Does Evangelism Miss the Point of Scripture?

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 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.

13 thoughts on “Does Evangelism Miss the Point of Scripture?

  1. Julius Bowie

    Hi :-)

    Thank you so much for relieving me of the burden Jesus, Paul and the Apostles spoke about and for which so many saints have died: being hated, persecuted, rejected and often worse for preaching the gospel.

    Someone gave me a giant list of Scriptures that seem to suggest Jesus and the apostles wanted Christians to follow their example of preaching the gospel to all nations…even every creature under Heaven :-) But with just one paragraph bereft of Scripture you have effectively eviscerated and obviated all those Scriptures and Jesus’ own theme: “I came to seek and save the lost.” and “Whoever believes in me will do what I have been doing.”

    To be honest, sometimes I felt as though I wanted to “avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ,” as Paul mentioned, but you have let me know the Holy Spirit himself and the Apostles don’t want me to evangelize, but to be inwardly church focused like Paul, Jesus and Peter were. After all Jesus said Heaven rejoices more over one quiet church member more than a hundred sinners who repent…or something like that :-) (Luke 15:7)

    It’s rather convenient because, as Scripture shows, everyone who preached the word, then and now – suffers. It’s hard work and Paul said unbelievers would view the gospel as the STENCH of death:

    2Co 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

    2Co 2:15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

    2Co 2:16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

    Well…I didn’t mean to suggest Paul meant evangelism. I have learned from you that all the persecution comes from building up the church, doing good and letting our light shine and not from speaking the gospel as it says here:

    Act 4:17 we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name. (Hey…that’s you!)

    Act 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Like your suggestion)

    Act 4:19 But Peter and John replied, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.

    Act 4:20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

    You have taught me that I can drink the cup of salvation and then play keep the cup to myself, avoid trouble and still obey God.

    Now that I know all that hard work and suffering was unnecessary, that people will just see a good organization and want to repent and be baptized in Christ’s name, I think you’ve saved me and a few others from going out into the harvest field, like Jesus said here:

    Luk 10:2 Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

    I don’t know why the workers are few. :-)

    On behalf of gospel preachers everywhere, thank you. Oh, below is that errant list of Scriptures my friend TWISTED to make me believe we should all be active in evangelism, but you fixed that :-)


    Phm 1:6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

    Php 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (The Apostle Paul)

    2Co 5:11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

    2Co 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (Paul)

    Eph 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Paul)

    —–Did Paul say we should practice whatever we learned or received or heard from him or saw in him? But that would mean…

    1Ti 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    Act 5:42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

    Heb 5:12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.

    Mar 16:15 He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

    Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

    Mar 13:10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

    Luk 24:47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

    2Ti 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

    Pro 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

    Matthew 9:37-38
    Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

    Luke 19:10
    For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Jesus)

    Joh 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. (Jesus)

    Luk 24:46 He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,

    Luk 24:47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

    Act 8:30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. Do you understand what you are reading? Philip asked.

    Act 8:31 How can I, he said, unless someone explains it to me? So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

    Rom 10:13 for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

    Rom 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

    Rom 10:15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

    2Ti 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction.

    1Co 9:19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

    1Co 9:20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

    1Co 9:21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

    1Co 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

    1Co 9:23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

    1Co 4:14 I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.

    1Co 4:15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

    1Co 4:16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

    1Co 4:17 For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

    Heb 6:11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.

    Heb 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

    Heb 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

    That’s just the short list :-) No matter, short or long, I’ll take Newbiggin’s word over Jesus’ any day. It’s less stressful :-)

  2. ed Post author

    First of all, I’m not a huge fan of sarcasm on blogs unless there is some kind of clarification of where exactly you’re coming from, but you don’t seem mean-spirited about it. Your tone is offensive and your remarks even more so at times, no matter how many smiley faces you put in here. I’m all for constructive criticism, debate, and conversation, but I don’t want to start taking shots at another. You’re pretty patronizing and arrogant, which doesn’t really help things. You can think Newbigin is off, but your tone is completely unnecessary since there’s a strong chance you may have misunderstood where the Newbigin quote is coming from. This blog has been and will continue to be a safe place to discuss and dialogue on theology. You are more than welcome to share your opinion, but let’s keep things constructive and respectful.

