But we're not all evangelists, are we?

Ok, so Christians and evangelism.  Is everyone supposed to look like this guy?

Or do we send those few nut-jobs out on the street so that we can get on with the the kumbaya’s, the marshmallows, oh and “building the kingdom” (insert meaning here).

Well blog du jour seems to be modelling community on the trinity.  So here goes.

The Ultimate community-on-mission is God who is a multi-Personal union moving outwards.  Two things are important here.  First, mission is not just one of the things God does.  His ek-centric life is His very way of being.  Second, the Three do not take on identical roles but Each depends on the Others in order to corporately perform the work.

So now, we are swept up into mission as the Spirit unites us to the One Sent from the Father.  “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)  We will also share these two characteristics.

First, mission is not just one of the things the church does.  We are sent ones commissioned by the Sent One.  We are created by mission and for mission.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  (1 Pet 2:9)

It’s not that church, from time to time, decides to act in a missionary way.  It is missionary, that is its nature.  So when we became Christians we joined an evangelistic organisation.  If we’re in the body we need to know that the body is heading somewhere.  It’s always going to the nations to disciple them.  You cannot ‘buy into’ Christ without ‘buying into’ evangelism.  The Christian’s life and being is now oriented towards this mission.  There is not ‘love’ or ‘unity’ as well as ‘mission.’  But rather there is love and unity in mission.

But second, as with the Trinity, we don’t all do the same stuff.  Same mission, different roles.

Later in Peter’s letter he speaks about two broad categories of gifting – speakers and servers (1 Pet 4:10ff).  And he implores them to get on with their particular giftings.

And that’s great.  It’s so unfortunate when people think of ‘evangelism’ simply in terms of the guy in the picture!  And it’s tragic when  giftings aren’t recognized and encouraged.  We want diversity and we certainly don’t want to cram people into the same moulds.  So Peter speaks of different giftings – ‘speakers’ and ‘servers’.  But let’s not imagine that he has thereby set forth completely different spheres of operation!  That wouldn’t be a very good model of the Trinity.

No, think of the diakonos kind of serving spoken of here (which most basically means table-serving, ie hospitality gifts).  And think of combining this with the speaking gifts?  What if the differently gifted church members collaborated in the missionary task – good food and hospitality and those good with words are liberally sprinkled around the place – what a powerful gospel work!

At such evangelistic dinner parties it is very true that some are performing quite different functions to others.  But they are all being thoroughly missionary.  It’s a unified diversity and it’s going somewhere – to the nations!

If we get our trinitarian styled mission communities wrong…

The Arian church will laud the noble few who do the real missionary work  (i.e. street preaching etc…)

The Tritheist church will have the speakers heading off by themselves and the servers serving a quite different agenda.

The Modalist church will forget giftings altogether and fit everyone into the same mould.

But the truly trinitarian church will allow the particular giftings to flourish in the service of the one missionary aim.

This post was prompted by this and this.  And I wrote some more about this back here.

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Posted on by Glen in Doctrine of God, evangelism, mission, trinity

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

13 Responses to But we're not all evangelists, are we?

  1. John B

    Verily! As to your second point, I think that a triad may be in order there as well. Perhaps we might say speakers, servers, *and lovers* (presbyters, deacons, and laity). Just as in the godhead we see the Father as source, the Son as grace, and the Holy Spirit as power; yet God is one in essence. Everything God does is an act of the undivided Trinity. So too, the orders within the church act in communion with one another.

    In the idea of evangelistic dinner parties I see an application of the symbolism of the three types of eucharistic bread in early church tradition (and still in use today in the East). *Antidoron* might even perhaps be a name for evangelistic dinners. It’s surely one that is rooted in the history of the church.

  2. codepoke

    I read your comment on the other post, and I’ve read this, of course.

    I’m not sure I disagree with you, but it’s hard to tell. Your reasoning is highly circular on this subject.

