Sunday, March 04, 2007

Outsourcing Evangelism

In The Deliberate Church, Mark Dever discusses how biblical evangelism must include the corporate witness of a congregation of believers, not merely individuals witnessing personally. That doesn't diminish the need for personal evangelism, whether in written or spoken form. Rather it reminds us how the church is a visible display and confirmation of the truth of the gospel.

Dever argues based on John 13:34-35 that
our Christlike love for one another is intended by God to be the church's most powerful tool for evangelism. This is the reason that depending on a program for evangelistic effectiveness is a little like outsourcing the main responsibility of the church. Evangelism programs are not necessarily or categorically bad. Some are quite good. But I fear we sometimes depend on them so much that we forget that the church itself is God's evangelism program. The mutually loving relationships in the church are designed by God to be attractive to an unbelieving culture. The covenantal, careful, corporate, cross-cultural, and cross-generational love that is to characterize the church and glorify God is at the same time intended to evangelize the world (112).

4 comments:

Dave said...

"most powerful tool for evangelism"? That seems to be pressing the text considerably beyond its point--is the result of seeing this love described as conversion?

Joel said...

You know, I actually think I'm with Dave on this one. One is puzzled.

How does Dever get from identification to attraction?

Ben said...

1. I think it's a fair question whether "most" as a superlative is warranted by the text. I wouldn't argue that it is, but I also wouldn't want to miss the bigger issue Dever's addressing--that the corporate testimony to the gospel is an essential aspect of our witness that tends to be overlooked.

2. I don't think Dever is suggesting that the corporate witness will be an unfailingly effective tool for conversion. Evangelism happens when we faithfully present the gospel message, not merely when that presentation leads to a conversion. A corporate witness to the gospel is a powerful tool because it offers tangible evidence to the assertion that the gospel contains the power to create life and transform lives.

Ben said...

Joel,

You have no idea how thrilled I am to have the opportunity to bring you and Dave closer together. ;-)

See you in a couple days, Lord willing.