OUTREACH & Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization by #YorkMoore in #ChristianityToday (also in #JohnWesley)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I recently completed a historically accurate introduction to John, Susanna and Charles Wesley in the format of a devotional. While working on it my friend Ed Stetzer asked me if Wesley ministered to the poor because he wanted to get a hearing for the good news, or because helping the poor was morally good.

I responded to Ed that the Wesleys ministry to the poor began many years before their conversions and before they began to emphasize the importance of conversion. From their lives of giving most of their money to the poor, ministering to prisoners and even paying out of their own pockets for the schooling of the prisoners children, it can be observed that the Wesleys ministered to the poor because it was the morally right thing to do n

Read below this helpful article which explains why those who seek to follow Christ will help the poor, not out of a manipulating interest in their conversion but because it’s the right thing to do.

Yet that also means … sharing with everyone about eternity is also the morally right thing to do.

Redeeming the Godly Work of Proselytization

by York Moore, Christianity Today, 1/16/21. Evangelism is a moral good and a key expression of our faith…

Evangelism is the highest expression of moral goodness. That is not to say that there aren’t other moral goods. Remember a moral good stands on its own as ontologically good. We do not serve the homeless in order to proselytize. This practice is exactly what has desecrated Christian evangelism. No, we serve the homeless because it is an end in itself, a moral good that cannot be diminished by doing it by itself and for itself. Having said this, however, evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all. One can cloth the naked, feed the hungry, free the slave but eventually, these same people who are made in the image of God, without being converted will all suffer a much worse fate than cold, hunger, enslavement and the like-they will suffer eternal separation from God in a place of suffering. This is at least the conviction of Bible-believing Christians, so we evangelize, in part, because it is an expression of moral goodness based on the concern for the eternal state of people.

“…evangelism is simply the very highest expression of moral goodness because it deals with consummate or eschatological realities bearing upon the eternal soul of all.”

Unfortunately, even among Christians, eschatological categories like wrath, hell, damnation, and eternal separation from God are rarely talked about-even from our best platforms and pulpits. This reality does not negate their ontological standing-these categories are real and the real consequences behind door #3. Again, the great news is what’s behind these doors is not unknown to the host, God Himself. They are also not unknown to the Christian who is tasked with the moral good of proselytizing or evangelism.

We are tasked with this out of the love of God who wants to give all people all of the blessings behind all of the doors of life and also to save us from each and every pain, heartache, and ultimately, eternal hell and damnation. It is a moral good and requisite expression of faith to help those around us make the right and good decisions about God, life and the afterlife. As we help them, we are asking them to risk what they have in hopes of something even better, to make a deal, knowing what they will win in exchange is eternally better than what they now possess.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2021/january/moral-good-of-evangelism-redeeming-godly-work-of-proselytiz.html

FAITH SHARING & 5 Habits of What Makes Evangelism Good. #ScotMcKnight

Good evangelism has five common elements by SCOT MCKNIGHT, Christianity Today, 12/9/20.

Priscilla Pope-Levison’s new book she provides and discusses (chapter-length discussions) eight models, and here they are:

  1. Personal: one on one
  2. Small group: 8-12 for a focused study on the gospel
  3. Visitation: knocking on doors, neighbors, initiating conversations
  4. Liturgical: church calendar as opportunity to integrate gospeling
  5. Church growth: new ports of entry
  6. Prophetic: challenging to pursue gospel in word and deed and public
  7. Revival: organized crowd with music and evangelism and invitation and follow-up
  8. Media: using various media

Which is your most preferred model?

I will not on this blog go through each of these because I’m encouraging you to get ahold of this book, read it, and devour it. It could make a fantastic 6-8 week adult Bible class or Sunday School class. 

She treats each model with kind hands and careful definitions and fair evaluations. This is no book griping about #1 and #5 and #7 and instead suggesting we should all be part of #4 and knock it all off. No, she knows there’s good in each and God has used each. (Think of our posts now on missional theology: If God is the God of mission then God is at work in all the models.)

But what I thought was also fantastic about Priscilla’s book is how she ties it altogether into five major practices and habits of those who engage well in evangelism.

She uses the term “good” and so I add that the Hebrew is “tov” and this is what tov evangelism and tov evangelists look like. They practice five qualities. They are the “gold standard of an evangelistic endeavor.”

Thus, they…

  1. Practice hospitality
  2. Form relationships
  3. Live with integrity
  4. Bear the Christian message
  5. Root it all in a local Christian church.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/december/five-habits-of-what-makes-evangelism-good.html

GOOD NEWS & Matthew Bates explains why this means: “Jesus has become the saving king.”

By Matthew Bates, Christianity Today, 4/21/20.