    First of all, we need to talk about defining terms. Evangelism as it is used today and as Newbigin critiques is going out to specifically confront people with the message of the Gospel. There’s a kind of technique latent in this meaning, a meaning I was in error to not explain off the bat.

    Secondly, I think you just made a list of scriptures that in many ways proves Newbigin’s point. It’s not through some kind of Evangelism program, special event, or aggressive proselytizing, but in the midst of everyday life that we intentionally spread the Gospel (speaking is allowed, just not the kind of sales pitch it’s been reduced to today). Newbigin would never, ever say that we should not share the truth of the Gospel. He’s critiquing the way it’s done. When Evangelism becomes a kind of program initiated by people with their strategies, perhaps a program limited to “evangelists” who have special kinds of evangelical ministries, then we’ve missed out on the calling of all believers to share the Gospel BY HOW WE LIVE in the Spirit’s power. We speak, but only with the leading and prompting of the Spirit. Paul couldn’t even travel to northern Turkey because the Spirit stopped him and redirected him to Macedonia. God points us in the right direction, and then we speak.

    Many of your list’s verses deal with this aspect of living the Gospel, being light or aroma. Others call believers to imitate their leaders. The last one from Hebrews 13:7 talks about teaching fellow believers. In fact, preaching does not necessarily mean the same thing as “evangelizing” or preaching to unbelievers.

    So Newbigin is advocating for another kind of evangelism if you will, he just doesn’t call it evangelism because the term has become something that means confronting unbelievers with the Gospel often apart from being that aroma of Christ. We can argue about whether or not Newbigin is correct, but what’s at stake here isn’t whether or not we share the Gospel, but rather how it’s done. Are we to rely on city maps, strategies, and conversational techniques, or should we immerse ourselves in the Spirit of God and scripture, allowing God to transform our lives, and thereby becoming salt and light in our world. As we make contacts with people in our daily lives we will no doubt share the Gospel or even have chances to speak publicly. Newbigin is primarily concerned with making Evangelism the work of the Holy Spirit, growing in intimacy with the Father, taking advantage of every opportunity to share Christ as the Spirit allows, and letting the Gospel shine in our own lives.

    So as we understand evangelism today, Newbigin challenges us to go back to scripture. I should emphasize that the above passage is a review of Newbigin, so we’ll have to go back to the text of Newbigin to get a fair, word-for-word statement.

  3. Julius Bowie

    Hello :-)

    Some say don’t constrict expression to a singular or even consensual idea of what style of language is effective, useful, respectful, considerate, etc. Just let them speak in the custom they wish and as Spock or my Harvard friends would, simply point out where, substantively, they are wrong. Some have grown up with sarcasm in their family, their blood and they don’t particularly feel like robotically reversing a lifetime of communication every time a sensitive blogger might burst into tears.

    People who complain about sarcasm are usually not upset about the sarcasm, but just how well it serves it’s purpose – to show how wrong, contemptible, misinformed and absurd the sarcasm’s target is, and how right, by contrast, the offered opposing point may be.

    Paul, Jesus, Elijah – and really, let’s face it, nearly every human being uses sarcasm in their speech and heart – it’s a part of an honest reaction to something viewed as worthy of derision. I feel what I’ve read here is worthy of derision and that’s my personal best way of communicating it. I can’t help it if you have other ideas about how I should conduct my self, and do I have to care if you like it? Jesus rarely said things the easy likable way – remember when he called the Samaritan woman a dog or sent away his “kosher” followers by asking them to eat and drink his flesh and blood without kow towing in explanatory footnotes? Truth is truth and some choose, at times, to speak like Elijah when he was tormenting the derisive ideas of his enemies just before he did even worse: he killed them all. 1Ki18.27

    Although we purportedly live in a nation of free speech, Satan uses certain human tools, political correctness and other social subtleties to throttle the gospel and ideas that oppose satanic ideas – like that evangelism is just for the gifted few or not an emphasis of Jesus, the Apostles and nearly all of Scripture, which, in one possible summary, is about God sending a message to all the earth through those that love him.

    If you are advocating what John said here:

    Rev 12:11 They overcame him (the Devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

    then the argument is not directed toward you; it’s directed to all the lazy complacent cowards in churches everywhere that are always coming up with speciously clever excuses to not suffer for the gospel. They deserve more than just my sarcasm and I can only hope they don’t get to judgment day believing some of the things I’ve read here.

    As to how we are to evangelize, we have many examples and directives in Scripture. 1.) It involves offending people whose reaction is more likely to hate and want to kill you than accept it. 2.) It, in most cases involves rejection. 3.) But to those appointed for eternal life it results in SWEET! fellowship, friendship, unity and joy:

    Act 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

    It’s wrong to let the world’s pathologically evil hatred of Jesus and the truth dictate evangelistic limits: The devil and his minions will always be offended by even a perfectly executed gospel message. Anyone with a soul, modicum of civilization, grace or ounce of reason will not be offended by even a poorly rendered gospel message, in and of itself; double that for people of the light.

    Melodramatic “offense” at mere ideas and styles of presentation is a grievous evil. Obviously, this doesn’t address pernicious, harmful or generally malevolent (see the Third Reich) ideas, but advocating that everyone strive to participate in specific spoken communication of Jesus teachings and the gospel in the fashion of Jesus, the Apostles and other disciples in the NT, along with living it, is hardly any of these.

    Yes, there are those who “will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” 2Pet 2.2 and only a fool would advocate for gratuitous offense, but the gospel, by it’s very nature, is going to be offensive to evil, evil minded people, apathetic people, the Devil, and those under heavy Satanic influence. And they will target and make war against gospel preachers, but they will hug and kiss anyone who changes evangelism into a personal quiet light shining only covert operation.

    Nothing I said precludes being, “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” or “becoming all things to all people,” just cowardice and debilitating fear.

    It might be worth nothing that Jesus and Paul said: Whether from false motives or pure, the important thing is that Christ is preached(Php 1.18); and, “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.” (Mat 23.3)

    In both these passages – the speakers are impure and/or children of the devil, as Jesus said of many Pharisees and Sadducees. Even still, they were to be listened to, even obeyed, if the content of their messages rang true. And I can guarantee you – in both cases – you can bet – the container of the message included sarcasm.

    Fight sarcasm all you want, but if it’s effective and useful for bringing out a point, it’s a wonderful aid and any good writer, speaker, preacher or politician knows that – even if the targets of skillful sarcasm, predictably, get red faced and do a bit of jumping and throwing dust.


    Me :-)

    2Co 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

  4. Julius Bowie

    Hello :-)

    I also would like to point out that never once did Jesus complain, nor did any of the Apostles, about the sarcasm or taunting speech of their opponents. The Jews called Jesus a Samaritan, mad, demon possessed and many other things and how did he respond? Did he get caught up in the mechanics and style of their speech? NO he did not.

    What did he do? He simply pointed out how and why they were wrong. Behold:

    Joh 8:48 The Jews answered him, Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?

    Joh 8:49 I am not possessed by a demon, said Jesus, but I honour my Father and you dishonour me.

    Again and again Jesus simply corrected them, allowing them freedom of expression stylistically and substantively.

    Not once did Jesus ever say, “I don’t care for your tone.” Why not? Because he was not prideful. It’s pride that causes many people to become angry when admonished (right or wrongly) in a “disrespectful” tone.

    But if a participant in the conversation thinks your ideological viewpoint is not worthy of respect and perhaps you yourself, by advocating these ideas, are not worthy of respect, should his language reflect a flattering lie?

    Was Paul respectful and sarcasm free when he said, “Gal 5:12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

    Or when he said, “Tit 1:12 Even one of their own prophets has said, Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.

    Tit 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith”

    No, he rebuked them sharply and instructed others to do the same. But there is no room today for Christian, Pauline, Johannine or Elijahn freedom of speech to rebuke and correct with all the force language can bring.

    Fight this, don’t spread this.

    Me! :-)

  5. ed Post author

    Dude, you’re over the top. Look at the verse you used,
    “Joh 8:49 I am not possessed by a demon, said Jesus, but I honour my Father and you dishonour me.”

    Jesus said you dishonor me. Jesus was speaking to his enemies, calling out their actions. I am not your enemy. I am a fellow follower of Jesus. I am giving you benefit of a doubt. I’m committing to loving you. I will accept you even if you don’t accept me. I am simply asking for a civil discussion among a fellow Christian brother. I want to focus on the real topics at hand. I want to have a discussion and have welcomed you to correct me. I don’t think you understand that you may very well have some great points, but they’re clouded by your tone.

    I don’t think you need to hide behind a swarm of loosely applied scripture verses.

    Since you’re really into quoting scripture, let’s take a look at this:
    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    John 13:34-35

    Whatever we’re discussing, love should be our guiding principle. I have no problem with you being right. There’s nothing wrong with quoting scripture. But if the mark of a disciple is love, and the greatest command is to love, then being right doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it in an unloving manner. The Bible has been reduced to a weapon to judge others, rather than a tool we can gently use to instruct one another. If you want some back up on this:

    Romans 12:10
    Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

    Romans 13:10
    Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    1 Corinthians 8:1
    Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

    1 Corinthians 13:1
    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

    1 Corinthians 13
    1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    Ephesians 4:2
    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

    Ephesians 4:15
    Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

    A wise interpreter of scripture once said:
    When interpreted correctly, all scripture leads to love of God and one’s neighbor.
    – Saint Augustine

    You’re welcome to your views and to express them here. However, I reserve the right to promote what I deem to be respectable discussion.

  6. Julius Bowie

    I am enjoying our talk actually, and smiling through much of it. I just think my boundaries are different than yours in terms of communication. I enjoy sarcasm against my points very much if it’s actually sharp, preferably funny but mostly to the point, and not a red herring or straw man. All I’ve ever wanted was complete freedom of expression but we all have different ideas of what is acceptable.

    For instance, I hate when people misuse God’s name as an expletive. Cursing in general I find repulsive; perhaps cursing is to me what sarcasm is to you. I just love sarcasm and think it’s one of the absolutely strongest and bestest ways to make a point ever!

    I didn’t say you were my enemy – I made clear against what I was railing and additionally specifically said it doesn’t apply to you if you align with Revelation 12.11 and the rest. Obviously you would say I misunderstand Scripture if I am saying (I am) anyone who knows enough to obey the gospel should fairly quickly learn enough to preach the gospel in an ever growing capacity as they mature in knowledge and experience.

    But let’s be more practical: Do you constantly attempt to find out where people are and reach out to them with Scripture, supplying whatever is lacking, teaching others to do the same? If you have been a Christian for years, have you studied the Bible with many people, or been instrumental in bringing a few from darkness into the light? Is this your goal, and also to help others to do the same?

    After all, there is a great big world of lost people filling up prisons for unspeakable crimes and every missed opportunity to snatch someone from the world and into the church, contributes to life loss, lives that will hurt others as they skid down their dark corridors. Just turn on the news.

    Jesus said it well: Luke 11:23 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.

    Most people are not gathering and not gathering, as Jesus said, is not as innocent as it may seem. With every tick of the clock, the reaper draws a wage for eternal life. But I’ve never known a seminarian who thought preaching the gospel to the lost was urgent.

    Even now, those who are in their graves hear the voice of Jesus and rise; some to eternal life, and some to be condemned. I just hope no one looks over at you on judgment day and says, “Hey, you are that sharp seminarian cookie with the blog who had ample opportunity to speak up to me but just never did.” John 4-5

    But aren’t you actually saving yourself too?

    Ezekiel 33:6-9 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’ 7 ¶ “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.

    8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.

    Does this not apply to us and isn’t it further elaborated here:
    Proverbs 24:11-12 1 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

    These are strong warnings against not warning people of the coming judgment while others exhort to preach the gospel.

    Isn’t loving one’s neighbor tantamount to saving his soul? What else matters?
    What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul, or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mat16.26.

    As far as how do we evangelize, speaking up would seem requisite in all cases since without faith it’s impossible to be saved or please God and faith comes through hearing the message.


    John 4:34-38 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

    PS. You are commendably kind and patient and I’m sure your picture is in the dictionary under Sang Froid :-) I’d eat Thanksgiving dinner at your house any day!

  7. Julius Bowie

    Howdy Ed,

    Okay, I’m sorry. I know I’m over the top and worse. But let me ask you this: What kind of evangelism would you oppose? Street maps and conversational techniques sometimes work. Don’t you think Paul is saying to save “by all possible means?”

    1 Corinthians 9:22-23 I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    What if only one is saved by a city map blitz? You would say a hundred others are turned off I bet. But can someone seeking the Lord really be dissuaded by a poor evangelist? If that were so, than the story of the Samaritan women or of Abraham and Isaac would have no meaning. They were both, as are we all, tested by God, and if we shrink back, he will not accept us and the tests are usually more rigorous than a bad canvassing strategy.

    If Paul said save by all possible means, wouldn’t you be on the wrong side of things denouncing wide swaths of evangelistic “techniques?” Isn’t any attempt to put the words of Christ into the hearts of people worth trying? Yes, optimize where possible, eliminate inferior if a superior way avails itself, but what evangelism techniques are significantly widespread and harmful such that you and /or Newbigin go out of your way to oppose and denounce?


  8. ed Post author

    Thanks for your direct response. I enjoy sarcasm too, but it can ruin a good discussion in print and on web sites if perceived as an attack. I suppose knowing the writer helps. If we ever host a Thanksgiving dinner I’ll have to announce it on the blog!

    I don’t necessarily 100% endorse the quote from Newbigin, however I am a bit of a charismatic Evangelical, as I believe the Holy Spirit hasn’t received enough attention from my group. So I’ve been cautious about “evangelism strategies,” though I’m sure they can be done in some cases under the Spirit’s leading. Newbigin is skeptical of such methods, I’m a bit wary as well. That’s where I find his quote thought-provoking and helpful.

    I share the Gospel often, if not every day. As the author of a theology book it the Gospel comes up even more often than ever, even at secular writing conferences where I have a room of people to speak with. I have gone into and will continue to go into prisons as often as possible. So yes, I’m very committed to sharing the Gospel. However, I don’t use the hard sell lines such as, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” and break into conversations out of no where. I try to make sharing Jesus the most natural thing, never forcing it, but grabbing every opportunity to share about his love and the change he has brought in me. Just as I wouldn’t have to strategize ways to talk about my wife with people, I don’t think I should have to strategize ways to share my love for Christ. If sharing the love of Christ is not a natural constant in my life, then I don’t have a strategy problem, but an isolation problem–isolation from the love of Christ. It is the love of Christ that compels us.

    Having said all of that, I’m not here to condemn evangelism conferences or whatever. I’m just not going to attend, and I will raise my concerns about where they may be missing the mark.

  9. Julius Bowie

    Howdy Ed,

    It makes me happy to know you are trying for all you are worth to save as many as possible. I agree the “If you died tonight” can be fumbled, but it contains a “James concept” – “this very night your life will be demanded of you” and is like the phrase Jesus repeated often, “I come like a thief in the night.”

    With all the evil in the world, why someone would single out being asked about their life as offensive, in even a clumsy awkward way, is beyond me and one wonders if we should allow what is good to be spoken of as evil(Rom 14:16) since the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1Jn 5:19) and it’s reported that the world likes to call evil good and good evil (Isa 5:20).

    HOMOSEXUALITY is a reason for a thousand PRIDE parades down a thousand main streets but BIBLE THUMPERS are the target of everyone. You tell me – which do you think God finds more offensive?

    Egregious hate mongers and those with malevolent intent are not included in my argument. Then again, those greedy for gain with impure hearts are welcome to preach as Paul said it’s the message, the power of God to save in the gospel, that counts and not the heart of the person preaching it:

    —“But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” Php 1:18—

    I bet the Spirit supports all gospel outreach, even the ones denounced here.

    Could the notion that the Spirit approves and supports some gospel outreach and not others be an idea from below? (False doctrines not included)

    I say this because you seem to require a Spirit meter, as if we can know specifically when, how or if the SPIRIT is acting and moving, before we can preach the gospel. Can we?

    Jesus seemed to suggest the Spirit is in the Gospel and that “the Spirit gives life; the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” Joh 6:63

    Some say certain kinds of evangelism are ineffective but Jesus and the Apostles were rejected so hard they had to wipe the dust of whole towns from their feet.(Lk10.11) So “effectiveness” is not a good measure of strategy.

    Is offending the world, which is under the control of the evil one, a good measure?

    Perhaps it’s possible to empty the cross of Christ of it’s POWER with human wisdom.(1Co 1:17) Maybe the straight forward bold approach is best, even when becoming all things to all people shrewdly like snakes. Snakes strategize unnatural schemes to waylay us, why can’t we scheme like doves to save some?

    Resolving to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified would seem to require a direct tact. 1Co 2:2

    Obviously with long term contacts, one has the luxury (barring what James and the Thief in the Night say) of a more subtle path.

    It’s just that many use “The Spirit told me” kind of mechanics to control people often against what Scripture teaches.

    Here is my ALL TIME WINNER for 1.) Finding out where the person is; 2.) Opening the door for the gospel:


    That can be an evangelist’s GOLDEN QUESTION.

