Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Silence of Paul On Evangelism

I've been mulling over this post for awhile. The consternation, confusion and conflagration of angry comments which might result have made me wonder at the wisdom of it. Well, I decided to go ahead. The subject is too important. And I can only imagine that while it may anger some, there are plenty of people like myself who will find some freedom here.

Ok. Here it goes.

A few weeks ago I heard someone say something to the effect of, "You cannot/shouldn't consider yourself a Christian if you are not sharing your faith/practicing evangelism." And it really got me to thinking. Something felt wrong about it. But I couldn't put my finger on it.

On one level this sounded right. It accorded with almost all I had ever heard growing up in the midst of evangelicalism. So it sounded right or at least familiar. But something about the statement just 'felt' really wrong. It felt wrong as a fact. (Like saying the capital of Alabama is Birmingham.) And it felt wrong morally. (You should look down on everyone who does not live in Birmingham.)

So I quickly went through Paul's letters to the churches in my mind as much as I could. Could I think of a place where he commands the members of these churches to share the gospel - to tell unbelievers about the gospel? I was pretty shocked to not be able to think of any place where he does anything like this.

Nothing was said, of course. But I filed it away in the front of my mental filing cabinet. My mental filing cabinet is grey, if you must know. Nixon administration grey.

Over the next few days I looked into the Epistles. Really, I thought I would find something. I mean, all the importance we place on evangelism and the urgency we show in preaching and teaching and writing on it, should show up in Paul, right? RIGHT?

I found nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

Paul never commands the ordinary believers who belong to the churches to evangelize. There is no call for sharing your faith. There is no call for witnessing. He never even encourages it. And he never rebukes them for not doing it. He tell them to stay away from orgies and practice kindness and to live quiet lives but no commands to evangelize are present.

Paul describes his own desire to do so and he defends his apostolic ministry of doing so and he commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. He also tells us there are such things as "evangelists" in Ephesians 4. But he never talks as if the carpenter, the shepherd, the soldier, the fisherman or the wife of any of these is called to evangelize.

I know, I know...there is the 'great commission' given by Jesus. In only 2 of the 4 Gospels. Never repeated again. By Paul. Or anyone else ever in the Scriptures. Why is it called 'great' again? I mean everything Jesus has said and commanded is technically speaking 'great.' But I mean, if it is so absolutely 'great', why is it never repeated by Paul or John or Peter or James or Jude. Before you get upset with me, the designation 'great commission' did not come from on high. Jesus did not call it 'great', someone else did.

Stop. Right now there are 2 kinds of people reading this? The freaked out and the ticked off.

Let me address the freaked out first...You doing OK? Stop. Take a breath. What? Of course you can quit EE. Hm? Yes, I was a little freaked out also. No, you do not have to tweet about this, you will lose a lot of followers.

OK, all who are angry...What have I said to make you angry? I have not said, "You should not tell other people about what Jesus has done for us." Have I? At least not yet...just kidding. You really need to calm down. All I have done is point out an indisputable fact.

Let me say it again. It is an indisputable fact that there is no command by any of the Apostles in their letters to the churches to evangelize. You may not like this fact. You might assume nefarious reasons behind my pointing this fact out. But you cannot deny the fact while there are many varied commands in the NT for the ordinary believer, there is no command to evangelize.

"So what?" you might ask? Here are my initial thoughts:

1) The way we talk about evangelism is certainly out of proportion to the way Paul or anyone else in the NT talked about it. We act as if it is the litmus test of being a Christian. If it was - if personal evangelism as we know it - was a litmus test for being a believer in the gospel, ummm, wouldn't Paul have admonished his people to do it? We talk about it as if it is the THE THING for Christians to do while on earth. "Sure, we are glorify God and all that but the best way to do it is to tell every living breathing soul who just wants a quiet flight to the ATL." Maybe it is not.

