Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reconsidering Evangelism

From Escaping Self Idolatry: How Churches of Christ are finding their way into the future, by Tony Branch. 

This has been a positive, feel-good chapter, and I don't think what I'm going to say next changes this. Some will, though. I'm going to talk about evangelism, which becomes a different concept when we think of salvation this way. What if evangelism doesn't just involve getting people into Heaven, but also involves spreading the Good News in a way that affects the life of everyone around?
         After all, the root of the word evangelism means 'good news'. Perhaps we should make sure that we aren't trying to scare people into Heaven. Perhaps we should avoid spreading a Holy Guilt that shames people into turning to God. Scare tactic conversions often put down shallow roots. We wonder why we don't hold on to our converts; perhaps we should think harder about what we're converting them to.
Salvation isn't about a single moment that draws a line between Heaven and Hell; it is about the beginning of a life-long transformation. Salvation is joining in the Kingdom of God and changing your life in a way that makes you a full-fledged citizen of the only nation that will last. Salvation is about living, not only what happens after you die.
          Perhaps looking at salvation this way helps us answer a question that is often asked when the idea that we should accept people in other churches is introduced. In the Churches of Christ we have been taught to view everyone that is not of us as a target, as a mission field. Being part of our group was thought to be the only way to avoid Hell. So if the idea that the masses around us are likely going to Heaven takes hold, do we quit evangelizing?
          I would suggest that we should quit evangelizing the way we've been doing it anyway. We should quit knocking on doors and asking people if they're sure they're heaven-bound.
But laying aside the misperception that we live in an area where everyone claims to be a Christian, this view of the spreading Kingdom of God gives evangelism a whole new context, one that highlights the 'good news' roots of the word. Let the Kingdom of God spread like mustard seed (not the harmless plant we know, but something like a middle-eastern Kudzu, in the words of Shane Claiborne (90)) that infuses everything around us and changes the very nature of what life is. Let us be salt and light, both of which cannot be present without changing everything they touch.
        Let's make the lives of the people we touch better, more peaceful. Let's stop using guilt as a hammer to get people to conform to the image we have created. We've spent too long creating neurotics and depressives (I know from experience.) If we don't change, we will die. Maybe we should. Maybe what we're doing in the name of God is actually counter to the truth of who he is.

       Perhaps what we should do is die to ourselves. There's a little something about that in the Bible, I think.

You can buy this ebook for $2.99 at this Amazon.com link.

Monday, July 14, 2014


And this is where we are going. Many, maybe most, of us have grown tired of our isolation, tired of our infighting, tired of our majoring in doctrines that separate rather than those that unify. Like Barton Stone dreamed, we are ready to “sink into union with the Body of Christ at large.”

We are tired of using the ‘Ones’ of Ephesians 4 as a weapon. We have realized that the key to understanding this passage is the admonition to, as the NIV puts it, “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We have discovered that being “completely humble and gentle…patient, bearing with one another in love” goes much further toward unity and Christ-likeness than continual debating and attacking. After examining the text, we have discovered that the word ‘only’, which we have taken to be the key to the text, never appears. We understand now that the list of ‘ones’ means that we are unified because the given list brings and binds us together, that the word is used in the same sense that U2 used it in the song by that title and declared, “We are one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.”1

For the first time, the unity that Stone and the Campbells envisioned has a good head of steam. The Christian world at large is talking about house churches and kingdom life now. This should be our time. In order to enjoy this movement, in order to contribute, we have to get out of our own way. We must understand that we are not the focus; Christ is. We must reach for unity on his terms, not ours.

And his terms are amazing. He asks us to come to him. He says that unity is created by the Spirit, not by us. We keep the unity, then, not by having everyone conform to us, but by loving each other and loving God. That’s all that counts (Galatians 5:6).

From Escaping Self Idolatry: How Churches of Christ are finding their way into the future.