    You can almost see the thoughts flood across their face as it forces their brain to quickly review their religious history, their church attendance habits, even their conscience before God’s Spirit (who is standing beside every gospel encounter) and very often they will say:

    Yes…I used to go a lot but haven’t gone in a while; or I moved and haven’t found a church; or no but my parents do.

    Obviously it’s a no brainer to follow up by asking where they went to church. If they say they went for years I feel free to ask what that church taught about going to Heaven. Inevitably they say, “Obey the 10 commandments” or “Just be a good person.”

    And every Christian should know how to respond to these myths.

    I usually get objections about the Bible being translated too many times to be trusted. That’s when I summarize in simple terms some basic textual criticism, how the Bible is head and shoulders above any other ancient document and if they will just check it out they will find that Bible veracity surpasses the highest bar of proof similarly used for any ancient document or event.

    No matter what their objection is, I always have a great answer, even though my IQ is 58 and I have an eyepatch, because being “active in sharing my faith has given me a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”Phm 1:6

    Close with an invitation – have a card with, time, place and a compelling blurb on the back.

    I’ve heard it all before and God really has supported his message with reason, logic, evidence and proof just as Jesus said, “Don’t take my word for it, at least believe on the evidence.”

    So in my experience, not only has stragegizing, technique, door knocking (the most fruitful) and “forcing” conversations been productive, others who have been brave enough to try it always come back to me with sentiments of how it’s changed their lives and the lives of those they’ve loved this way.

    If we can just get Christians to ask that one question: “Where do you go to church?” the rest follows very naturally.

    Perhaps the reason we see differently is that an evil society does make what is natural and good ~appear~ to be unnatural and forced.

    But is it possible that, as in the days of the flood and Sodom, that the world is wrongfully dictating what we do, instead of the Spirit of God directing us, and that in many cases it’s fear of the world’s UNWARRANTED rejection and derision that keeps us from boldly declaring the gospel fearlessly as we should?

    Even Paul struggled with this:
    Eph 6:20 Pray that I may declare the gospel fearlessly, as I should.

    If Paul had fear, is it possible it’s fear that makes us not be bold and upfront with the gospel?


  10. Julius Bowie

    BTW, feel free to remove or edit any truculent bits of my posts or untoward posts in their entirety. I don’t mind at all as I think some of it was the caffeine, pain killers, lack of sleep and repressed anger talking to those in my mind who have fought tooth and nail against evangelism in my life pasta. No…I mean pasts. Can you edit this too please?


  11. Katy-Did

    This exchange, though I am siding with you, is just another sad wrung on a ladder going nowhere.

    I just am amazed that a brother would speak in this manner. God has taught me something after reading the things written by this ME person.

    Our hearts sometimes are so close to being hardened because of some sin or entertainment of false doctrine. I cannot remember which scripture it is but God will let a heart be hardened if a sin is left too long to capture us.

    I pray that God will show me what is stil lingering in my own heart. I sense that this brother is lost in some way. That as he has talked of pride he is literally choking on his own. Discernment and Judgement sit opposite a very fine line. His lack of spiritual maturity shows through every word

    All the biblical articulate abilities in the world, or sarcasms of wit will never lead a believer into maturity and wisdom. He is obviously careless and I sensed bitter.

    So, again what you shared initially is something that this man may never grasp. His heart cannot see the truth. He has been mislead somewhere, perhaps some aspect of legalism is still enslaving him.

    I am going to get this book by Newbigin. It may be a tough read but it seems bibilically sound just based on Odens review. Christ is the Power which motivates a humble heart to speak out. To “Go Out” as the word says is not to shove Christ into the faces of others. The message in God’s Word is to BE Christ where ever we are; Into the whole world.

    We can’t be Christ if we don’t know Him intimately, having been refined and matured. Christians are so quick to be instructed to jump up and run when they do not know how to walk. This is so sad. I think Mr. Oden is right on in his critique of Newbigin’s work on this gospel truth.

    For me the institutional church in all of it’s doctrines and programs has devised the most “biblical-like” methods to disarm and misdirect the bride. So much of what we have learned in the kindergarten institutional church is unbiblical and of another father.

    I have left the doctrines of men. And desire to only hear from Christ. Seeking Godly counsel from Elders in the Body and waiting before speaking out in faith.

    In Christ


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