Today at the Leadership Track Keith Davy, the Campus Ministry’s head of research and development, to talk about our ministry’s evangelism model. Keith has produced a lot of quality stuff over the past decade or more for the campus ministry and also teaches the Intro. to Missions and Evangelism Class for the MA Transformational Leadership Program at Bethel Seminary. I ended up taking that class with a different professor though.
He began by referencing some current ideas and thoughts that I have engaged recently, primarily through blogs and my friend Mike Goldsworthy in particular. I’ve told Mike I’m a smarter person because of him and the way he thinks about church and the ministry. We had a blog discussion on this issue a month or so ago which you can visit here. The topic of that discussion as well as of Keith’s intro today had to do with current views of evangelism. He referenced a book as well as a related blog that you can visit here to get a fuller sense of what the discussion is about. Keith wasn’t attacking such views, but was emphasizing that given the breadth of ideas related to evangelism today it is that much more important that we have a solid theology of evangelism.
In the link to the blog summarizing some thoughts by Scot McKnight that I included here, there is an obvious criticism of an outlined gospel presentation that stresses the responsibility of the individual to repent of their sins to be restored into relationship with God. The criticism is that the presentation at large emphasizes individuality too much as well as “post-death” eternity as opposed to more of a Kingdom paradigm where our embracing of Jesus as King involves so much more than just our eternal destiny. I live in a world in which I can sympathize with both sides. I work in a culture in which the 4-laws in its various forms were produced and are the primary witnessing tool. I am of a personal persuasion that the Kingdom paradigm is more of where it is at in terms of the biblical narrative view of salvation.
I don’t have super clear solutions to some of this tension, but while I am in many ways “emergent” I can’t quite jump on the bandwagon in dumping some of the classical approaches to evangelism wholesale. There is an individualized element to people’s salvation and it does have a lot to do with their eternal destiny. Yet I would agree that the Scriptures do not reinforce an individualized view of the Kingdom and a fire insurance brand of Christian spirituality. This tension is becoming more pronounced in ministry. I think it is a good thing because I’ve never heard more conversations about the gospel and evangelism than I’ve heard in the past couple of years. I think it’s cool and should result in a more transformative message and community for this generation. I just happen to believe that tools are not as much the issue as is the overall assumptions and philosophy of the one who is seeking to communicate the gospel behind the tool. So even modern tools like the 4-laws could still be very fruitful even in various post-modern or post-Christian settings. I also believe we need to find more ways to communicate the message because this generation may only be able to take in the gospel through other non-propositional forms.
We spent most of the morning going through 3 passages: John 1:40-51; Acts 8:26-40 (Ethiopian Eunich); Acts 17:16-34 (Paul at the Areopogus). It was cool looking at the different evangelistic settings and actions and messages even. From these 3 passages and others Keith shared 5 foundational principles for evangelism.
1. Master: Evangelism is first and foremost the work of God.
2. Masses: The audience is the defining context
3. Messengers: Believers are the primary initiators (though not always)
4. Message: The gospel is always about Jesus
5. Methods: Methods vary according to the situation
I found these very helpful. These principles reinforce the significance of God’s role and action, the importance of culture and context to meaning and communication, as well as the importance of the centrality of Christ. I see more and more definitions of the gospel today that do not have Jesus as the focal point or as primary.
Anyway, Keith is a sharp dude and that was the first time I had heard him in person so that was cool. There’s plenty here to keep me wrestling with things for a while. Keith’s got a blog where he engages a lot of stuff related to evangelism and innovation in ministry. You can find it at: