Thursday, April 29, 2010

Evangelism is speaking of Jesus

WHY DOES EVANGELISING FEEL LIKE TORTURING? Too often it's because we've turned it into selling a product that we're not sure people need or want. I spent a year in retail banking doing that - and while it had its occasional highlights it's less than joyous.

As my former employers would tell you, however, there is another way.

Now, don't hear this as being about being less persuasive or less reasonable, less engaging or using less apologetic, but hear it: Glen Scrivener: Christ-centred evangelism and doing the stuff wont seem half as unappealing.

Here's a glimpse before you follow the link: "Evangelism is speaking of Jesus. It’s lifting Him up by the Spirit (which means Scripturally) so as to present Him to the world as good news. So we say ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ We basically hold out the Bread of life saying “Tasty isn’t He??”"


  1. Yes, yes. Glen's right. Authentic evangelism presents Christ. Holds him up - no disagreement there. But Paul did more than simply offering a taste of Jesus. You know he did, and I know he did. I think he realised that if I 'leap-in' without reasons, without the mind, then I have nothing to say to someone who asks me, "Why not Buddha?"

    Does the solution have to be a Barthian one? Barth's arguments against using natural theology are not very convincing. It is amazing that so many buy into the approach. Where in Acts do we see Paul leaving persuasion, using the tools of natural theology too (as he clearly does in Acts 17) aside, to focus simply on 'savouring' Jesus?

    Do you think Glen is uncomfortable about the mind and the apologists use of persuasion?

  2. It didn't occur to me that I was writing against 'the mind' or against 'persuasion'. I think the most persuasive kind of speaking is that which paints Christ as most attractive. And I certainly mean by that, attractive to the *mind* no less than the heart. I don't see how my post is against 'the mind'.

    What I'm really against is sidelining Christ Himself and spotlighting human decision at centre-stage. I'm against an evangelism that speaks little of Christ but mostly about what we have to do to sort ourselves out (usually with some kind of sorry spiel that becomes the object of our trust).


  3. Hi Glen,

    I agree that the most persuasive kind of speaking is that which paints Christ as most attractive

    But I would also modify things a little and say that the most persuasive kind of speaking is that which shows alternative w'views to be found wanting, paints Christ as most attractive and gives us good reasons (internal and external) to become and stay Christian.

    Is that something you could agree with?

  4. Hi Tom, my post was, if anything, an anti-*arminian* rant really. It was never meant to be anti-apologetics. Apologetics wasn't on my radar screen.

    So I might well be able to agree with your second paragraph depending on what you mean.

    Once the evangelist has lifted up the Sun of Righteousness then He can be shone into the darkness of false faiths. That can serve to show, by contrast, the beauty and truth of Christ. So in that context I don't mind talking about other worldviews, their foundations and consequences. As for 'good reasons (internal and external)' Of course everything depends on what they are and on what grounds they are offered (especially if they are something separate from 'painting Christ attractively').

    That might well prove to be a discussion bigger than this particular post warrants. Again I repeat my target is not apologetics here.

  5. I did say "don't hear this as being about being less persuasive or less reasonable, less engaging or using less apologetic"

    But this is a conversation worth having!

  6. Yeah. I read that bit Bish. I knew that you wrote it for me too :) If I read him rightly, Glen is going to try and use Jesus to argue for Jesus. That's a little crude, in terms of the argument but you see what I mean - this is how it will look to an outsider. And isn't it a dealbreaker to base the thrust of your persuasive argument on an apparent (from the non-Christian's POV) logical fallacy? Of course, for a believer - its more a question of self-evidence, and so isn't necessarily circular reasoning, but you're dead in the water persuasively if you are trying to reach people with 1/2 a brain.

    It's this whole Barthian leap-in-the-dark-and-tell-that-it-is-true-when-you-have-assumed-it-already-is style. It just doesn't work in practice - and more seriously I just don't think Paul or Jesus use this approach. The reply is often a motive counterattack - that's the classic Barthian reply. The one Karl himself used frequently. The accusation is that the person who wants to use Natural Theology is engaging in some kind of idolatory or arrogance. There are some replies to this that show that the counterattack ultimately fails. Barth moved onto the problem of religious language after this - there are replies to that too.

    Make sure your persuasion is persuasive, not just to insiders, but to outsiders too.

  7. I guess I have questions...

    To Glen - I want to see how you do this?
    To Tom - I want to see how you do this?

    i.e. what it looks/sounds like when you speak of Jesus to a non-believer... what you say to engage them persuasively, what you say when you're speaking of Jesus. Mp3 or text link massively appreciated.... or a just sample talk outline or something!!

    Otherwise we're going to be back on this in some number of weeks, and again and again...

  8. Hi Tom,

    Why has Barth's name littered the comments here? If what I'm saying sounds Barthian that's only because what I'm saying is *reformed*. Think of Spurgeon:
    "Defend Jesus? Why I'd rather defend a lion, let the Lion out of its cage, it will defend itself." (or words to that effect). It's Van Til. It's emphatically not evidential/classical apologetics, no. Instead it's pre-suppositional. But you can't dismiss it by saying 'Barth went too far'! It's a lot bigger than Barth.

    As for examples:

    The top one was my most recent evangelistic talk where I really trying to put these principles into action. It was at an evening with cricketer Henry Olonga.