Dodgy Evangelism in Emerging Churches?

One of Scot McKnight’s critique’s of the Emerging Church scene is that it is weak on evangelism. (See the quote below. Its long but worth reading.)

This is deeply ironic because much of what sparked the EC movement was a concern for the missional impetus of the church! However I would tend to agree with Scot that there is a real potential for evangelism to be lost in the more ‘process’ and ‘journey’ oriented approach to mission. It concerns me and disturbs me that we may end up losing the evangelistic impulse as we seek to be ‘missional’. Crazy…

There is much that is good about the EC approach to mission, but by and large the ability to call people to commitment is not up there as one of our notable strengths. I believe this needs some work and ultimately it may be the achilles heel – the difference between a movement that truly reshapes the landscape and just another bunch of people who had some good ideas but couldn’t make them fly.

As for me and my house – we are deeply and unashamedly committed to evangelism – the kind that loves people, serves them, prays for them, hangs out with them… and yes… tells them about Jesus and invites them to follow him.

My biggest struggle all along this road has been the fact that I can’t do the work of the HS in people’s hearts. I can do all of the above and people may still not choose to follow Jesus.

BUT let’s not stop speaking of Jesus and calling people to follow him. When we do that we might as well pack up the couches & red wine and go home…

I reckon its as serious as that.

In vs. Out

Now a third, very controversial element. Many in the emerging movement are post-evangelical because they are inherently skeptical about the “in vs. out” mentality of the evangelical movement. Let’s get the foil for the emergents on the table: evangelicals render judgment on who is and who isn’t a Christian. Catholics know who is Catholic, and Orthodox know who

is Orthodox – that’s easy. Check the list. Evangelicals don’t have official lists, but rely on personal conversion. And anyone who hasn’t had this conversion is not a Christian – whether they go to Church or not.

The emerging movement is skeptical of our ability to know such things. Some will point to the words of Jesus: “he who is not against us, is for us.” Others, using the words of Clark Pinnock’s book, point to a “wideness in God’s mercy.” And yet others will point to postmodernity’s crushing of metanarratives and will extend that as well to master theological narratives –

like Christianity. And some will then say what really matters is orthopraxy and that it doesn’t matter one bit which religion one belongs to as long as one loves God and loves one’s neighbor as one’s self. And some will tag along with Spencer Burke’s thoroughly unbiblical, overcharged Arminian concept of prevenient grace and contend that all are born “in” and only “opt

out.” I hear many more speak of a spectrum of faith, degrees of faith, and permeable walls that permit “belonging” before believing.

However one orders these thoughts, the issue is that many in the emerging movement don’t think it is possible to know if others are genuinely in the family of God – they don’t very often use “saved” – and so WTS Emerging 26 they assume or trust that others are in the family of God or are moving into the family of God.

Which creates a serious issue on evangelism. The emerging movement is not known for it – and I wish it were known more for it. I believe it is right here that we are staring at a very serious issue for the emerging movement itself: any kind of Christianity and any kind of Christian – and I don’t want to say the Reformed are excused from this problem – that is not evangelistic is woefully inadequate. Unless you proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, there is no good news at all; and if there is no good news, there is no Christianity – emerging or Reformed.

I speak personally. I’m an evangelist – not so much the tract-toting and door-knocking kind, but I am the Jesus- talking and Jesus- teaching kind. 50% of my students in my Jesus of Nazareth class are non-Christians, and I spend time praying in my office before class, and time praying in the car driving to school, and lots of time pondering ” time thinking about how to say what in order to bring home the message of the gospel in my classrooms. And I can tell you that I’m more than grateful for the numbers of kids who come to Christ or who give their lives back to Christ that come my way each year.

And I offer here a warning to you and to the emerging movement: any movement that is not evangelistic is failing the Lord. We may be humble about what we believe and we may be careful to make the gospel and its commitment clear, but we better have a goal in mind – the goal of

summoning everyone to follow Jesus Christ and to discover the redemptive work of God in Christ through the Spirit of God. wallace gromit in the curse of the were rabbit online

3 thoughts on “Dodgy Evangelism in Emerging Churches?

  1. This is an excellent and important post Hamo.

    “Unless you proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, there is no good news at all; and if there is no good news, there is no Christianity – emerging or Reformed.”

    A pity there was no discussion on this point back in November 2006.

  2. My problem is in asking what is the good news of Jesus. Maybe my evangelism doesn’t count in the modern evangelical world, because I look at Jesus’ good news as different than the good news the the evangelicals seem to favour. “Rev, for goodness sake what are you on about”.

    Well let me contrast in extremely over simplified ways what I think the difference is:

    The current evangelical good news can be ridiculously caricatured as: You are by nature a horrible person, and you deserve to be punished, God loves you so much that He sent His Son Jesus to earth and punished him in your place, so if you believe that, you get to go to heaven, if you don’t you will go to hell forever, and be in total tortuous agony for eternity.

    Now, my ridiculously charicatured good news is this:

    The world is not the way it is supposed to be, and neither are you. God however loves the world, and you so much that he longs for you to be redeemed and the world as well. Jesus was sent from God to reveal the powers and principalities that hold the world in darkness, and defeated them at the cross, and in His resurrection asks us to join him in bringing the redeemed rulership of God back to the world. The kingdom of God, is the good news that we can be a light in the darkness, and a glimpse of heaven on earth.

    Now again these are radical simplifications and truth be told there is much that is biblical about both ideas. However, Jesus explicitly says: “the kingdom of God is here, repent and believe the good news” I believe that the good news is that God’s rulership, God’s redemption, God’s future, can break into our now. This is not only in the profession or intellectual assent to a certain core doctrine and the statement of a self centered prayer, but in the actually turning away from the worlds kingdoms, and embracing the kingdom of God.

    In this kind of paradigm evangelism becomes a call to discipleship, and a new way of life.


  3. Rev, I totally agree!! “The kingdom of God is the good news that we can be a light in the darkness, and a glimpse of heaven on earth.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *