Post-Haiti Evangelism Reflection

Introduction

Evangelism is the way of preaching the word of God or the gospel with the aim of convincing or converting individuals.1 An intention to persuade implies that people need more than to receive the gospel. Evangelism does not only teach or persuade people by explaining, elaborating, and answering questions, but also it illuminates the facts of gospels, putting in mind to be understanding, caring, and loving. Having a goal helps individuals to aim for salvation by moving from bondage to freedom. Evangelism forms one of the significant religions in the western society. The evangelists adhere to the Bible’s teachings and believe in the existence of a supernatural being. The notion of evangelism as persuasion contradicts the emphasis on salvation as a gift of God and its theological importance to humankind across the world. In his work, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, Leonardo views salvation as a gift of God to humankind transcribed in evangelical teachings.2 To gain a wide understanding of the concept evangelism, this paper will analyze the works of three different authors including Dr. Kim Reisman among others. This analysis will assist the reader to understand theoretical/ theological and practical aspects of evangelism.

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Faith Sharing by Dr. Kim Reisman

Dr. Kimberly Reisman currently ministers on the World Methodist Council Steering Committee offering leadership for evangelism forums globally. Kimberly is ordained in the United Methodist Church. From Reisman’s viewpoint, faith sharing is the act in which people confess their experiences concerning their relationship with God. Therefore, faith sharing is merely one’s awareness of God’s existence in occurrences of their lives. The struggles people go through to believe in God’s doing or the ways in which people respond to or deny God’s manifestation in their lives.3 Faith sharing is based on humble acceptance of the fact that humanity is honored and loved by God. In other words, faith sharing is evangelism. Reisman believes that God avails himself and intervenes through everyone’s life.

The main argument presented by Reisman is the claim that God chooses to manifest his presence to humanity through the sharing and support of others. By sharing and supporting others, everyone learns the traits of God’s followers. Through faith sharing, Christians evangelize and build relationships with God as well as with other people. It is an important ministry to the community because it brings people together towards a defined purpose. Faith sharing enables people to become more aware of their communal experience with God. Christians should manifest their love for others because when they show their love to others, they confirm that humankind relationship with God is based on love.4 However, it is essential to take the time to learn the gospel and understand it before witnessing to others.

The other argument raised by Reisman is that Christian life starts and ends with prayer. Prayer does not entail praying for oneself but interceding for someone else. When Christians intercede through praying, they meet with God on behalf of others. Many people think that evangelism is based on what Christians or evangelists believe, but that is not the case since God reveals His will through such people. Before Christians embark on the course to tell about their faith, they experience God’s presence on behalf of the person of whom they intend to share.5 Consequently, the Holy Spirit moves in the midst of faith sharing. However, many people see experiencing God’s presence on behalf of others as all meant to benefit the other person. Reisman offers a better understanding about intercession. She argues that intercession is all about everyone. For instance, when one prays that God’s spirit move in another person’s life, the Spirit moves but often that movement is inside the interceder as God responds to them.

Reisman identifies that Christ followers are provided with a three forms of associating with God. First, God relates to humanity as the creator, who used His likeness to create man. Second, is the same God who descended to live among humans as Jesus? Third, is the same God, dwelling in humanity via God’s Holy Spirit? Through faith sharing, Reisman requests churches to learn new methods of spreading the gospel and to varying races, cultures and traditions across the globe. Evangelism should be viewed as a tool to spread God’s love, which is operative in all situations of human need. God’s love is operative in the lives of everyone including those who do not believe in Him. Many people see evangelism as a propagation of people’s belief rather than a manifestation of God’s will in their lives. Nonetheless, Reisman believes that evangelist’s persistence through prayer invites God’s Spirit to restore, love and save all.

Evangelism and Religious Pluralism by Dr. Arun Jones

Over a century ago, different Christian communities across the world continue to battle with cultural and religious diversity. People are living in an increasingly pluralistic world. Many people are becoming aware of the pluralistic nature and the increasing need to develop a healthy pluralistic thinking. According to Jones, there are wide varieties of pluralism such as ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious pluralism. Many people understand pluralism as something opposed to oneself or an extension of others belief. Therefore, to the non-religious people, pluralistic world means a divided world. Such people do not agree to evangelism as a manifestation of God’s presence but a course to win followers to subscribe to a certain belief.

