Tuesday, May 03, 2011

An Evangelist and a Pastor on "What Evangelism Isn't"

This book (pgs. 69-82):
  1. Imposing our beliefs on others
  2. Personal testimony
  3. Social action and public involvement
  4. Apologetics
  5. The results of evangelism (conversions)
And evangelist Steve Pettit, starting about 7:28 in:
  1. Imposing our religious views on other people
  2. Sharing our personal testimony
  3. Doing social work
  4. Apologetics
  5. The results of evangelism (seeing people saved)
I couldn't possibly agree more.


Nathan said...

Clearly, Mark Dever has been listening to Steve Pettit preach

brian said...

#6 on my personal list:
"sharing the gospel"

Paul said...

Was Dever's name ever mentioned in the sermon?

Ben said...

Brian, care to explain?

Paul, not that I heard, but I could have missed it. I originally heard it via another church's podcast but it disappeared from that site. I just picked the Bob Jones version of the sermon out of several options at SermonAudio and only listened to enough to confirm that he was making the same five points.

FWIW, I'm not trying to rile up accusations of plagiarism. I'm sure I often preach things that are completely unoriginal with me that I don't attribute b/c I can't remember whom I heard say them. Not that this is the same thing as that, of course.

brian said...

If I could remove one common phrase from the life of the church (be it evangelical or fundamentalist) it would be the notion of "sharing the gospel." It is simply unbiblical (not found in the pages of scripture), and can easily become anti-biblical. I much prefer to use words like "announce" or "declare" or "proclaim". Even "making known" and "spread" the gospel are so much stronger than the passive idea of sharing it. Of course, I don't limit my speech to words found in scripture, but I prefer when possible to use the language of the Bible. And here is a case where I think we distort the meaning and purpose of evangelism by the words we use to describe it's act.

For example, who do my kids share their toys with? Those who want to play with them. We don't typically use the English word "share" to describe indiscriminant giving. While I concede common usage of the word has come to include speech, it is typically a certain kind of speech. Herein lies the problem for me, and why I avoid using the term to describe evangelism. Evangelism is not the sharing of information or facts to those who want to hear it, or who are at best open to hearing. Instead, evangelism is the declaration of the glory of God in the salvation of Christ to and for sinners bound for judgment.

To "share" (in my opinion) limits our communication to those who want what we have to offer. And this way of speaking has led to a whole culture of praying for opportunities to share. What that often (not always) implies is that if someone shows interest in Christianity or the gospel, I will share. If not, God hasn't provided an opportunity and I don't have the responsibility to declare anything.

I think Carson's recent chapter in the book dedicated to Piper (sorry, don't have it on hand right now) points to some of these very problems. He tries to answer what the Greek word and word family mean and how they are used in the text, and consequently how we must speak of the notion "to evangelize".

I have had this concern for the last few years, but it became more solidified in my thinking as I moved to another country. I heard Americans use the phrase, and translate it into the local language in their communication with believers. Many times the locals were confused and didn't understand. Because at the heart of it, the gospel is not something you share. It is rather the good news which makes demands on us all, and thus is to be declared. Thus the message controls our methods.

Certainly "sharing the gospel" is not a problem. But my hope is that we can take back some of the biblical language and force of "to evangelize" from our culture of passivity and political correctness. And it can start by simply using the words of scripture to describe what the task of evangelism is.

Paul said...

I wasn't suggesting plagerism either. My interest was more in whether or not he would reference a CE in a positive light.