    Here’s the thing. I’ve been around soooo many people who share your job title I’ve come to expect certain emphases and pressures. There’s nothing in this post or that comment that puts me at ease. If I assume you’ve got your head on straight, I can read this post and be happy, but if I don’t know you (and I don’t) I have to go by what you say, and that’s pretty muddled.

    > so that we can get on with the the kumbaya’s, the marshmallows, oh and “building the kingdom” (insert meaning here).

    It’s always yummy to start off by caricaturing the opposition. Thanks.

    > mission is not just one of the things God does.

    A fascinating assertion. If you define mission as everything God does, then yep. You’re right. It’s not a helpful kind of rightness, but it’s right.

    > Second, the Three do not take on identical roles but Each depends on the Others in order to corporately perform the work.

    And now you build on the unhelpful assertion. The three each do different things toward the vague nothing we’ve defined so far.

    > We are created by mission and for mission.

    We’re on the third lap of our circular reasoning now, but if we have any clue what we’re talking about, we’re forced to agree.

    > But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

    Ah! So we are here to praise! And to declare praises! We have here a mission, right? To praise God to God, and we’ve been chosen for this very thing. In fact, the Son does exactly the same thing. He declares His praise for the Father to the Father in the power of the Spirit.

    If this is how you define mission, then yes, we are all called to mission.

    > It is missionary, that is its nature. So when we became Christians we joined an evangelistic organisation.

    Whoops. Somehow you’ve taken a gigantic leap from the mission statement of Peter to being an evangelistic organization.

    > The Christian’s life and being is now oriented towards this mission.

    And at this point we’ve completely departed from anything that can be justified by scripture. Look at EVERY facet of the tabernacle/temple and find me anything describing the alignment of man toward God as being primarily oriented away from God. It ain’t there, Glen. Does the tabernacle declare the love of God toward man? Yes. Absolutely. Does the church have an evangelistic mission? Yes. Absolutely. Is the Christian’s very BEING now oriented toward helping the evangelist do his job? It’s not there, Glen.

    > There is not ‘love’ or ‘unity’ as well as ‘mission.’ But rather there is love and unity in mission.

    Now, I’m being kind of rough here, but this statement is why. Seriously, Glen, get outside of yourself and hear this statement the way so many other people are going to hear it. I’ve heard this statement from countless cults, and it is a gateway drug for mind control. You’re talking about “the mission,” but how is a man who doesn’t know you supposed to believe you’re not pushing your mission?

    Look at every rebuke of every church that appears in the New Testament and find me one time that God or any apostle comes down on a church for not evangelizing. It’s not there.

    > It’s a unified diversity and it’s going somewhere – to the nations!

    And now we get back to your original question. You asked how to enthuse believers for evangelism, and I said believers should not be enthused for evangelism.

    Believers should be enthused for God Himself, for Jesus. Enthuse people for Jesus, and all the giftings will be able to do what they were meant to do. Everyone will evangelize in proportion to their gifting in evangelism and do it without guilt. Go around saying we’re all going to the nations, and you’re going to confuse and burden 90% of your hearers, and you’re going to do it unscripturally.

    They’ll know we’re Christians by our fervor?

  3. Glen

    Hi Codepoke,

    I was caricaturing both sides – the picture’s not exactly a flattering portrait of an evangelist :)

    A lot of my post is built upon a theology that popularly goes by the name “missio Dei”. I write more about it in places like here.

    You’re right that I haven’t really shown my working in this post (though I certainly allude to it with the stuff about outward-going, ek-centric, the John 20 quote etc). But I take the point that those coming cold to this could well assume I’m just an evangelist who sees evangelism everywhere – even in his doctrine of God for goodness sakes! But ‘missio Dei’ stuff is not a bunch of fundie bible-bashers – it’s virtually every wing of the church grounding their understanding of church in the doctrine of God. You might find it unconvincing but you’d need to challenge its strongest expression (which this post certainly is not!) and I hope you’d give me the benefit of the doubt that it’s theologically motivated.

    I think founding our understanding of the church in our doctrine of God is absolutely vital. And I think it offers a lens through which to view our disagreement here. If the purpose of church is worship, that’s parallel to an emphasis on the self-sufficiency of the triune life. If the emphasis is “seeking worshippers” (cf John 4:23), that’s parallel to an emphasis on the overflowing nature of the triune life. If I’m rightly detecting a disagreement on emphases between us I think it mirrors a very honourable disagreement among trinitarian scholars over how to co-ordinate “God in Himself” and “God for us”. It’s just that I’m a ‘God’s being is in His becoming’ kind of guy. Jesus in seeking-worshipper-mode reveals the very depths of the divine life as an outgoing life that draws what is outside in. So too with church.

    I think the 1 Peter 2:9 stuff about priestliness is very important. If we are the priestly nation (Ex 19:5,6) then just as the Levites existed for the other Israelites and their worship is designed to include the other tribes, so the church exists for the world and our worship is meant to include the nations. The conclusion of that little paragraph has v12 aiming at the *pagans* glorifying God.

    And it’s precisely that kind of context that makes sense of the moral imperatives in v11 and 12 – and I would suggest in the rest of Scripture. It’s not so much that the bible is full of “Go and evangelise” commands – for sure. (And I’m not into adding imperatives where the bible speaks in indicatives). It’s more the fact that the commands for God’s people come in the context of them *being* witnesses to the world.

    I completely agree with this:

    “Believers should be enthused for God Himself, for Jesus. Enthuse people for Jesus, and all the giftings will be able to do what they were meant to do. Everyone will evangelize in proportion to their gifting in evangelism and do it without guilt.”

    I just don’t think that’s opposed to saying from Scripture that ‘what we’re meant to do’ is co-ordinated by an outward focussed life of seeking worshippers.

    Hope you’re having a blessed Tuesday :)

  4. Bobby Grow

    Yeah Glen, forget the “Great Co-mission” in Mt. 28. You’re just talking crazy ;-).

  5. Si

    I’m pretty sure I agree with you here Glen, more than Codepoke. The problem is the Arian “front-line more important”, the Modalist “we all should be doing this role”, or the Tritheist “we can all do everything” views often crop up (and I myself, to my shame, have espoused those views at times).

    In my mind, evangelism is a separate thing to mission – a subsection. The mission of God is for disciples to be made. Evangelism is a vital part – a going out and proclaiming the gospel, but it isn’t the only part. Too often there’s a call/guilt trip to evangelism, rather than a call to take part in the mission, which involves evangelism, but also involves discipleship (which of course involves sharing the gospel), prayer, ‘mundane’ tasks like cooking, cleaning, serving, setting up/breaking down, financing the mission, welcoming people, living with people with godly lives, inviting people to come hear the word of God. Obviously the focus is to get more to know Christ and know him more, and the proclamation is central, but so often it gets to “are you going out, meeting people, telling them the gospel”.

    Obviously as an introvert, that is a real struggle for me (though I shouldn’t use my introversion as an excuse), but there are still things I can do that aren’t as much of a struggle – teaching the word of God (to those that will come, rather than a going out and finding people to teach), helping with the practicalities, etc.

  6. Heather

    Si:
    The mission of God is for disciples to be made. Evangelism is a vital part – a going out and proclaiming the gospel, but it isn’t the only part. Too often there’s a call/guilt trip to evangelism, rather than a call to take part in the mission,

    Well said. From what I can tell, both Glen and codepoke could agree to this statement.

    Christ’s body is made of many parts, all working together under the direction of the Head.

    I often cringe when I see people who are excited about evangelism really hammer on how we all need to be knocking on doors, passing out tracts, engaging in formulated conversations with strangers…And what comes to mind is:

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. ”

    Not calling you a hypocrite, Glen, but this sort of discussion often brings to mind the Jehovah’s witness visitations we’ve had. They really want people to know about their religion and they all are expected (highly pressured) to get out and find people to convert. But the Jesus they offer is the wrong one.