… 1. Basic fallacies of biblical interpretation regarding “gospel” (euangelion). Greg Gilbert, John Piper (The Future of Justification, p. 86-91), and those who follow their line of thought combine two well-known errors of biblical interpretation. A simplistic treatment of roots (the “root fallacy” or etymological error) causes them to pay insufficient attention to the ancient context. Because the word euangelion comes from eu- (“good”) and angelion (“tidings” or “message”), they assume that it must mean good news for you and me personally or it simply can’t mean “good news.” Yet in the NT and its world euangelion frequently refers to a royal announcement, such as news of a new king, for the general public quite apart from whether that announcement would result in good for you or me personally. That is, the good in good news is not intrinsically a personal good.

For example, when Vespasian became Caesar, this was heralded as good news (euangelia) for the empire before he had done anything good or bad, without regard for his intentions toward specific individuals (Josephus, Jewish War 4.618, 4.656). Everyone knew Vespasian’s ascension meant that some specific individuals would benefit and others would be condemned. Yet in the ancient world it was still appropriate to call such events “good news” for the empire as a whole irrespective of individual outcomes. Accordingly, Gilbert’s claim, “For it to be good news, we have to know what this king intends to do—whether he intends to crush or to save, to condemn or to forgive,” is not based on accurate research.

In fact, the first time this word euangelion appears in the Bible, we see why. A herald brought what he considered to be “good news” of Saul’s defeat and death to David, but David had the man put to death (2 Sam 4:10). It is still called “good news” in Scripture even though David had the man killed for delivering it! Since an individual is crushed and condemned by the king, this is precisely the opposite of what Gilbert says must define the essence of good news. It proved to be supremely bad news for this man; yet the herald’s message is called “good news” in Scripture because the herald was referring to events of kingdom-wide significance that he considered good news. And this was ordinary usage. This is but one of many examples that shows that Gilbert’s argument is invalid.

Yes, Jesus is a supremely good king (on which, see Joshua Jipp, Christ Is King). But the kindness or malice of the king toward specific individuals did not control how the word euangelion referred in the New Testament’s world. It referred to empire-wide good news apart from what that news might mean for this or that specific citizen. Gilbert’s and Piper’s conclusion otherwise is based on a simplistic construal of the word roots as that is combined with a failure to take into account the ancient context sufficiently.

2. “Gospel” reference failure. But the problem for Gilbert’s and other T4G/TGC leaders’ version of the gospel is even more severe. The word “gospel” cannot successfully refer at all in the New Testament if it means what they think it means. Gilbert’s definition of the gospel makes each individual’s own personal justification intrinsic to the gospel itself rather than a benefit that derives from it.

I think I am summarizing him fairly when I say that for Gilbert, the gospel is God is righteous, you (inclusive of each individual) are a sinner, but by dying an atoning death for your sins Jesus Christ has justified you, so you must respond with faith and repentance (see Gilbert, What Is the Gospel?). The justification of each unsaved “you” is intrinsically part of the gospel for Gilbert. But that would mean that when Jesus is proclaiming the gospel in the NT, then each future unsaved Christian’s unique justification is being proclaimed as part of the referent within his message. So if I you or I am not yet “saved,” it refers to “you” and to “me” even though we haven’t yet been born. But that doesn’t make sense, does it?

The truth is this: when we find the word “gospel” in the New Testament, the gospel is not about me (it does not refer to me), but the gospel’s promises are for everyone, including me. If I choose to accept the gospel, its benefits, like justification, adoption, and forgiveness, are applied to me by the Holy Spirit.

3. Failure to distinguish the objective work of the Christ for a group from its subjective appropriation by an individual. Here I am speaking only to Gilbert rather than the other T4G/TGC leaders I’ve mentioned, as this is a problem with his analysis, but I don’t know how far it extends. Part of the gospel is that “the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). The saving work of the king has been decisively accomplished on behalf of his people. But that doesn’t mean each individual who will become a Christian has yet experienced it.

Salvation is about a group of people first, individuals second. The clearest statements describing the purpose of the gospel in Scripture indicate that it is “for the obedience of pistis in all the nations.” This is best understood as loyal obedience or allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah, the lord, the king (see Rom. 1:2-5, 16:25-26; Bates, Gospel Allegiance, p. 68-73). God’s purpose is to create a people for himself. After his enthronement as king, Jesus pours out the Spirit on a group, filling each individual. When each person initially enters salvation, she or he does not enter in isolation. The justified church always exists prior. As the Father and Son send the Spirit to the church, upon our declaration of allegiance (ordinarily at baptism) we are enveloped into the justified Spirit-filled community in such a way that we are justified and have the Spirit too. There is an objective/corporate dimension (the church exists as a justified community) and subjective/individual dimension (a person is not justified until they enter it).

Here’s another way to look at it. The classic theological distinction is between the historia salutis (God’s saving deeds in history) and the ordo salutis (the sequence by which an individual comes to experience salvation). Even though some versions of the ordo salutisare problematic (see Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, p. 166-75 for discussion), nevertheless one can say that on the cross Jesus won justification objectively through his accomplished work as part of salvation history for whoever ultimately comes to be found “in him.” That can never change. The possibilityand promise that we can be justified by faith is part of the gospel in this sense. Yet an individual does not experience the saving benefit of justification until she or he gives trusting loyalty to Jesus as king. That is, subjective personal appropriation of salvation is not part of the gospel proper, but rather one of its applied benefits. An individual’s justification is part of the gospel as a potentiality, but not as a realized actuality.

4. Faulty method leads to a faulty frame and center. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, since McKnight has already taken Gilbert to task over this here and here (and in The King Jesus Gospel). The best method for defining the gospel is to look at the passages of Scripture that give explicit gospel content as well as the overall structure of the Four Gospels (e.g., Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18-19; Rom. 1:2-4, 1 Cor. 15:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:8; the sermons in Acts). This is what I do in Gospel Allegiance. When we do this, we find that it is a narrative about how Jesus became the saving king.

The gospel is that Jesus the king:

1. preexisted as God the Son,

2. was sent by the Father,

3. took on human flesh in fulfillment of God’s promises to David,

4. died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

5. was buried,

6. was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

7. appeared to many witnesses,

8. is enthroned at the right hand of God as the ruling Christ,

9. has sent the Holy Spirit to his people to effect his rule, and

10. will come again as final judge to rule.

(Bates, Gospel Allegiance, p. 86-87)

This narrative has a climax rather than a center: Jesus has become the saving king.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/april/why-t4gtgc-leaders-must-fix-their-gospel.html

ECONOMICS & Mark DeYmaz on the evangelism strategy of the 21st Century. @OutreachMag @Mosiax

… On the spiritual front, churches must become healthy multiethnic and economically diverse reflections of their community to advance a credible witness. The (Mosiax Church, Little Rock, AK) social team exists to advance justice and compassion work through an umbrella nonprofit, and the financial team to generate for-profit sustainable income. As it stands, the American church is pitched to just one team: a spiritual team, and we’re basically getting nowhere with that right now. No one’s listening. The way you’re going to get them to listen is through job creation, the repurposing of abandoned property and reduction in crime. I believe economics is the evangelism strategy of the 21st century.

… Imagine the economic impact that ultimately leads to incredible witness through good works and evangelism if those churches would just put those assets to work. Imagine if you could wave a magic wand and turn loose those billions of dollars into America’s inner cities, into the community, into job creation, business creation, repurposing of abandoned properties. What could that investment do to change people’s lives, to see cities flourish? The church would get credit for that.

“Mark DeYmaz: The Church as a Benevolent Owner—Part 2,” by Jessica Hanewinckel, Outreach Magazine, 2/12/20.

Mark DeYmaz is the author of The Coming Revolution in Church Economics: Why Tithes and Offerings Are No Longer Enough, and What You Can Do About It (with Harry Li, Baker)

And co-author with Bob Whitesel of re:MIX – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press) … https://www.amazon.com/Transitioning-Your-Church-Living-Color/dp/1630886920/ref=nodl_

Read more at … https://outreachmagazine.com/interviews/50317-mark-deymaz-the-church-as-a-benevolent-owner-part-2.html

EVANGELISM & Free Training Videos from Evangelism Scholar Dr. Michael Green via #ChurchLeaderInsights #NelsonSearcy.

by Nelson Searcy, 4/3/19.

Michael Green was widely influential as an author, evangelism scholar and defender of the Christian faith. Green’s humorous, engaging style of writing and speaking made him highly regarded in the Church of England, and in the wider Christian world.

I’ve compiled a collection of four of the best teachings from Dr. Green — all on video. Plus, you can access a complete biographical report on Green, including his notable quotes and thoughts on the 7 Marks of an Evangelist.

Click here for exclusive free training videos from Dr. Michael Green.

NEED-MEETING & Maddox shows Wesley did not have a “hole in the Gospel” #need-meeting

Wesley did not overlook the possible positive evangelistic impact resulting from Christian engagement in such open-ended works of mercy. But the specific potential effect that he highlighted was not the enticement of uncommitted persons to embrace the Christian faith by addressing their physical needs. Rather, he hoped to overcome the widespread crisis of credibility of Christian witness through the increased number of Christians who would model authentic loving care for others!” (Maddox, 2002)

Maddox, Randy L. (2002) “Visit the poor” John Wesley, The Poor and The Sanctification of Believers. Kingswood books Nashville, (pg 69).

Retrieved by Salvation Army officer Regina Shull as part of an assignment for LEAD 600.

social engagement action need-meeting

EVANGELISM & How to Share Jesus Without Freaking Out #AlvinReid #BGCEfellow

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Alvin Reid is a co-Fellow with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. He has written a very concise and well researched article regarding how to take the fear out of sharing our faith.

How to Share Jesus Without Freaking Out

by Alvin Reid, LifeWay Facts & Trends, 3/16/17 and author of Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out.

…How can we share Christ with the unchurched today? It’s simple: one conversation at a time. Here are some reminders for Christians to help alleviate their fears.

