September 27, 2009

A trinitarian perspective on evangelism

If all people are included already in Jesus, why be involved in evangelism? The GCI Ministry Development Team addresses this question in a seminar titled, Relational Evangelism. The subtitle speaks to our trinitarian focus: "Sharing with Jesus in relating with non-believers."

Evangelism from this perspective is not about bringing Jesus to people as though he were absent. Rather it sees evangelism in light of the truth that Jesus is present - including non-believers in his life, and relating to them in the Spirit, expressing the Father's love and grace.

Evangelism is about participating with Jesus in that relating. By doing so we declare the good news (which is the biblical definition of evangelism), by being the good news and then verbally sharing our own experience of Jesus (who is the good news). In short, we help people identify and come to know the Jesus who is already present in their lives. And we invite them to participate actively in Jesus' life - which includes participation in the community of Jesus' followers, the church.

Evangelism is thus a "three-way street" - the non-believer, Jesus, and we the believer - all relating one to the other through the fellowship of the Spirit. And this relating changes not only the non-believer (into a believer), it changes us too. Together we are being transformed into the image of Jesus, who in his humanity is the perfect image of God.

Evangelism from this perspective is not about heavy-handed tactics where we blow into town and unload a shotgun full of information and then depart. It's about being with Jesus who is already present and who remains.  It's about entering into friendship with people - a friendship mediated by Jesus himself. And friends share their "best stuff" with friends. For us, the "best stuff" is Jesus and the difference he has made and is making in our life.

So, yes, there is a definite role for followers of Jesus in evangelism. But forget the idea of a "role" - it's not about play-acting; it's about real life lived in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit - a communion that embraces all humanity. It's our calling to participate with Jesus in that communion - including in evangelism. We are called to be those who declare the good news of Jesus, which is good news for all people. Enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. For a thought provoking article from Brian McLaren on this topic of evangelism, see "A Radical Re-thinking of our Evangelistic Strategy at http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/2005/08/a-radical-rethinking-of-our-evangelistic-strategy/

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  2. Ted,

    What a great article by McLaren. I would encourage all readers of your blog to take the time to access the link you provided. I intend to share it with our Christian Emphasis committee at the YMCA.

    I liked the use of his words be-alivers and be-lovers. In an article I shared with Adopted Life last year I used the phrase believe and be-life which is to say we need to not only believe the gospel but live the gospel.

    If more and more churches could adopt these strategies and heed the concerns of Dallas Willard, perhaps the conflict that sometimes ensues with his fifth strategy wouldn't be of concern. Strategically speaking, it is very difficult to create this new type of hive if the existing hive will have nothing of it. I'd love to see a working model of how that conflict can be worked out in community.

    Regards,
    Craig

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  3. I would like to use the picture you have at the top of the page on a banner in the lobby of my church. Is it original with you, or can you connect me with the copyright holder? If it is yours, with is involved in getting permission for this use?

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  4. Dan, I have not been able to find who, if anyone, holds a copyright on this picture. Let me know if you find out.

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