2) We have got to quit guilting and bullying people into doing cold evangelism. It feels weird and wrong and inconsiderate to almost everyone. There are a few who feel comfortable walking up to strangers and talking to them about Jesus but they are the exception. They are not more spiritual, they are just the exception. Maybe the reason why they are the exception and the reason why so many do not like walking up to strangers simply to talk to them about their sinfulness and need for salvation is because - wait for it - we have not been asked to do such a thing. Perhaps it is not part of the Spirit-led DNA. Regardless, beating up on people for their not evangelizing enough is totally out of sync with the NT.

3) It may be that our present philosophy of evangelism stands in direct opposition to the explicit, repeated and unwavering command to love people. In other words we are terrible at loving one another, our enemies and even our own family members. I know it. You know it. And God knows it. If we actually loved people -wives, husbands, children, minorities, democrats, republicans, lefties, ugly people, the obese and the socially awkward - perhaps, just perhaps you would never have to walk up to someone and tell them about Jesus. They would walk up to you. And then you could simply explain why you want to be a loving person. "Hey man, you asked!"

4) We tend to think the greatest thing we can do with the gospel of grace we have in Jesus is tell people about it. Why is that? Paul seems to think the greatest thing we can do with the gospel is believe it. Believe it in the midst of tragedy. Believe in the midst of beautiful Spring days when all is right with the world. Believe it on your death bed. Believe it when your sin is huge. Believe it when your heart is hurting. Believe it. Hang onto it. Never let go of it. Believe no matter what, if you are in Christ, you are loved beyond all comprehension. You cannot sin yourself out of his love and grace and mercy. You are loved, you who believe the gospel. Persevere in your belief. You are saved unto life everlasting because of what Christ has done. This cannot be undone. Believe the gospel. Believe.

5) There is no folly in assuming the NT writers and those whose records are recorded there really wanted people to hear the gospel and believe it. This is a safe assumption. However, we need to think deeply on why they do not talk about evangelism the way we typically do in Western Christianity. Do we assume we care more than Paul about evangelism? Peter? John? We should probably think long and hard about all of this. I know I need to. Our being so out of step with the tone and content of the Scriptures might actually be to the detriment of others believing the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ.

All of these are thoughts which have been around for some time in at least seed form. The study I have been doing over the past few weeks however has emboldened me to at least talk about my doubts. To say I am sure of myself here would be untrue. I am not thinking and writing entirely in confidence. The one thing I am sure of is the need to think deep and hard about all that is in and not in the Scriptures. And I am pretty sure there is the need for freedom to ask hard questions and be taken seriously in asking them.

One last thing. I was not enjoying thinking about this by myself. So I sent a note to some pastor friends and asked what they thought. One friend (who will remain nameless) told me about an article called Wretched Urgency by Michael Spencer. It was the first thing I had ever read of the sort. And it was the first thing confirming I was decidedly not crazy...or if I was, I was crazy along with Spencer. And I'm fine with that.





59 comments:

Jacob Young said...

Hey Matt,

A few thoughts here:

1) It seems to me that while there may not be any explicit commands or rebukes on the issue of evangelism in the Epistles, there are commendations. In reading 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8, it seems to me that Paul is explicitly commending them for their example in spreading the Gospel (evangelism). They have spread the Word to such an extent that his Apostolic calling for spreading the Gospel in that region is no longer necessary. Moreover, they are examples of Gospel spreading to their neighbors (and thus, to us as well). This, of course, isn't a "how to" booklet on evangelism, but simply an observation that the subject does seem to be dealt with in the Epistles. Which brings up the question in my mind: In your study, what constitutes a clear statement by Paul on evangelism? I might have missed this in your discussion, but it seems like a serious issue: 1) What are the criteria for what you're looking for? 2) Is that how the Bible approaches that issue? That seems to be the nature of your question, I'm just not sure I see it fleshed out. But I could be missing that!