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Contrary, Jones describes pluralism as acceptance and respecting of the other regardless of their cultural, racial, or religious differences. Jones believes that people have inalienable qualities, characteristics, and this uniqueness should be coordinated to one, thereby building harmony and peace among the many. Therefore, a pluralistic world does not mean a divided world. Once pluralism is agreed as a reality of human existence and its historical contexts at all stages of life, then the positive purpose of pluralism presents in enriching the world through the gospel. Such richness of pluralism reveals the beauty of human society since God created a world defined by pluralism at certain levels.

Jones believes that the church is facing a huge challenge in agreeing to the reality of religious pluralism. World religions have begun to reckon that their progress does not depend on any form of isolation, confrontation, or rule of one over the other, but in their willingness to reach out to the other with respect. Jones further identifies that any attempt by religion to dominate over the others is self-defeating. Ideally, understanding Christianity concerning exclusivism and domination over other regions can only enhance division and fail to attain the real goal of evangelism. Jones reckons the work of John Wesley by retaliating that cultural, ethnic, and religious differences lead to diversity. The Wesleyan evangelism conforms to Jones believe that such uniqueness and diversity can be turned into strengths and benefits of the global society.

Jones argues that evangelism understood exclusively in terms of sharing the gospel with an aim of converting someone is misleading. The conversion agenda places the mission of the church at crossroads. If the mission of the church targets conversion from other religions to Christianity or other beliefs, then there is a danger in the mission of the contemporary world. Everybody should understand evangelism in terms of service to the honor of God, in which the evangelists are the true witnesses of God’s love. Evangelizers should target to spread the gospel with an aim to share the love of God rather than to attract them to a certain religious denomination.

Evangelism and Congregational Renewal by Dr. Arun Jones

According to Jones, congregational renewal is a biblical journey in which believers further their understanding of the gospel and expand their practice through faith sharing about the love of God to all. Through congregational renewal, the church supports communities of faith those are dynamic and diverse, with more believers involved in God’s mission. However, just as renewal is essential to one’s life and so it is essential in the congregational life. Building new techniques in congregational renewal is fundamental for evangelism. Evangelism prepares Christians to be ready to develop in God’s mission, appreciating community and culture.

Many people see congregational renewal as an endeavor of the pastor or church leaders alone. Congregational renewal involves a complete change of heart for the entire church. Renewal happens when members cooperate in a transition with a clear understanding of the goals and purpose of their ministry. Many people think that renewal happens in the church alone. Jones brings a different perspective by making a call to all church members to fill their places of evangelism in the workstation, home, or any place God has chosen them to minister.

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Congregational renewal goes far beyond a mere restructuring of the church objectives or addition of a few strategies. According to Jones, a congregational renewal should manifest a good understanding of the deep cultural transition encountering the members of a congregation during the process. Leaders should adopt a reliable framework to identify and address issues that may hinder congregations from experiencing renewal. The church interactions should remain passionate and be able to restore the love of God to those who drift from their course. Church leaders should equip their members to realize their spiritual gifts and seek practical applications of these gifts through evangelism. The readjusting of a congregation’s heart and their mission can be complex and time-consuming, but it is inevitable for all congregations to reach out the world and share the love that God has endowed in them. Jones offers a positive and meaningful way to revitalize the church that provides a framework for spiritual and conscious development for all.

Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith

People view evangelism as more aggressive and confronting rather than being persuasive.6 Currently, evangelists are being ignored, and their tasks are seen to be well performed by pastors in the traditional church setting. Perhaps it is necessary to evaluate the approach of John Wesley in evangelism as a complete natural circle. In this work, Wesley identifies that the drive of real evangelism as receiving a message that changes one’s life and experiencing the urge to share the message with others in the believe that it will change their lives too.7 Wesley envisions an evangelism that conveys, attracts, nurtures, and inspires one’s heart.

