Thorn: Reforming Evangelism

Joe_buddha2Great series of posts on "Reforming Evangelism" from Joe Thorn (The Puritan Buddha).

1. Reforming Evangelism

It is unfortunate that we have divorced the evangelist from the theologian in the Southern Baptist context. It is curious that our seminaries divide the Schools of Evangelism from the Schools of Theology. It is disturbing to see that we train our lay people to evangelize without training them in doctrine. It has not always been this way. As recently as 1943 The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now Lifeway Christian Resources) published a book titled, Soul-Winning Doctrines. In this little book J. Clyde Turner lays out doctrines like the atonement, regeneration, repentance, faith, justification, sanctification, and assurance as essential to winning the lost for Christ. Though this was written after the Convention had moved away from its reformed heritage, it’s clear that theology was still valued and seen as a necessary part of proper evangelism. The stock of theology has dropped considerably since. If we are to begin rebuilding our churches through authentic conversions we have to return to a theologically driven methodology.

2. Preparation

Some (us Reformed folk) might wonder how a person can seek God, or be actively involved in spiritual things when God is sovereign in salvation, man is passive in his regeneration, and that the power of God is needed for success - not the work of man. Puritan, and of course biblical, thought is, "Man is passive in regeneration, but before and after regeneration man is active. The convert is passive in regeneration, but not about it." In fact, such "seeking" is not the result of man’s natural interest in spiritual things, but is the result of God’s activity in the individual’s life.

3. Is It Biblical?

While some have wrongly turned the idea of being prepared for the Kingdom into a system that oppresses people, and forces them into long periods of introspection, most of the puritans rejected the idea that a uniform experience should be promoted. While some must go through a more drawn-out process under the law before they are broken, others are prepared, seek and find the kingdom more easily, or more quickly. The point is, no one enters the kingdom apart from being prepared, and this generally is a longer process than most modern evangelism tends to allow for.

4. Practice

If our evangelism needs reform, if the “seeking evangelism” I’ve attempted to explain is valid, then we should consider some practical, concrete responses....The easiest way to say it is: expresses urgency, but be willing to take your time; preach the law and gospel; know what parts of the law, or what blessing of the gospel they most need to hear; share your life with the person you are trying to reach.

5. Diagram

I then ask them to show me where they think they are on the diagram. "Put a mark where you think you are." I am sure it will happen some day, but so far no one has placed himself or herself in the "alive" section when not a Christian. No one has presumed to say/believe he is a Christian after getting the big picture. Some say they are not interested, but in my experience most say they are starting to seek God. I ask them to explain this to me. Talk about it. I always want them to use their own words. So far, I have not told anyone they are going to hell. They have all told me. Each person has shown me where they believe they are, and conclude they are separated from God. We talk about the consequences of this reality.