2) I find it interesting to see a simply pattern in Acts: Prayer for the Spirit's filling produces community and Gospel proclamation. That Gospel proclamation (in preaching and in regular life) engrafts more people into the community, which then prays for the Spirit - hit repeat on scenario. This strikes me as not only the normative life of the church, but also the normative expression of the Great Commission. What I find interesting about the Great Commission is that since Jesus' view is discipleship, it inherently demands heavy time investment (not a 5 minute exchange) - which, as a side note, in my view is an argument for the importance of the local church, and long-term local church commitment. So, I bring this up to simply say in contrast that while the Epistles may not have explicit evangelistic imperatives, the book of Acts certainly seems to uphold evangelism in some form as the normative life of the church.

Thoughts on this stuff? I don't think I'm making any mind-blowing observations there. It seems to me that an issue you're wrestling with is not the issue of an evangelistic imperative, but the type of evangelistic imperative in view of the whole Christian life. Am I off on that?

Thanks for your time,
~Jacob

Matt Redmond said...

Jacob,

Thanks for your thoughts. I want to think on them a little but a couple of things.

First, I would be slow to call 1 Thes. 1:6-8 an passage commending evangelism. It looks more like a commendation of their faith, which has sounded forth.

Second, i have no problem with seeing the narratives as an inducement in certain circumstances but we know that "Narrative is not Normative" so this still leaves us without explicit commands which is the way we tend to talk about evangelism.

Good thoughts though. Really good.

Jacob Young said...

Matt,

Regarding 1 Thess. I can understand the hesitancy.

Secondly, could you fill out "Narrative is not Normative" as regards to my point because I'm not sure I see what you're saying specifically as it relates to Acts and evangelistic imperatives.

Thirdly, did you have any further thoughts on my question about the criteria of explicit commands in Scripture?

Scott said...

I followed an RT on twitter to this post. It is very thought provoking. Thank you for challenging us to think beyond what we've always been taught and to think upon the Scriptures alone. Good stuff.

The place my mind went immediately is Ephesians 4:11-14ish. There is no direct command to evangelize. However, there is the statement that the reason that Christ gave the apostles, prophets, etc is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry". It's not a command, "DO IT", but rather an explanation that Christ intends us to do so.

Maybe the issue is how one defines evangelism. If one perception of evangelism is "passing out tracts" then I agree 100%, but if your definition is a bit broader, then there are passages such as those in Eph 4 and 1 Thess 1 that seem to make it clear that spreading the gospel is something that is expected. Not to be done from mere obedience as if God is pleased by our hard work for him, but out of the overflow of our hearts because we believe it. If we did believe it but did not tell anyone would that not indicate something either about our own belief of the gospel or our disdain for others?

Matt Redmond said...

Jacob,

When I say "Narrative is Normative" I am meaning, we cannot look at stories and infer imperatives for everyone at all times and all places. They may be an example of an imperative but when the imperative is lacking, we should look at narrative and then say , "do this" to people. We can learn from them but we cannot turn them into commands.

Scott,

I think we agree except on the 1 Thess. point. I am not convinced he is talking about evangelism as much as their faith in ch 1, verses 6-8.

Johnny! said...

Good stuff!

The Lord says to let our light shine before men. Our "light" would be our good works--obedience to His commandments. They're interested enough to check it out. They are intrigued by our hope, and ask us about it, and we (being always ready) give them a reasoned apologia. Takes a lot more effort than handing out a tract.

Brian and Ashley said...

I love this conversation and your post is important in how we teach evangelism and mission. I totally agree w/ you that it seems there is not a great deal about how Christians are to evangelize. I would say Paul highlights the advancement of the gospel rather than focusing on personal evangelism of individual Christians.

I love applications 1-4 at the end.

For appl. 5, I think Paul shows by example his deep care for evangelism. Rom. 15:15-21, Paul says "I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named...as it is written, "They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him."

Scriptures that I think witness to Paul's involvement of other Christians in evangelism:

2 Thes. 3:1-2 - Paul says, "pray for us, that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you." This isn't that just Paul and his colleagues would spread the word, but the stress is on the spread of the gospel itself.

Titus 2:9-10 - Paul exhorts Titus to teach slaves to live in a way that examples Christ. Why? He says, "so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."