1. Think less of giving a presentation and more of having a conversation.

In the LifeWay Research study, 47 percent of the unchurched said they would freely discuss religious beliefs with someone who wants to talk about them. And 79 percent said if a friend truly valued faith personally, they wouldn’t mind the friend talking about it. I see this all time.

Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended by our message! You may feel insecure giving a presentation to someone, but all of us—extroverts and introverts—have conversations every day.

Learning to talk about Jesus in everyday conversations not only communicates the gospel more effectively to the unchurched but also helps us to share Jesus without being self-conscious about it.

2. Tell them the great story of the gospel more than listing propositions.

Only 10 percent of the unchurched surveyed say they think daily about heaven and life after death. And 43 percent say they never do. I’m so grateful God gives us eternal life through Jesus. But He also gives us joy in our daily lives.

When asked if there is an ultimate purpose in life, 70 percent of the unchurched agree. You and I know the only way to find that purpose is through Jesus.

Most of us think of the gospel in its essence: the announcement of good news found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But in a world that doesn’t know the biblical story, it’s vital we also share the good news as the epic story it is.

When I witness, I like to share Christ by connecting our conversation to the great story of Scripture—from creation to the fall, from our rescue in Christ to our hope of restoration.

This allows me to connect the story of God’s redemption to everyday life. One way I do this is by showing how movie plotlines relate to the gospel with young adults. Look for ways to have conversations with the unchurched about their ultimate purpose in life and God’s plan for all of us.

3. Connect the story to their everyday life experiences.

In everyday conversations, people talk about their painor their passion. When we talk about these things, it allows me to relate their story (and mine) to the gospel story.

If we talk about pain, I talk about the obvious brokenness in our world through sin, and I point them to the hope we have in Christ’s work on the cross and the resurrection.

If we talk about their passion—their hopes, dreams, or plans—I point them to God’s great design in creation and how He put those desires in our hearts when He made us in His image.

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2017/03/16/how-to-share-jesus-without-freaking-out/

#LEAD558

EVANGELISM & 5 Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized: A Chart Comparing Theological Options (by John Sanders) incl. Wesley’s

by John Sanders, The Unevangelized, retrieved from http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/files/2017/03/Screen-Shot-2017-03-29-at-6.39.01-AM.png

John Wesley’s view on this can be seen in his letters where he stated the following (quote and commentary by Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodist, 2013):

EXCERPT Heitzenrater Wesley & People p.176.jpg

 

 

#LEAD558 destiny eternity

Save

Save

EVANGELISM & Why Ron Sider Thinks We Need “Evangelicals for Evangelism”

Ron Sider:

“When I started ‘Evangelicals for Social Action’ it was to shake up evangelicals and get them involved in social action. If I were going to start an organization today it would be called ‘Evangelicals for Evangelism’ because that’s what’s missing in our churches today!”

Personal conversation with Ron Sider by Rick Richardson PhD from a presentation to the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Univ. Of Northwestern, St. Paul, MN, 6/17/16.

EVANGELISM & Colleague Stetzer Joins Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at #Wheaton #PerfectFit

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Below is an article about an exciting new role for my friend Ed. In this new capacity he will be spearheading a needed re-emphasis upon spiritual transformation.

It is good to see the word is getting out. I have been encouraging him for years to go into academia, because it is a strategic fit for Ed’s gifts. And, I encouraged him to take the job.  He and I will continue to work together. In fact, he recently invited me to join him as one of the first fellows of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

Below is the press release followed by Ed’s story of what led to what I believe will be expanded ministry impact.

Dr. Ed Stetzer Named To New Billy Graham Chair and as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College (Ill.)

Ed Stetzer Wheaton College

Dr. Ed Stetzer has been appointed to a newly created chair, The Billy Graham Distinguished Endowed Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism. In this role, he has been named Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College (BGCE).

Stetzer will serve as chair of the Evangelism & Leadership Program in the Wheaton College Graduate School and as publisher of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. He will also provide vision-casting and leadership to existing BGCE initiatives, and will spearhead new initiatives that include the creation of a National Evangelism Leaders Fellowship.

“Ed Stetzer is a dynamic communicator and brilliant researcher who brings a genuine knowledge of the gospel and a deep understanding of contemporary culture to his new place of service,” says Wheaton College President Philip Ryken. “His work at Wheaton College will help raise up a new generation of passionate, generous-hearted evangelists who make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ. It will also help Wheaton build stronger networks with churches across America and around the world.”

Stetzer served most recently as Executive Director of LifeWay Research and Executive Editor of The Gospel Project and Facts & Trends Magazine. He is a prolific author and well-known conference and seminar leader. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; and held visiting professorships at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. During the 2015-2016 academic year, he was an Adjunct Professor of Evangelism for Wheaton College Graduate School and Senior Fellow of the BGCE.

Stetzer has also been serving as Teaching Pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a church he founded in 2011.