According to Knight and Powe, evangelism involves a form of a relationship.8 Evangelism entails how humankind relates to God, who is capable of converting people into new beings. In this light, Wesley talks about the importance to create good relationships with neighbors. Therefore, to Wesley, living an evangelical life shows the transforming nature of loving God.9 Besides, God’s love is abundant for everyone, and by acknowledging this, everyone can be changed and saved. Knight and Powel demonstrate the essence of evangelism to everyone who believes and receives the spirit.10 This work is based on the Scriptures and in the works of John Wesley, combining a sense of tradition with a revelation to the movement of God’s spirit. However, just as Reisman envisions, Wesley believes that an innovative church will be more effective in evangelism. Thus, he calls for the introduction of new approaches to eliminate the skepticism that has developed among secular populations regarding the church.

Graceful Evangelism: Christian Witness in a Complex World

The term evangelism provokes powerful reactions among humankind. Disputes concerning what it is, what it entails, and such conflicts can lead to division in the church.11 These conflicts signify the need for new theologies and approaches that match today’s religiously pluralistic and earthly contexts. Adeney provides a detailed approach to evangelism moving from biblical models to current practice.12 From Adeney’s perspective, understanding divergent contexts and means to evangelism as well as welcoming views of others about this sensitive topic can assist in eradicating the evangelism conflicts. The church should be gracious, humble, and respectful in the course of evangelism. Adeney creates a clear picture of what the contemporary church should do to promote good evangelism.13 Christians should embrace peace, love, and care to develop a religion that is comprehensive and offers chances for the spiritual development of humanity.

Critique

While reviewing these facts and encountering the question concerning what mission entails, it is necessary to acknowledge a shift in emphasis from the ancient concepts and models. Through this, people can focus on the centrality of the God’s presence through evangelism. There is a need for new thinking about the missions of the church in a pluralistic world. Such thinking should allow some form of flexibility in the application of the theology of evangelism. An appropriate conception should proclaim the kingdom of God; ensure justice, peace, and love between people of diverse religious affiliations, beliefs, culture, and ethnicity. Most people become Christ followers because of sharing of experiences and encouragement of the disciple of Christ. Just like the mission of Jesus, the contemporary missions should not focus on mere religious conversion but conversion to experience God’s presence and love. Currently, believers have to act like servants just as Jesus did. They should not expect to be served but to serve and present their souls for the salvation of others.14

Regardless, the future of outreach seems difficult, specifically due to three reasons that will be mentioned below. Such factors are highly shared by Reisman and Jones in their understanding regarding evangelism. First, due to the poor understanding of the concept evangelism, human culture will continue to experience a decline in Christ followers. Due to the ambiguity of the concepts, many people will distance from Christianity and avoid identifying with Christianity.15 Consequently, the world will be defined with increased skepticism towards Church. Second, the society will continue to be ruled by earthly/secular generations through opinions as well as action. As it has been the case in the halls of power, many subscribe to the secular understanding. A dominant secular worldview will attempt to undermine the Christian faith.16 Consequently, the attempt to marginalize Christianity will move the church to the edge of the world culture. The church being at the periphery creates a moment when congregational renewal proves vital. During such moments, the church should send its people out to share their experiences with God and try to bring others to the mountaintop and experience the glory.

Third, contrary to Jones perception regarding evangelism and religious pluralism, culture continues to experience an increase in religious pluralism, where Christianity is exposed to competing viewpoints. The continued growth of pluralism will lead to individual autonomy, where truth for one individual is not viewed as truth for another. Given that all these three aspects are evident in the contemporary world, the church needs to take the following shifts as a way of becoming more meaningful in evangelism. As Reisman envisions, religions that transit from a temple mindset to a network mindset tend to be more fruitful for evangelism. Many people see and subscribe to the notion that evangelism is based in the church, not via the church. Consequently, church members feel encouraged to invite friends and family to the church gathering. Even though the church will grow if more people are invited to the corporate gathering, the rate is very slow and need to be substituted by a network mindset. Apart from depending on the invite criteria so that people congregate and hear the gospel, believers should be empowered to outreach and share with their friends, family, and neighbors.