Colossians 4:3 - Paul asks the Colossians to pray for an open door for the message of Christ to proclaimed to outsiders. Immediately after, he ask them to "be wise in teh way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Most commentators understand outsiders to be either heretics or people of the land.


I think we see a lack of direct command to evangelize b/c Paul had a different missionary strategy: build up co-workers in the mission. First, the close network of church planters such as Barnabas and Timothy. Second, the independent co-workers such as Priscilla and Aquila and Titus. I think Paul's evangelism strategy involved two essentials

1) let his life be an example to others. (Romans 1, Eph. 3.) There is no lack of Scriptures in reference to Paul's evangelism.

2) plant churches whose community will be attractive and evangelism through teaching the Word. These churches embrace Paul's missionary efforts.

3) gospel partnership. Several times, Paul refers to the Philippians commitment in spreading the gospel. "I am grateful for your partnership in teh gospel (Phil. 1:5). This is not limited to financial help, though it did not lack financial partnership (Phil. 4:15-18) He encourages them to hold out the word of life in a crooked and depraved generation (Phl. 2:15-16).

Matt Redmond said...

Brian and/or Ashley,

I agree with you to an extent. But I would still assert that paul being an Apostle and church-planter necessitates a level of evangelistic activity that is very different than the activity of those he was writing to in the churches. But I actually we are on the same page here. Good thoughts!

Carlos said...

Very interesting indeed. Definitely something to be studied in depth. I think as we read through the entire book of Acts though, it's clearly evident that the believers of that time had the command that Christ gave to preach the gospel engraved in the depths of their souls. It pleased God through the folly of what we "preach" to save those who believe.(1 Cor. 1:21) 2 Cor. 5 is also pretty clear I think. Just because the word "evangelism" is not used does not mean you don't find this act and command throughout the NT. Evangelism is definitely a strong concept in the NT even though the word or the explicit "command from Paul" is not there. Who else needs to command us but Christ Himself? We believe and affirm that the doctrine of the Trinity is biblical even though that very word, along with the words "persons", "co-equal", "co-eternal", and "co-existent" are not found in the scriptures because wh know that the concept is definitely taught in the scriptures. Evangelism or "good newsing or gospeling" is the opening of our mouths to share the actual message of the gospel. No one has ever been saved by simply looking at someone's life of holiness. All the lost person sees is a very disciplined person. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God but how will they hear unless there is someone to preach to them? John Piper in one of his sermons says, "Evangelism is speaking to anyone anywhere the gospel. You don't have to succeed at it. Evangelism is happening even if somebody is not getting saved. But you need to say it."(Why is differentiating between evangelism and missions important? by John Piper). The reasons why I have shrunk back from sharing the gospel to someone in the past, and why I believe Christians shrink back from sharing the gospel, is not because it's not part of our "Spirit-led DNA", but because I was more concerned with my time and schedule. I had places to go and people to see. Another reason was because I was more concerned about what the person would think about me. I was more concerned with maintaining a self-image of being liked more than being concerned about the well-being of that person's lost soul. This has always ended with me repenting of my pride and selfishness...That's why I personally don't feel right with calling one-on-one and open-air evangelism "cold evangelism". There is a sense of urgency when we go out and preach the gospel to a lost and dying world, a burden, a love-compelling passion to see Christ glorified through the spreading of the gospel and the salvation of sinners. Yes, there are many out there that we have come across who preach out of a wrong motive of pride, arrogance and self-righteousness but this shouldnt cause us to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" Evangelism is anything but cold for those who do it out of zeal for God's glory and love for lost souls. The tears that flow down from the eyes for the lost are anything but cold.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that "guilting and bullying" people to evangelize is wrong. That upsets me when I see it going on. The only true motive for sharing the gospel is the gospel itself. What else needs to be done to motivate me?? NOTHING.

Oh, what a humbling privilege it is to preach the good news of our glorious Savior to a lost and dying world! :D

Ed Eubanks said...

Hi Matt (et al):
There's much to comment on here. I'll try to keep it as brief as I can!