He is a contributing editor for Christianity Today magazine, a columnist for Outreach magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. In 2015, he became a co-host of the BreakPoint This Week radio program.

Stetzer holds a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from Beeson Divinity School.

“It is a distinct privilege to be part of the Wheaton team,” Stetzer says. “This newly created Billy Graham Chair, combined with the convening power of the Billy Graham Center, will provide us a unique opportunity to serve the Church, helping Christians know and engage their culture in the name of Christ. I look forward to being part of this family and serving the Church together.”

Stetzer’s appointment begins July 1 (2016).

The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College exists to lead the conversation on evangelism by training, resourcing, and mobilizing followers of Jesus to share their faith; networking leaders; researching best practices; engaging thought leaders; and launching strategic ministry initiatives. More information about the BGCE is available at wheaton.edu/bgce.

Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.) is a coeducational Christian liberal arts college noted for its rigorous academics, integration of faith and learning, and consistent ranking among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. For more information, visit wheaton.edu.

Read Ed’s story of what led to this ministry change here … http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/57204-why-ed-stetzer-suddenly-quit-his-job-and-resigned-his-church

EVANGELISM & Getting out of the “Leave it to Beaver” age of Evangelism #Multicultural

“…Training to reach the nations that have come to our backyards, especially those who relate to an Asian culture, is vastly underdeveloped.”

by Steve Hong, 10/27/15.

I’ve watched every rerun of that show. And here’s the picture of America I remember. Everyone had a mom, a dad, a single family ranch-style house in a suburb, and a car. Everything was neat and tidy and of course, everyone was white, even the guy who would star in “Kung Fu” years later. I’m extrapolating here, but I would imagine that everyone went to church and held the Bible to some authority. Sometimes, I feel the church’s “way” to reach people is stuck in “that” era. We still assume people know the Bible, that everyone is essentially white, and much more. Let me explain…

(graphic courtesy of YWAM-San Francisco)

Here’s what the “world” looks like for me here in the Bay Area. I live in a hyper-diverse place that looks like anything BUT what I saw in those old reruns. 60 of these ethnic groups alone come from nations where there is no home church. Switching from the “Beaver” reference to an “Oz” one, it’s certainly true that we’re “not in Kansas anymore.”

However, churches are still mainly using a Western approach to share the Gospel AS IF we were still in the pre-civil rights 1950s. This worked fine in past generations when many of the popular Gospel presentations were written before immigration opened up in the mid 1960’s to waves of immigration from the East. Trouble is, many Christians are not even aware that their approach is rooted in the West; for a large majority, there is no other known option. So we keep sharing a Gospel that’s very propositional, one that assumes an individual sense of self, one that assumes an authority of Scripture, one that appeals to guilt, and much more. In other words, the very way we share the Good News invisibly says, “this is a Western gospel.” At its worst, this approach says “you are invited into the Kingdom so long as you have our Western culture.” From my perspective, it’s no wonder how the church in China did not grow phenomenally until after all the Western missionaries got kicked out. The majority church today is ill-equipped to share anything other than the Western gospel.

This problem of a Western approach is compounded by an age-old rural approach to the Bible, and henceforth, a rural approach in our methodology. This approach is losing grip in the context of today’s world, where people are increasingly living in urban cores.

Consider what percent lived in urban places a hundred years ago compared to today:

  • 1900 – 8%
  • 2014 – 54%
  • 2050 – 60%

Much of the population growth is happening in Asia and Africa. In the US, the minority culture will soon outnumber the majority culture. This will be true in the nation’s colleges within a decade (and already true in many colleges), and will be true with the overall US population in a few decades.

So far, I’ve pointed out that the world is BOTH urbanizing AND “Asianizing.” Yet, training to reach the nations that have come to our backyards, especially those who relate to an Asian culture, is vastly underdeveloped. This is sad when we consider that both of these things compounded together represents the forefront of missions today. Theologian Ray Bakke says this …

Read more at … https://kingdomrice.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/getting-out-of-the-leave-it-to-beaver-age-of-evangelism/

EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM & Lessons Learned While Traveling in the Hoof Prints of Wesley

by Bob Whitesel PhD, The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, Calif: Talbot Theological Seminary, Biola University) Vol. 5, No. 1, Summer 2013.

GCRJ Whitesel Wesley Hoof Prints COVERDownload the entire article here:  ARTICLE ©Whitesel Wesley Holistic Good News GCRV5-1-052.

abstract

The Good News can be understood as the message of the missio Dei to which varying methods can be attached. Churches, however, often specialize in a specific part or method of that mission, e.g., helping the needy, emphasizing conversion, or promoting discipleship. This article suggests the Good News has yielded significant historical impact when churches embrace a comprehensive or holistic understanding of the Good News that includes three methodological components: establishing legitimacy by meeting the needs of non-believers, effectively facilitating conversion, and spiritual formation in small communal groups. Missional and effective evangelism nomenclature will be discussed in relation to this holism. Finally, examples of simultaneous methodology will be drawn from the experiences of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, as well as from experiences of the author while studying Wesley‘s original letters and traveling the settings of John Wesley.

article

I recently visited in John Wesley’s haunts, from the high moors of Derbyshire, to the alleys of industrial Sheffield, to the cosmopolitan bustle of City Road in London.  Amid these journeys I sought to better understand Wesley’s writings (to which I was kindly provided access to the originals in various locales) and the development of his holism regarding evangelism. Though for months I had been studying the massive reams of his journals, letters and books, I found his comprehensive view of the Good News because clearer as I trekked into his world.

