In the second chapter of The Great Giveaway (I know I’m only in the second chapter. I told you I was going through it slowly…), David Fitch discusses evangelism. The entire chapter is good, but my favorite parts was toward the second half where he discusses practices that restore the church to the center of evangelism. He suggests that Christians must:
1. Practice hospitality by inviting people to their homes for meals and fellowship. In this way, we say to people, “Here, take a look. I am taking a risk and inviting you into my life.” This is evangelism through vulnerable inclusion into a family’s life.
2. Reinvigorate the ministry of prayer, mercy and justice. The faith-community must embrace its role as a people who prayer and strive for mercy and justice in the world, primarily by including the sick, hurting and oppressed into their care and fellowship.
3. Be a community. Christians must gather together regularly for genuine fellowship where people have fun together, engage in social rituals, pray together, and commission one another. In this way, the natural rhythms of life together bear witness of God’s goodness and presence.
4. Create room for “Third Space” evangelism. Christians must frequent places such as coffee shops and build friendships with people who normally would not feel comfortable coming over to a home for dinner or joining the life of a faith-community.
5. Worship together. By using the arts of word, music, dance, drama, and creativity, the faith-community embodies the presence and power of God in ways that surpass the verbal strategies most Christians associate with evangelism.
6. Reinvigorate the rite of baptism. Use baptism as it was used by the early church as climactic moment when a person completes one’s initial training in the ways of Christ and formally declares one’s intention to follow Christ as part of his community.
These suggestions build upon Fitch’s argument that postmodern culture challenges the modern Christian assumptions fueled by the Enlightenment that evangelism occurs through rational and verbal persuasion that climax with an intellectual decision. Truth is more about character than evidence. Therefore, postmoderns respect truth that is lived.
I love Fitch’s summary at the end of this chapter:
“If we accept postmodernity’s challenge to our modernist ways, evangelicals will no longer give away evangelism to places outside the church. Instead, amidst postmoderns, we will make the church, the living body, the vortex of evangelism. We will no longer impart universal truths to individual minds outside the church. We will live truth together so as to compel the lost to come and see his lordship in full display in a worship service. Salvation is more than a matter of one’s individual status before God. It is the victory of Christ over sin and death into which Christians invite strangers via the forgiveness of sin and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Our evangelism then strives not to make the gospel relevant to the categories of the post-Christian generation outside the church. It strives to embody the gospel in the church so that all else becomes irrelevant to the stranger who walks in. In a world where the truth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is viewed as irrelevant, the task of evangelism is not to somehow make his lordship relevant to that world but to live his lordship so truthfully that it makes it impossible for alternative worlds to ignore.”
The a bit later:
“As a living vibrant people, Christians do not sell, they just live; they do not peddle, but do speak sincerely; they do not debate, they witness to his presence in worship and invite people into this great victory over sin and death we have in Christ’s death and resurrection.”
That is really good stuff. I love the idea that the people of God are NOT to make evangelism relevant to the world. Rather we are to live the Good News of God’s kingdom coming to earth so that everything else becomes irrelevant. In other words, when you’re in a dark room, you don’t try to make the light relevant to the dark in order to convince people that light is better than the darkness. Instead, you turn on the lights so that the darkness becomes completely irrelevant. We are to be and live the Good News, not trying to convince people of something we many not even be living in the first place.