There are essentially three ideas that seem to me to be associated with anything like "evangelism" as we commonly know it today: what comes from the Greek word "euangelizo" which translates essentially into "preach/proclaim good news"; the idea of "making disciples" which is spoken of in the "Great Commission" (which is actually a derivation of the verb "matthetuo" which is to BE a disciple); and the non-verbal idea of having a "ready defense" for the hope that we have, discussed in 1 Peter 3.

Now, the last idea deals more with apologetics than what anyone really considers direct evangelism-- and that doesn't mean "Christians spoiling for a fight" but simply being ready to answer questions. And, incidentally, the idea of "being witnesses" that Christ commands in Acts 1:8 (that we have adulterated into "witnessing") is probably actually closer to this category than to evangelism (especially when you think that one legitimate translation could be, "you will be my martyrs").

The second idea-- making disciples-- is (to anyone who reads the contextual discussion throughout the gospels of what it means to be a disciple) obviously much more comprehensive than simply seeking converts. This is another discussion altogether, but I don't think the "Great Commission" undermines your thesis in any way.

The first idea-- to preach or proclaim the Gospel-- is really where we get our notion of evangelism. And what is stark is that every time this word appears in the New Testament, it is related to either an apostle or someone specifically set apart (like an evangelist or a pastor-teacher) and THEIR work of proclaiming the good news. In fact, Paul specifically says in Ephesians 4 that some were given as evangelists.

Now, as the commenter above noted, the purpose for why some were given was for the "equipping of the saints"-- but the original Greek doesn't naturally require that "for the work of ministry" be something that the SAINTS were equipped for. In other words, what if there was a comma there: "to equip the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." (Eph. 4:12, ESV)? Scholars are fairly divided about whether that should be there-- and if so, it clearly suggests that Paul had in mind that the apostles, evangelists, pastor-teachers, etc. were the ones who were to do the works of ministry (NOT just any saint, in other words).

All of this is to say: I agree with Matt that we've totally lost a sense of what biblical evangelism is to look like. (I think the loss of our view of "offices"-- such as the office of Pastor, that of Elder, etc.-- and the democratization of ministry, so that "anyone can be their own pastor", are largely the reasons why. Thank you, Charles Finney...)

I teach my congregation that the best ways they can evangelize is to live like Christians and invite their friends and neighbors to church. Is that sort of where you're going with this, Matt?

brianmetz said...

Good post Matt. Coming from Southern Baptist Land, I totally see where you are coming from. I have often had the same questions.Especially when I was taking Personal Evangelism class. I think I have more respect for street preachers because of your post for some reason. And I am not totally sold on that form of evangelism.

I totally see what you are saying in regards to "form". It seems that the evangelical church has declared, "this is how you evangelize" and we think it is biblical. I just don't see the common "forms" or methods of "personal evangelism" as biblical. It seems that each time that the Gospel was proclaimed person to person was as a believer/disciple was going about their lives. But today there seems to be this unwritten code that if you are not actively (aggressively) "sharing" your faith (read confrontational "do you know where you are gonna go when you die?" type), you are not an obedient Christian. Seems odd to me as well.

The Federalist said...

Great post. I feel that, in general, we try all to hard to pull things out of the Bible and apply them as litmus tests, regardless of context. We replace the central call to love with a measuring rod; an inspiring and enlightening compilation of writing about our Lord and and Gospel of Christ with "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth."

I appreciate your honest and courageous inquiry. The church needs more minds that are dependent upon the Father, but independent of the institution.

Rich said...

1 Peter2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

While most of us reading this blog can comfortably declare that we were chosen by God for salvation, we often forget the second part of this verse...not only were we chosen for salvation but also to proclaim the glorious news that Christ died for sinners.

This is a pride breaking, knee-bending, heart consuming reason to go out and evangelize (far from being cold)...our God has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light and made us a people for his own possession.

It is ineresting as you do a word study on how "proclaim" is used in this verse...it literally means to "tell out" or "declare" and "make known". In other words, God has saved us so that we may make know and tell others about the excellencies of Christ's name.