The second argument suggests that churches that dwell on seeking domination by conducting attractive evangelism should shift to an incarnational mindset to ensure effective ministry. Using attractive approaches is not wrong since they can be useful in attracting people to hear the gospel. However, since more people continue to be skeptical about coming together to a holy place, then Christians must train to be the church. Christians should serve as the manifestation of God’s presence in the places they find themselves.17 Ideally, teaching and empowering Christians about the influence of the gospel spread out to the society is the effective way to minister. Just as Wesley and Reisman envision, evangelism has to be practical. It is the religion of experience and salvation lived in present life.

Third, churches that transit from the traditional ways to more innovative ones tend to be more reliable at evangelism. As the worldview about religion continues to evolve, churches need to change.18 The shifts need to be methodological rather than theological. Besides, the changes should be contextual rather than textual. Essentially, churches will not abandon its foundations of a biblical church, but such marks should not restrict gospel to the church premises. Gospel might be shared in a restaurant, the internet, community gatherings or learning institutions. However, changes need to go beyond venues to ways that choose to interact with the community either through funding community projects or through participating in community work. Unfortunately, many people believe in theories about future rewards. Only a few are willing to spread the gospel without waiting for future rewards but can see evangelizing to others as the reward in itself. If many people assume this course, then Jones and Reisman’s approach can become more fulfilling.

Conclusion

Even though none of the modern believers has seen the historical Jesus physically, hence the lack of real witnesses of Jesus, it is the duty of the evangelists to believe in him on the foundations of the faith that have been passed on from the historical witnesses through the scriptures. This faith in God should increase through a deep understanding of God’s message through faith sharing. A life that is anchored in faith should naturally manifest love and concern to others as a way of emulating God’s nature. Since the ancient believers spread the gospel, it is the obligation of the convinced followers of Christ in the contemporary times to preach the gospel of salvation to others. However, faith sharing and all that is included in the process must consider the religious and cultural diversity of the modern society. Due to this diversity, faith sharing should assume a form of dialogue and cooperation amongst the followers of different beliefs for cohesion and co-existence. Since congregational renewal is inevitable in the contemporary society, leaders need to find a framework of change that addresses the various misconceptions about evangelism.

Bibliography

Adeney, Frances. Graceful Evangelic. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.

Dani, Eszter. “Traits and Methodologies of Authentic Evangelism.” International Review of Mission 101, no. 2 (2012): 388-392.

Knight, Henry, and Douglas Powe. Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2006.

Leonardo, Chirico. “Salvation Belongs to The Lord.” Evangelical Review of Theology 39, no.4 (2015): 293-310.

Pajin, Dusan. “Religious Pluralism: Religious Wars and Religious Tolerance.” Kultura 140, no.1 (2013): 44-68.

Trementozzi, David. “Salvation Belongs To Our God: Celebrating The Bible’s Central Story – By Christopher J. H. Wright”. Religious Studies Review 35.2 (2009): 126-127. Print.

Footnotes

  1. David Trementozzi, “Salvation Belongs To Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story – By Christopher J. H. Wright,” Religious Studies Review 35, no.2 (2009): 127.
  2. Chirico Leonardo, “Salvation Belongs to The Lord,” Evangelical Review of Theology 39, no.4 (2015): 294.
  3. Trementozzi, 127.
  4. Leonardo, 300
  5. Ibid, 299.
  6. Henry Knight and Douglas Powe, Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2006), 9.
  7. Ibid, 13
  8. Ibid, 12.
  9. Ibid, 11.
  10. Ibid, 12
  11. Frances Adeney, Graceful Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 19.
  12. Ibid, 22.
  13. Ibid, 23.
  14. Ibid, 25.
  15. Eszter Dani, “Traits and Methodologies of Authentic Evangelism,” International Review of Mission 101, no.2 (2012): 388.
  16. bid, 390.
  17. Dusan Pajin, “Religious Pluralism: Religious Wars and Religious Tolerance,” Kultura 140, no.1 (2013): 45.
  18. Ibid, 51.
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