    Evangelism can be deadly if a person does not actually know Christ.

    Regardless of whether one is called to evangelize non-believers, I believe scripture instructs every Christian needs to be ready at all times to answer for the hope that is in us. The best way to do that is to know who Christ is and have an actively maintained relationship with Him.

    Evangelism brings people into the fold. Hospitality makes them feel welcome. Teaching of sound doctrine/personal discipleship nourishes them and regular interaction with other believers provides accountability, opportunity for service/generosity of giving and encouragement to do whatever it is the Lord has called us to do while interacting with the world.

  7. John B

    Luther was known to throw inkwells at the Devil and to uncork symphonies for him (and toward papal bulls as well).

    Another aspect of the lore of Luther is his “sin boldly” letter to Philipp Melancthon. I’m reminded of this when thinking about the duty-of-evangelism question. This can really become a Catch-22! Not out knocking on doors? Woe is me! I’m lukewarm and slothful. Out there carrying the gospel message? But am I proclaiming Christ, or really just a hypocrite spreading poison? I really don’t know, so I think I should just work backwards and justify my position based on my own behavior!

    Luther advised Melancthon: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger… It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. … Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

    We’re not in this as lone individuals. We’re in communion; a body of worshippers, gifted by Christ through His Spirit and commissioned to witness to Christ until he returns.

  8. Heather

    John B
    This can really become a Catch-22! Not out knocking on doors? Woe is me! I’m lukewarm and slothful. Out there carrying the gospel message? But am I proclaiming Christ, or really just a hypocrite spreading poison? I really don’t know, so I think I should just work backwards and justify my position based on my own behavior!

    Your not exaggerating any, either. That is exactly what happens to me when I start looking at me instead of Christ.

  9. John B

    Hi Heather,

    I’ve solved my evangelism dilemma!

    Three (count ’em) Ichthys symbols on the back of my car. Nothing lukewarm about that. There’s three of them! And a message without content is a message without hypocrisy.

    Sinning boldly here!

    < < <

  10. Heather

    LOL @ John B

    Seriously, though. I have no problem with encouraging other believers to be bold about sharing Christ. It’s just a lot easier to be able to speak confidently when
    a. You have a well-maintained relationship and
    b. Are really excited about that relationship.

    On a semi-related note, I was having a guilt-induced meltdown one day about whether I ought to be out actively witnessing (not a natural draw for me because, like Si, I’m something of an introvert) and I pleaded with the Lord to show me what I’m supposed to be doing. We have 5 kids and my husband had already told me that is my primary duty at this time…but I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

    Shortly after I told God He’d pretty much have to drop witnessing opportunities in my lap my son did something I had just told him not to do and (in a moment of grumpiness) I stepped out the side door to correct him.

    While I was growling at my son, a Jehovah’s Witness knocked at the front door to invite me to their Kingdom Hall Easter meeting. This encounter was nothing like the one I had with the two JW ladies with whom I was able to briefly discuss the person of Christ.

    I think I turned three shades of red and had absolutely nothing to say to the man about Who Jesus is or the love of Christ because I’m sure he had overheard my cranky tone.

    But I learned two things.

    1. God is perfectly capable of creating evangelizing opportunities for anyone who truly desires to serve in this way.

    2. I’d better be ready at all times because He probably won’t flash a 15-minute warning light.

  11. Si

    Heather – stuff where God brings me people to talk to happen rather a bit. Often I screw up as well, but isn’t the Lord great to bless us with opportunities to tell people about him even if we are introverted and don’t like putting ourselves forward.

    When I helped with international student outreach, one of the things we were grateful for was that while we haven’t gone out to all nations, God has brought the nations to us so we can help with his work of reaching all nations still.

  12. Heather

    isn’t the Lord great to bless us with opportunities to tell people about him even if we are introverted and don’t like putting ourselves forward.

    Most definitely.

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