Matt Redmond said...

Carlos,

Thanks for your thoughts. I'm not going to try and interact with them all but I do want to address a couple things. First, I am not arguing about the presence the of evangelistic activity or the presence of the word itself. What I am pointing out is how we have no commands to evangelize in Paul or the other Epistles. Second, I am convinced it is fair to say their a dearth of discussion regarding evangelism as we know it. I think to say their a lot of discussion regarding evangelism is a stretch. Compared to the discussions about us loving others, I would call the subject of evangelism slight comparatively.

I would like to repeat that my main point is that there are no commands to tell others about the gospel by Paul, et al. This should give us pause

Rich,

This is a good point and I had seen this. But we cannot assume this is proclamation as evangelism. Proclamation can be done among believers and is certainly done in corporate gatherings as the church. It may mean evangelistic activity. Maybe. But just few verses later Paul, when talking about unbelievers, talks about the believer's conduct and says nothing about evangelism..

Matt Redmond said...

BTW, this is great discussion and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I appreciate those who are complementary and those who are pushing back a bit!

Jacob Vanhorn said...

Hey Matt, we don't know one another, but I came across this via RT. As an adult convert I have struggled mightily under the 'teachings' of many churches that seemed counter to clear biblical teaching. I understand your initial push back point, because I have been there when people make such blanket statements. I offer this as what I have learned regarding this discussion.

Regarding the assertion that Paul never explicitly commands them to evangelize, might it be because it was assumed? If telling the good news was assumed, then Paul's commending of them for doing so would be expected. Perhaps the rapid growth of the church in the early days made the need for a follow up command as unnecessary. Perhaps they were telling the gospel so regularly that commendation was all that was required. And perhaps there were so many commands regarding behavior was because (just like today) it is easier to tell the story than to live the story.

Regarding the call to 'keep the faith', that call to do so was the response to persecution, due to the churches growth. Just Paul and some apostles telling the gospel doesn't account for it's rapid growth, it was the multitudes spreading the story of Jesus through various means.

The 1 Thes 1:6-8 verse includes both 'word of the Lord' and 'your faith in God'. Paul seems to be commending them for both declaration and demonstration. The declaration of just a few wouldn't account for such a rapid growth to such a large area.

One of the commenters also referenced 'giving a reason/defense for the hope you have'. The 'reason/defense' I believe is telling them why you have this crazy, counter-intuitive life and hope. That might include evidence of Jesus's life and resurrection, but I think at it's core it means you are telling them that you live with such hope and so differently because of Jesus. And then you tell his story.

I honestly think EVERYONE is required to be able to give a reason for the hope they have. And that is evangelism, telling the good news.

To your primary point, the part that started it and feels so awkward is that we have allowed 'evangelism' to be defined too narrowly as direct, often uninvited proclamation of Jesus, often to strangers or people who got invited to a bounce house only to hear the gospel. This is the part that is frustrating.

Part of the problem is the 'educational structure' that has developed in the church of specialists teaching others in the classroom for 45 minutes how to do something. And it is almost always the way that that guy/girl does it.

Evangelism is broad, wide, deep, complex, beautiful. It might be a cold call from a gifted evangelist (done humbly and gently), or it might be in the context of relationship where someone asks you why you believe, or it could be you seeing your friend flail about in life, hearing their story, and asking if you can share yours through Jesus.

I think evangelism was both expected and normative in the NT. That it was to be done was normative, but what it could look like could really be diverse (within some limits of course).

A couple years ago I came across a book by John Dickson called Promoting the Gospel. In it he makes the case for all believers in promoting the gospel/evangelizing, but he does so in broad categories, in our prayers, in our money, in our lives, in our praise, in our conversation, etc. He tells his story of being a natural teller of Jesus' story, who went to 'training' and was frustrated for months after that before ditching the training and starting over. I highly recommend the book. It is not available through many US sources, but here is a UK link: http://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/Promoting-the-Gospel-pg_1040/

Thanks for being bold enough to write it out and ask the question publicly. It can serve many who have similar questions, and helps us toward understanding.

