A while back I read Newbigin’s excellent book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It’s a heavyweight book, one that is digested slowly and refuses to be rushed.
I happened to be reading through a review of it on amazon.com and read the following review by Patrick Oden. Apparently I wasn’t reading Newbigin close enough. Oden says,
He [Newbigin] points out that the New Testament epistles are virtually devoid of references, exhortations, or instructions to evangelism and missions. This is an unusual observation in respect to the modern emphasis on such activities. Newbiggin points out that these were not referred to for one main reason. It is that the role of evangelism was never thought of as the responsibility for the believer. Rather, evangelism was a result of the power of the Holy Spirit acting in such a way that people were drawn to see and inquire what this new power was. “The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.” Thus, we understand why Paul exhorted his churches to mature, growing in their faith and understanding of the Triune God. It would be through this maturity that the Spirit would naturally move in the lives of believers to reach out to the community around them. When a church loses this focus, ministry becomes difficult and impossible, especially in an age of pluralism.
Wow. I think I’ve been going about this Evangelism thing all wrong, though I have known somewhere within myself that the driving force behind any kind of evangelism is a vibrant life with the Holy Spirit.
Leave it to Newbigin to capture a modern metaphor for destruction and turn it into a life-giving concept.