Wesley lived in a world that was surprisingly not too different from the one we live in today.  It was rampant with unethical new technologies that cheapened people, their self-esteem and their moral values. Compounding the problem, the Church of England had denigrated into parish fiefdoms where pastors amassed private fortunes, catered to society’s elite and harangued one another over private theological perspectives. Worship services had became uninspiring and lethargic.

This pattern was sometimes broken at regional-wide churches which adopted a performance-orientated tactic.  In these regional churches only the best musicians and preachers were invited.  Yet, still the masses were not attracted, for they had been driven to the cities by the promises of an Industrial Revolution where factories provided stability over agriculture. Here in the cities the masses struggled to recover a communal life they left behind.  And churches who practiced excellence or preached politics did not offer them the communion with God or one another they sought. Into this unexciting, stratified and irrelevant church Wesley had felt called to be a pastor … but to pastor differently.

John Wesley & Social Advancement

The term methodist was used in a derisive manner to slander Wesley and his student friends at Christ Church College in Oxford. They had gained a notoriety for attempting to live lives more purposeful and godly. They drafted for themselves rules to help them grow in their Christian spirituality and service:

  1. “To lead a “holy and sober life”
  2. “To take communion at least one a week”
  3. “To be faithful in private devotions”
  4. “To visit the prisons regularly”
  5. “and to spend three hours together every afternoon, studying the Bible and books of devotion.”

One of Wesley’s friends had suggested that the group go to Oxford’s most outcast inhabitants, those who were housed in the nearby Oxford prison. This had an amazing effect upon the Holy Club. Eventually Wesley and his friends would even ride with prisoners in the carts on their way to execution, consoling and comforting them.

From his years at prestigious Christ Church College forward, Wesley would view meeting the needs of society’s most estranged, be they believer or non-believer, as a fundamental element of the Good News.  Though fellow Oxford students would derogatorily call them “The Holy Club,” their methods of holding each other accountable, receiving the Sacraments and helping the needy only required one more element for their movement to become whole. And that was for these young men, who grew up in Christian homes, to experience an inner transformation.

John Wesley & Conversion 

As a fledgling pastor Wesley would not ignore the poor. After all, he had been involved in social advancement ministry since his days at Oxford. But still, he did not feel he had not experienced holistically God’s Good News. True assurance that he would be saved from damnation eluded him. The following recounts how I gained a better understanding of how Wesley’s holistic view of the Good News developed.

Wesley’s Conversion: From Savannah to Aldersgate   

John Wesley, perhaps like some of the readers of this article, always knew he was going to be a pastor. In preparation, he had attended the best pastoral-training school in the British Empire and was now in 1735 was sailing to the New World.  An impressive intellectual and well respected despite his Holy Club activities, Wesley had received a prestigious appointment to be the first pastor of the Church of England congregation in Savannah, Georgia.

On his voyage to Savannah a fierce storm threatened to sink the ship. Even hardened sailors were said to be in fear of eminent death.  John Wesley was no different and by his own admission cowered in the ship amid many of the people he would soon be expected to pastor in Savannah. Cowering in fear of his life, he felt himself a poor example of the eternal certainly that he must soon preach to the congregants who traveled in the ship with him.

But on the ship were a group of Christians that demonstrated a remarkably different reaction to almost certain death.  Known as “Moravians” they were Christian reformers from Germany who has emphasized quietude, mediation and prayer as a means to spiritual growth. In the midst of the tempest and impending death, Wesley and others were amazed at their calm and confident trust in God’s protection. Their resolve convicted Wesley that something in his life was missing: a lack of trust and assurance in God.

The ship weathered the storm, but a series of miscalculations in his first pastorate together with his spiritual uncertainty sent Wesley back to England with the thought that “I who went to American to convert others, was never myself converted to God?”

St. Paul’s and a Small Group Meeting on Aldersgate Street   

Back in London, Wesley frequented the meetings of the Moravians and similar like-minded Christians who met in small groups for quietude, prayer, meditation and accountability. Wesley also kept up his attendance at Church of England worship services since he never wanted to leave the Church of England. Wesley always believed that the Church of England was God’s instrument and he never advocated leaving it, nor did he want to. Many years later when “preaching services” of the Methodists sprouted up all over England, Wesley asked that they never meet at the same time as Church of England services. Wesley did not want the Methodists to become a rival denomination with rival meetings. Instead Wesley always believed the Methodist Societies should be a renewal movement within the Church of England.  If anyone was dedicated to turning around a church, even a denomination, it was Wesley.