Blessings Matt.

Matt Redmond said...

Jacob,

That is helpful and good stuff! I tend to think you are onto something.

Jacob Vanhorn said...

Thanks Matt for a teachable spirit. It is evidence of God's grace in our life that you are truly seeking a biblical path, rather than arguing blindly against the institution, which is so rampant these days. So many bloggers make me not want to post a comment. Let us know what you learn in this Matt.

With you for Jesus.

James Riewe said...

The most important way to understand spreading the gospel is by the Spirit in the present time.
We should be led by the Holy Spirit and not be told how to witness. An individual following Jesus will want to tell those they meet by the joy and peace of the relationship of knowing and being righteous by faith in Jesus. The Bible is not a manual. It is the Word and the Word of Jesus is Life.

Matt Redmond said...

James,

I wholeheartedly agree with you. However, the how is not the only not discussed. Paul, et al. do no even tell us to do it, much less how! But he he does expect us to be led by the Spirit in our pursuit of holiness and yet is very specific on how to be holy.

But I think you are very right in saying we ought to be led by the Spirit anytime we actually give a reason for the hope within us.

Jeff said...

Hey Matt,

Streger posted this RT a few days ago and I sent him my comments through twitter and since haven't had the time to come and leave them on your blog...so - here I am.

I see what you're saying and think you're raising an important question. I appreciate the desire to not want people to feel guilty/unloved by God for not sharing the gospel. We should never be placing a false yoke on people. However...my mind ran to one verse in particular.

1 Peter 2:9
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I think this may be the clearest and most succinct charge to be 'evangelizing.'

2 Cor. 5:20 isn't far off either, I think it rocks as well.

Another thing I thought of was the whole imitation practice in the Scriptures. Paul tells us to imitate him, and Heb. 13 says that we should imitate our leaders. So we know from Scripture we are charged to imitate Paul, Timothy and other leaders in the Scriptures, as well as our physical/tangible leaders in the local church...and pastors are to do the work of an evangelist - it follows that Christians are charged to do evangelism because, it's what their leaders/pastors are doing and did.

Lastly, the scriptures are replete with the teaching that our good works 'adorn the doctrine of God of savior'[savior is important here, Paul didn't leave out that connection in Titus 2], 'letting our light shine' etc...Now, we are clearly commanded to do good works. That phrase shows up in the book of Titus, tons of times. I would say that speaking of the glory of Christ, His cross and resurrection, is very much a good work! : )

Just a few of my thoughts before I go to bed. God bless!

Matt Redmond said...

Jeff,

Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate them. And My mind ran to those verses two but after looking closely I had the following thoughts.

1 Peter 2:9 says we are those things "to proclaim" and that might include evangelism but does not necessarily at all. There is a great deal of proclamation which is not what we typically call evangelism. Indeed, all of Paul's letters proclaim God's excellencies and yet are not what we would call evangelistic.

It is also understandable 2 Cor. 5:20 would come to mind but if read the verse in it's context, the 'we' is not 'we christians' but 'we Apostles' because is defending his ministry against the influence of the 'super-Apostles'.

As far as imitating Paul, I get that. But still, he said that and he gave very specific directions character, morality and holiness. Yet he said nothing like, 'you must practice evangelism.'

I repeat that I am not suggesting anything but the need to recognize this lack of teaching which no one talks about and then perhaps we should start thinking differently.

Mac Garcia said...

Hi Pastor Redmond,
I'm not sure whether to thank you or not for this blog, I sure have been disturbed by God to preach the gospel more though.
I have a simple question...
When was the last time you verbally shared the gospel to someone who has never attended your discipleship class?

Matt Redmond said...

Mac,

The problem with your question is threefold.

First, you assume that if I had not done such a thing in the allotted in your mind, my questions would be a reflection of my inability or lack of desire to "share the gospel." What would the time span between my post and the last time I practiced personal evangelism have to be before you would take my questions seriously? Or thank me for the post? A day? A week? 10 days?

