Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Robust Sense of Evangelism

Scot McKnight, in King Jesus Gospel has, along with N. T. Wright, refocused us on what the gospel actually is in the New Testament.  Despite the embarrassment of the Gospel Coalition, whose key players for some time have been trying their hardest to plug the leaks in their sinking ship.

Sorry, the truth doesn't care. The gospel is the good news that 1) our God reigns (Gospels) and that 2) Jesus is king (Paul), 3) along with all the good stuff that entails (Acts).  It's not about how to get saved and, although our salvation is part of the good news, it is a minor part.  It is more an implication of the gospel than the focus of the gospel. In Luke, the gospel is primarily good news to the poor and the disempowered (thus the GC conference this year where they will apply all their intellect to argue that the earth is flat).

Here's the next step.  Since the gospel is God and Jesus focused--not me focused, not my salvation focused--this has implications for what it means to "evangelize" and what "evangelism" is (since it is the verb, "to proclaim the good news") and what an "evangelist" is ("someone who proclaims the good news").

An evangelist is someone who proclaims the good news that our God reigns (Gospels) and that Jesus is king (Paul), along with all the good stuff that entails (Acts).  To evangelize is to proclaim to others the good news that our God reigns, that his kingdom made its Normandy landing in the ministry of Jesus (Gospels), that Jesus is God's king over the cosmos (Paul).  That proclamation is evangelism.

True, going would seem to be part of this evangelism and, yes, such preaching aims at a response.  What response?  Confession of the lordship of Jesus, of course, since he is king (Romans 10).  Repentance and submission to the rule of God, of course (Gospels).  Such a response of course means you will be saved, but that is a consequence.  The focus is on the reign of God and his Christ, not on me.

A final word on the Great Commission.  The Great Commission is about making disciples.  Nothing is mentioned about evangelism, although evangelism certainly fits with the Great Commission.  But evangelism is not mentioned.  You make disciples by 1) baptizing them and 2) teaching them.  Baptizing does get them in, but involved a confession of Jesus as Lord and thus submission to his kingship.  Becoming a follower was thus not a matter of praying a sinner's prayer or a moment of justification.

Once we have a more accurate understanding of the gospel, then we'll have to have a more robust sense of evangelism too.


Joshua Rhone said...


Thanks for this post. I appreciate it for two reasons. First, you succinctly state what "the gospel" is, while at the same time articulating what it is not. Second, you don't dismiss evangelism as being passé. Instead, you provide a brief sketch of a more robust understanding/approach to evangelism.

That being said, I was thinking back to your post, "According to the light they have," and found myself wondering: Do you view the KJG as an opportunity for the Wesleyan Church to split with with wider evangelicalism and return to an understanding of the gospel that encourages recognizing the Kingship of Christ and the accompanying call to holiness of heart and life?

Ken Schenck said...

As a pragmatist, I think our association and self-identification as evangelicals is the right thing for us to do, as long as we are always a little uneasy about it. The Missio Alliance will help if it takes off as an evangelical alternative to the GC. But Wesleyans, Nazarenes, and Free Methodists should always feel a little out of place, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.

I've always thought John Wesley preached justification as a means rather than an end. We need to be saved from the power of sin because we can't do the things we are to be doing as long as we are under its thrall.

On a side note not relevant here, I see my Indiana Hoosiers are going to be playing an exhibition against Indiana Wesleyan in November. That should be a tight game.

Ken Schenck said...

IU and IWU? Really? Where is that?!!

::athada:: said...
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::athada:: said...

This is why I'm confused when an acquaintance contrasted himself with a passionate eco-minded evangelical "I'm a hunter, sure I'm for conservation and everything, but it's not my religion!" How could I explain to him in 30 seconds that cosmic restoration IS my religion?

I picture the Normandy invasion as Jesus calling-all-allies, here come the gamblers and hookers from the alleyways, over there is a soldier, here come the Ents, now Centaurs. Even the streams will pulse, the wildebeest will thunder, the ground will quake. It's a cosmic revolution... how this can possibly be a "distraction" from the business of soul-saving I now longer comprehend.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Did John Wesley's use of justification as a means to "good works" mean that God is like a Union Boss (Workers of the World, Unite?)?

Or is God like a community organizer, where "community" is a collectivist understanding of society and government?

Funny, I thought that autonomy was the end of parenting.

Talbot Davis said...

Asbury late 80s greetings, Ken.

Thanks for the post.

It does leave me wondering, however, about the place of I Corinthians 15:1-8 in your thinking.

In my experience that section has always been the most urgent explanation of exactly what the gospel is: the story of crucifixion, resurrection, burial, and appearances.