesus Christ sensitively, wisely, yet unequivocally tabled via verbal or other proclamation means?

Of course, we then have to grapple with interpretations of what this ‘good news’ may or may not be to our affluent and, arguably, hubris first-world culture. What would be perceived ‘good news’ to time-strapped, technology-craving, comfort-fun-and-ease junkies?

If it the primary driver of the gospel (as some neo-practitioners have espoused) is ‘meeting the felt need of the audience’ rather than or over the ‘Author’s’ prescriptions, then evangelism or ‘mission’ is about making everyone at ease with how they are and never about truth claims and challenging allegiances – which might lead to redemption, restoration and wholeness.

Whatever processes engaged to reach the ‘unsaved’ (whoops, I mean ‘pre-Christian’) should, no must, reveal the multi-dimensional nature of the Triune God – the compassionate, accessible and relatable God; the merciful, selfless interventionist God; the healing and providing God; the saving and rescuing God; the transcendent, supernatural God of creation; the Holy righteous God of justice who hates sin; the gracious, redeeming and transforming God of eternity.

How do we represent this God? How do we communicate these truths? Before any ‘how’ can be formulated our ‘why’ must be utterly and crystal clear. We must know these truths, be convicted and captivated by them, hold them as if they were breathe themselves and demonstrate them by the way we live in, and not for, the one who rescued, redeemed and related to us.

Unless we know the ‘why’ we will not evangelise in any New Testament sense, we will simply assuage, placate, compromise or, most tragically, abdicate.


Paul Mowen
March 16, 2010, 9:14PM
Why evangelise? If we purport to have the medicine/antidote required for people around us who are sick and dying, then to withhold it is a crime. We love because he first loved us. We are also commanded by God to make disciples and this starts long before someone begins attending a worship service. What is that antidote to our modern world? That a true rest of faith is possible for those bound up in self justification and dead works; that the love and belonging within a group of believers eclipses the false hopes offered as alternatives; that hope beyond the imagination lies in the power of the resurrection for all who believe!
Geoff Leslie
April 14, 2010, 5:26PM
In the Gospels, when Jesus proclaimed the 'evangel', it was the announcement of the victory of God, the coming of the Kingdom, and people were invited to live 'now' as tho the Kingdom had already come. So outsiders were invited to table, repressive rules like Sabbath, uncleanness, or quarantining of lepers, were broken because a new world had come.
This is still the role of 'evangel'-ising. It's using the weapons of love, welcome, prayer, truth and solidarity to make a difference in our communities.
I find this a much more inspiring definition than 'preaching and promulgating the news about Jesus' which usually amounts to some form of penal atonement theory.
Geoff Westlake
May 20, 2010, 4:47PM
Evangelism, back in the day of nations at war, meant bringing the evangel - the news of who won, whose Kingdom this now is - to the common people.
The news was good news to some (yay, we won), bad news to others (drat, they won!) But it was the accurate news, like it or not.
Now Jesus' evangel was that 'God was, is, and always will be the King.' So the political, economic, environmental implications are huge, but so are the personal and community implications.
So if our actions don't match the message, our words sound hollow. That's why Jesus demonstrated it as much as explained it.
We best bring the gospel when we communicate in spirit, word and deed.

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