Second, your question betrays the very problem I assume is real. Evangelism as law. Yet it is never clearly commanded to the ordinary believer who is not an Apostle or a vocational pastor/missionary.

Third, your post assumes a hierarchy of evangelism legitimacy. If I have only preached the gospel lately and not practiced personal evangelism, the former is seen as slight. REAL evangelism is of the kind where people are approached unwittingly and forced to accept or reject Christ. Preaching is minor league evangelism and personal evangelism is major league. The problem with this way of thinking and talking is it is absolutely - and let me be clear here - and totally at odds with the biblical testimony. Evangelistic preaching seems to be about the only kind of evangelism discussed at all.

So, all this to say, I will not satisfy your question. It is ill-founded and without relevance to the subject at hand.

Thomas said...

Great Post! I happen to not see a contradiction between evangalism vs the great commission. I think the modern MO of evangalism stops after a shallow conversation, tracts, or a revival.

I feel that the great commission is a deep, long relationship similar to what Christ did with his disciples. similar to what paul did with timothy and the churches.

It appears to me that our current view of evangalism is simple and inadequate. It gives us a false sense of accomplishment. And it is rarely successful.

As an evangelical Christian, I've always had a sense of guilt for not converting 'enough' sinners.

Ben Power said...

Just wanted to share a quote I heard from Todd Hunter (former president of Alpha) - "traditional evangelism is primarily about the evangelist."

It's an interesting thought - old school door knocking is usually (in my experience) about what I did. I told them this, told them that, asked them about this... therefore I have evangelized this person. And it does not require any love - only rigid determination to tell people something.

It makes converts to a religion, but not disciples of Jesus. Not that I'm totally against the method for those who want to practice it, but in many cases I feel it's the wrong approach.

Daniel said...

You should take a look at Rob Plummer's book on the subject of Paul's theology of evangelism and mission: http://www.amazon.com/Pauls-Understanding-Churchs-Mission-Communities/dp/1597527238

Max Ethos VII said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Ethos VII said...

I read the posted article. And amazingly I had the same experience that the author had a few months ago. In noticing my church's strong admonishment of evangelistic performance, especially with the funds and the head count getting low, I wondered why that behavior was not reflective of the sins written in Revelations.

That curiosity lead me to the same astounding truths. That no where is the ordinary Christian expressly taught to commit their life to evangelism. Even the term we use "share your faith", is one taken of context. Everywhere that term is in the Bible it is talking about offering your testimony to other Christians. Check Philemon.

On top of all that, there is a view that the so called "Great Commission" was for the apostles and those of their ilk (like evanglists, etc.).
http://www.letgodbetrue.com/questions/great-commision.htm
But I'm sure even humoring this notion is blasphemy for most.

It would seem that without the popular interpretation of the "Great Commission" it would be hard to keep the minions working, and the machine running.

Lance Weisser said...

Hey Matt,

I Love the premise of this article and your boldness in the Spirit that leads you to rock the boat a little:)

A little concerned that there is no mention of the word Relationship in this entire blog or the following comments.

In my heart, Evangelism is 100% Relationship.

We meet people, we interact with them, we love them for the unique, creative individuals they are regardless if their views on God or the gospel conflict with our own.
We build relationships.
We spread light, speak life, encourage rational, widely accepted concepts such as forgiveness, ambition, even sustainable and fair business practices.
We concentrate on restoring and rescuing people rather than converting or changing them.
This is evangelism, this is the Light that leads us into the darkness armed only with love and grace.

To all those who disagree with Matt:
Lose the sales pitch for Christianity.
You cannot afford to carry the weight of a
"Daily Quota of Conversions to Christ"
in your back pocket.
Like George's wallet in that memorable episode of Seinfeld, it will throw out your back :)

We have to understand that there are no sales goals in the Kingdom of Christ.
Your love for God and your subsequent actions will go a whole lot farther than a tract in hand or a knock on the door.

Grace and Peace

Lance Weisser

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