A Thought on Evangelism

One reason why Christianity has been the most successful of all world religions in crossing cultural boundaries is its adaptability. To be sure, this has not been manifested in all places and at all times, some missionary endeavors have been based on the premise that any rival belief system is of the devil and must be obliterated. Contrariwise, there have been occasions when, for the sake of number crunching, religious fundamentals have been sacrificed. On the whole, however, wise evangelists have understood not only that the gospel may be garbed in a variety of national costumes but that incorporating fresh customs and thought patterns actually enriches the life of new churches.

(Derek Wilson, Charlemagne, p 18)

Wilson’s words are actually a description of the success of Celtic Christianity in the 8th-12th centuries, but they apply equally to our postmodern world and our approach to evangelism.

In the past, the supremacy of the Western culture allowed Christianity an attitude of cultural supremacy in evangelism. In fact, the modern type of evangelism virtually required an attitude of superiority. Evangelists demanded that people of different views adopt their belief system, and that belief system was a dominate, colonial one in many cases. (I am aware that most evangelists were not representatives of state churches, but many of them still held onto the cultural trappings of their western dominions.)

In the postmodern age, we are confronted with a world that does not share our values and does not have a necessary reason to adopt our culture. For some, this is a discouraging notion. For me, it is an encouraging one. For the first time in a long time, the church is free to incorporate fresh customs and thought patterns – to enrich the life of the church of our age. This was the state of affairs in the birth of the Gentile church under Paul, in the birth of Celtic Christianity, in the subtle emergence of the Chinese church that thrives underground to this day.

That’s what I think anyway.

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8 thoughts on “A Thought on Evangelism

  1. Methinks this is why it’s so dangerous when christians get more focused on preserving an ideal of American culture than they are on preaching the good news of Jesus.

  2. The Good News was that God sent a Redeemer to buy back the children of Israel lost and scattered among the nations because they had sold themselves to serve the demons represented by the idolatry of the other nations.
    This was good news to the world because the Lord had, long before, decided to use none but the seed of Jacob to bless all the families of the earth. And, when the leaders of the last of the two houses of Israel did what the first had done (saying, “We have no king but Caesar”), there was almost no seed left to be a blessing to the families of the earth.
    Fortunately for the whole world, the man who was kllled for being the King of the Jews who taught the way of God in truth was resurrected the King of the Israel regenerated by the blood of the New Covenant.
    Jesus, as the only God-approved, resurrected, eternal holder of the title to everything, commanded his disciples to teach the nations to observe all the things He commanded them.
    Those commands were the Acts 16:4 decrees that were delivered to the churches which, by the keeping of them, were established in the faith.
    People who are truly evangelized by the Kingdom hope are changed by the Law of Christ written on their hearts. Any message that does not resolve the issue of unbelief by training in the New Testament commandments falls short of making good kingdom citizens.
    It is the beautiful operation of kingdom communities that move men to glorify God.

  3. Do I agree?
    Men do not bless anyone by adapting The Good News to varying ethnicity. Nevertheless, God, who is not willing to lose any sheep, will use what is made available by those who love Him.
    I agree that God has used the shortest of Gospel content to do mighty works of grace.
    Ain’t God good?
    However, history has many examples of groups which, instead of taking the talent they had to expand the knowlege of God revealed in the New Testament, tried to do business the same old way until the lack of the sense of affection for the Lord’s appearing rendered them of no spiritual value.
    When a steward which has begun using his masters resources unjustly gets replaced, the likely change of style that accompanies the change in steward is not too big a problem for God. Nevertheless, there is no virtue in style change.
    It is God who gives the increase. As long as we are doing business so as to increase the knowledge of God, the knowledge of our style is likely to become more and more embarrassing.

    • So…

      Are you saying that God works through our cultures but as the gospel matures in people those cultural things will fall away and we will conform to a particular Christian form?

      I’m asking an honest question, because I am having difficulty following.

  4. Indeed. Your honest question shows you’re open mind. Indeed.
    Peter commands the Christians of the last days to fill their minds with the words written by the prophets of the Old Testament and the commandments of the apostles of the New Testament.
    The prophets give us the vision of the glories to which we are called… reigning in life with Christ. The words Jesus spoke (including the commandments He spoke to the disciples) are life.
    When we fill our minds with the apostle-prescribed words, our expectation will change. As our expectation changes, our choices will change.
    As our choices change, our style will separate us from Mystery Babylonia and prepare us for reunion with our Husband.
    The High Priest and the royal priesthood is a way so glorious that all who tried to maintain their own eminence through obsolete styles will be greatly ashamed.

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