I came across this Christianity Today article by way of the Daily Dish. I found the article to be a fascinating look at a strictly modernist portrayal of what evangelism is and isn’t. The author Mark Dever gets things started quickly with this excerpt:
It’s important to understand that the message you are sharing is not merely an opinion but a fact. That’s why sharing the gospel can’t be called an imposition, any more than a pilot can impose his belief on all his passengers that the runway is here and not there.
Is this the really the case? Is the gospel message an empirically proven fact? Is it of any significant importance that the Christian life be enveloped in certainty? Isn’t what we practice a belief in the unseen? Should I be a man of certainty or should I be a man of faith?
I believe that we can relay facts about our personal experiences in living lives of faith, but in the context of sharing our faith is it honest to treat or relay the Gospel message as fact? Maybe Mark Dever knows more than the rest of us do. Moving on…..
Displaying God’s compassion and kindness by our actions is a good and appropriate thing for Christians to do. But such actions are not evangelism. They commend the gospel, but they share it with no one. To be evangelism, the gospel must be clearly communicated, whether in written or oral form.
When I read this, I immediately thought of Saint Francis’ famous quote “Preach the Gospel-use words if necessary!”. I guess, based on the quote above, the author probably isn’t a big fan of Saint Frank. I find the author’s view here extremely limited, incomplete and not Biblical. Matthew 11:2-5 comes to mind:
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a]are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “I’m passing out notes and talking about the good news and minds are being changed!”. Thank God for that. We see over and over that throughout the ministry of Jesus, his purpose and his message are directly tied to the compassion, justice, and mercy being shown to the lives of those close to Jesus and his followers. It simply can’t be missed. To suggest that the compassion and kindness (or justice) of God serve to merely commend the Gospel message seems to me to be out of sync with the Gospel accounts we have in the New Testament.
I think this is the inevitable downfall of the strict modern, empirical approach to sharing our faith. It over emphasizes the sharing of ideas by the verbal or written word. It trivializes the Gospel to a set of “facts” or ideas that need to be agreed with. This is why kids bible camps have “commitment cards” that they want the kids to sign in order to gauge how successful the camp was. I can understand the appeal of this approach. It’s much easier to measure comment cards in an offering bucket than it is to measure transformation in the lives of others through a mystical relationship to Jesus Christ. I’m not trying to demonize the use of an empirical approach to sharing faith, but I am suggesting is that maybe it’s time to broaden the horizons a bit in order to legitimize the sharing of the message of Jesus by the way of our hands and our feet while we give our vocal chords a rest.