Evangelism is one of the most prominent religions of the western world. The evangelists recognize the Bible’s total authority and are devoted to Christ. Traditionally, religious communication and missionary activities play a significant role in evangelism. However, the majority of modern citizens cannot see themselves practicing it to its full extent even though they may consider it necessary. Nowadays, talking about faith and beliefs is uncommon, and it rather seems disturbing. The perception of the evangelist missionary work as a challenge interferes with conversion and engagement in religion. Contrary to envision of evangelism as confrontation, the authors of the book, Hal Knight and Doug Powe, see it as a communal phenomenon. In their book, they emphasize the evangelist features of welcoming others into the community and encouraging them to grow in their religion. For the verification of their perspective, Knight and Powe exemplify the work and experience of one of the greatest practitioners – John Wesley. According to the authors, addressing the Wesleyan tradition will help many to share their faith with others and will make the communication within the community more effective.
John Wesley was born in the 18th century in the family of the Anglican pastor. He had a controversy with the traditional understanding of Christianity as a solitary and private religious phenomenon. For John Wesley, the tradition seemed to be exclusive to many people, and he couldn’t agree with this. In his life, Wesley preached thousands of sermons, and he emphasized that salvation is for everyone, and the experience of a new life full of love and God’s blessing is achievable in the present. Overall, the Wesleyan evangelism includes the abidance in Christ, the achievement of a new life, the experience of salvation, and the reliance on the omnipresent Holy Spirit.
The lack of the right motivation for sharing the evangelist message is the basis for the book’s argumentation. Most people perceive religion as personal and private. Along with the widespread opinion, many understand religion as the series of duties and the rules of good behavior practicing which one attains rewards in the after-death life. Some people strive to be well more than others and make tremendous efforts to become valuable church members. Nevertheless, according to Wesley, sharing the message shouldn’t be regarded as a duty, necessity, or obligation; on the contrary, it must be a free expression of gratitude to God. When a person receives a message that transformed his/her life for good, sharing this message is also the manifestation of compassion to the other members of society.
Wesley says that the world’s religion that his community desires to see established is “a religion of love and joy and peace, having its seat in the inmost soul, but ever showing itself by its fruits” (Knight and Powe 11). The tradition underlines the significance of love in people’s everyday life communication and relations. Love has a religious quality, and it is the only solution for establishing order and peace in society. Through love life can be transformed, and the Wesleyans see the only salvation in expressing their love to God.
The other argument of the book concerns the concept of salvation. For the majority of the people, salvation is a kind of reward that one gain by accomplishing his/her religious duties. Many see salvation as “being forgiven of one’s sins so one goes to heaven when one dies” (Knight and Powe 12). Wesley and his followers suggest another understanding of salvation. According to them, it is a life-transforming experience. Salvation thus can be attained in life and can be lived. Based on this, sharing God’s message involves sharing salvation that can be also seen as sharing God’s gift with others. However, understanding salvation in separation from work is a misunderstanding. Missionary work is assumed to be the most substantial religious activity an evangelist can be engaged in. However, only the right approach toward it involves salvation. The approach is in sharing God’s blessing and the possession of this blessing in life. Salvation is “the gift of a new life, a life we have in the present, and which death cannot take from us” (Knight and Powe 12). Salvation exists in the human heart. The authors claim the importance of it being shared with everyone. Each person must have a chance to be forgiven and to transform his/her life no matter how guilty and sorrowful he/she currently may feel.
The perspective offered by Knight and Powe is interesting because it suggests an alternative approach towards religion. For the majority of the religious and non-religious people, religion is not more than a theory when it concerns such issues as salvation. The common envisioning of evangelism implies work, yet the results of this work cannot be experienced in the present, it is something of the future. A person cannot experience and attain salvation in his/her life but only waits for it to happen someday. Contrary to this, Wesleyan evangelism is practical. It is the religion of experience and the present life. The innovation of this perspective is demonstrated in the ability to attain salvation and a new life here and now.
Although the perspective described in the book offers a solution for the religious people regarding the right purpose and motivation for the activities and fulfillment of the duties, it probably will be not accepted by the vast number of community members. It is possible to assume that the given approach can be hard to apply in practice because it differs from the habitual way of religious behavior. Wesleyan evangelism implies action and experience. Experience includes hard work but in modern society, religious work is put in the background of financial and social development. Although for those who understand the importance of spiritual growth in the everyday life, it could be hard to substitute their easy belief for self-discipline in practice. Believing in theories provides comfort and consolation in the hard times. But practicing and evangelizing probably will not offer such a consolation and more likely will be challenging in many ways throughout life. Only for those who are capable of worshiping without waiting for the great rewards and are capable of seeing the worshiping experience as the reward in itself, the Wesleyan approach can become fruitful and worthwhile.
Although Wesleyan evangelism is religious, it can become a solution for the other aspects of social life as well. For example, a loving and respectful attitude can assist the resolving inequality issues. It can serve the improvement of the communication among the society members and can consolidate the unity. However, the positive impact can be induced only when Wesleyan tradition will find a way to access a large number of modern people.
The cultural, ethnic, and religious diversities often cause the emergence of conflicts and controversies in the global society. The Wesleyan evangelism offers a constructive and positive way that can reduce negativity and disputes. But for this, it is important to take into consideration all the possible diversities and provide a delicate method of assimilation into the tradition that will not renounce the cultural differences and, on the contrary, will emphasize and turn them into strengths and benefits.
Despite the potential challenges the perspective’s dissemination at the global scale, at the personal level and from the local evangelist perspective is of significant advantage. Wesleyan tradition can be applied by anyone interested in religion and cannot simply rely on the belief. Although Wesley doesn’t refuse the theory and religious conceptions, believing in them without working is not be of any use. It is the combination of beliefs and practices that makes it different. The importance of love and gratitude expression creates the distinction of the tradition as well. Wesley and his followers offer a positive and constructive religion that is inclusive and provides opportunities for spiritual and conscious growth for many. According to Wesley, each person “is of infinite worth to God” (Knight and Powe 12). God’s love is inherent in every human being, and by understanding this, everyone can be transformed and saved.
Knight, Henry and Douglas Powe. Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith, Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2006. Print.