One evening he attended Evensong at the mother church of the Church of England, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Only 27 years earlier this stately church facility had been completed from a design by the famed architect Christopher Wren.  St. Paul’s had been Wren’s architectural tour de force, and in Wesley’s day as today, it was a hub of tourist curiosity.

I too attended Evensong at St. Paul’s at the same approximate time of year to take in for myself what Wesley saw and heard.  Just days before I had been in the John Ryland’s Library at the University of Manchester, holding in my hands and studying Wesley’s letters about this and other experiences.  I had read what he said in hindsight, but now I wanted to experience the intangibles. Though times have changed in many ways, they have not changed in other ways. The Church of England is in much the same crisis of faith and irrelevance that concerned Wesley.  And though St. Paul’s Evensong on the night of my attendance was attractive, it was hollow.

The service began with a steward waving an incense censer as he lead the procession of priests and singers. Over the years ecclesiologists had reinterpreted these incense censers as symbolic of the soothing fragrance of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But in Wesley’s time, people knew the real purpose for incense censers. As a member of the aristocracy Wesley would have been particularly familiar with incense censers as standard fixtures in rooms where noblemen held counsel. Over centuries, this practice had slowly made it way into the church. On my trip I had toured the country homes of English noblemen and palaces of the their royalty, only to find in most large incense censers meant to protect the aristocracy from the putrid odors of the masses.  Large metal burners, stationed in these homes directly between the aristocracy and the commoner conveyed an sense of elitism and separation. And this practice in the church, regardless of a theological attempt to reinterpret their function, would have conveyed at least a subconscious impression of exclusivity to Wesley’s generation.

Yet most notable in St. Paul’s was the massively artistic ornamentation and presentation.  Here was everything the Church of England could muster in excellence and quality. Then as today only the best musicians, singers and pastors were invited to participate at St. Paul’s. Tonight was no different. The organ voluntary was magnificent, the surroundings heavenly with all the other-worldly flair that famed architect Wren could muster. The preaching was engaging and politically nuanced.

To Wesley this would have been the Church of England at its attractive best. Wesley had had been familiar with such attractional methods since his college days. Christ Church College had been the de facto college for the religious elite of the British Empire. Daily he ate dinner in its stately dining room, amid grandly set tables under imposing larger-than-life portraits of English statesmen and religious leaders.

At St. Paul’s this was reflected in a way that many churches tried to copy: an impressive atmosphere of religious excellence that would inspire the religious indifferent to exchange their old way of life for a journey into Christian maturity. But, the churches in the 1738 were largely empty, even amid a quest for attractive experiences that would lure the masses back to church.

As in Wesley’s time the majority of the attendees when I visited St. Paul’s where tourists. One small row was set aside for the “St. Paul’s Community” of which only a few seats were taken. The sensation was of grandeur, artistry and emptiness. And, this tactic was not wooing them in then, nor in my experience was it today. The large sanctuary, sized more for coronations and state funerals, produced only a hollow resonance. Thin echoes led to a feeling of beauty inexperienced. It was not too dissimilar to a mausoleum, where beauty seems wasted upon so few.

But when I left Evensong, I stepped out the front doors into one of the most bustling intersections of London.  Here Fleet Street, the venerable headquarters of the British press climbs Lundgate Hill toward London Wall Road. This is the ancient center of the City of London. In 1738 this was also the center of English business life where the work of business did not subside at 5 pm. And the broad and central steps of St. Paul’s’ provided a fitting place to gather. Add to this the tourists from across the empire that visited this center of the ecclesial smugness, and the dissimilarity between what was going on inside of St. Paul’s and with out could not be ignored. In Wesley’s time the streets would have been teaming with humanity in all of its liveliness and energy. And, it was again today.

I had always envisioned Wesley leaving Evensong after twilight in a pensive manner. I had envisioned him as making his way down the dark Aldersgate street adjacent to St. Paul’s to the small group of Moravians where his heart was “strangely warmed” and where Wesley’s assurance became solidified. Yet here as in Wesley’s day, the daylight would still have rule. But, there were at least two more hours before dusk. And the masses, since Wesley’s day, have used the broad and stately steps of St. Paul’s as central London’s main gathering place.

Today the steps and streets were no different.  What startled me was the drastic difference between the stately, yet lonely beauty of  Wren’s magnum opus and energy of the teaming streets outside.  It struck me, how St. Paul’s leaders so desperately wanted the masses to enter and experience God, but the masses seemed content to enjoy one another’s camaraderie on its steps.  No amount of excellence in design or execution seemed to meet the needs the masses wanted. They wanted community, they wanted fellowship and the church had created edifices staffed by curators.

Before long, Wesley was headed down the adjacent Aldersgate Street to a meeting of the introspective Moravians. How much different that small group must have been from his experience only hours earlier at St. Paul’s. To compare the two must have been revelatory for Wesley as it was for me. People needed what the church had to offer. But despite its best attempts to recreate the beauty of heavenly realms and attract the throngs, the church paled in comparison to the spiritual assurance that came from a small group on Aldersgate Street that encouraged one another in faith development.

John Wesley & Spiritual Development

Wesley had always been impressed with how the Moravians organized their meetings to allow time for quite reflection (sometimes called quietude), spiritual assessment and communal accountability. Here in the midst of Scripture, friends and reflection came to Wesley something all the stately grandeur of St. Paul’s could not amass. Wesley stated that he felt “my heart strangely warmed” and forever recounted this night as a night that changed the course of his life.

What came out of that night was a John Wesley who had a new self-assurance that God could help him surmount the foibles that had dogged him most of his life. The smaller community of accountability and reflection gave Wesley something he had benefitted from many years earlier in Oxford. Here was a group that knew him, that knew his struggles and who helped him overcome his questions of faith. And, they gave him time to reflect and then commune with the heavenly Father who sought to reestablish a relationship with John.

In both Oxford and London were elements that helped Wesley see how he was to participate in God’s mission. In the sacraments administered in the stately halls of St. Paul’s were the mysterious workings of God’s Holy Spirit in His church.  And in the company of fellow spiritual travelers were the accountability, support and divine communication he needed to embark on a journey to serve others.

A Holistic Method Emerges

Probably because Wesley’s conversion had been built upon many years of serving the needy, and then had been facilitated by the fellowship of a small cadre of friends, Wesley never seems to focus on one part of the Good News over the whole. Wesley had a passionate dedication to holism in his so-called method, that included social advancement, conversion and intentional spiritual maturity. Wesley would allow no one element to overshadow the others. They had been closely connected to one another in Wesley’s spiritual journey, and spent much of his life convincing others that they must be theologically and practically connected in the method that was emerging.

Wesley’s methods were so distinctively precise that over time the equally disparaging Methodist would replace the deriding term “The Holy Club.” Wesley never liked either, especially the term methodist, because he didn’t think that varying methods should eclipse a holistic mission. Though the mission was comprehensive it included varying methods that helped complete that mission. But any one or two methods, no matter how publicly criticized or glorified were incomplete without an understanding of the holism that Wesley experienced.

To read more, download the entire article by clicking on this link (courtesy of The Great Commission Research Journal): ARTICLE ©Whitesel Wesley Holistic Good News GCRV5-1-052

Speaking hashtags: #BetterTogether #TheologicalResearchSeminar

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Archbishop Welby: “The best decision anyone can ever make is to be a follower of Jesus Christ”

By Adrian Hilton, 3/6/15.

In January, Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, vented his frustration with the Archbishop of Canterbury:

I remain hopeful that Justin Welby, a “graduate” of HTB and its famous Alpha course, might oversee a renewal of the whole Church of England but I’m increasingly worried about his early focus… We’ve heard his views on banking reform, Wonga, food banks, energy companies and welfare reform but where is his big intervention on the miraculous nature of Jesus Christ?

… The thing is, if you spend time listening to Justin Welby, he just can’t help himself. No matter what the topic of conversation, he will quite naturally bring Jesus into it sooner or later. This is a man genuinely obsessed with his faith to the point of overflowing. Anyone who thinks he doesn’t talk about it enough either hasn’t heard him speak at any great length or has only observed him through the media, which loves to pick up on any of his comments that might be perceived as bashing Wonga/bankers/Ian Duncan Smith whilst generally losing interest once God gets a mention.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that, on becoming Archbishop of Canterbury two years ago, he announced his three priorities as:

  • Prayer and the renewal of the religious life.
  • Reconciliation
  • Evangelism and witness…

Read more at … http://archbishopcranmer.com/welby-the-best-decision-anyone-can-ever-make-is-to-be-a-follower-of-jesus-christ/

EVANGELISM & A Link To Donald McGavran’s Original Article: The Bridges of God

by Bob Whitesel, 3/4/15.

A former student in my “Growing a Multi-Generational Church” course once said, “Once the message (Good News) gets into the culture, then it is like an infection and spreads more rapidly, easily.”

QUOTE McGavran on Bridges of God copyTo depict this, Donald McGavran used the metaphor of  “the bridges of God,” suggesting we must:

  • build multiple bridges to a culture
  • across which the Good News can travel
  • more quickly
  • and concurrently.

Here is a downloadable version of Donald McGavran’s seminal article on “The Bridges of God:”

ARTICLE_McGavran_Bridges_of_God

(From The Bridges of God [Revised Edition] by Donald Anderson McGavran. Published in the United Kingdom by World Dominion Press, 1955. Revised edition 1981. Distributed in the United States by Friendship Press, New York. Used by permission.)