The end of Evangelism?

I was checking out Matt‘s synopsis of a book that I’ve been meaning to read, How (Not) To Speak of God, by Peter Rollins… I believe I’ve mentioned it on here before…

Anyways, Matt was commenting on some of the main points in Chapter 3, and one of the points really struck me because it’s been something that’s been on my mind a lot lately:

6. The saying of nothing. “Evangelism” in this context means creating space in which others can explore their own experience of God, rather than engaging in a “power discourse” that beats them over the head with the One System that gets them “saved.” As Rollins puts it, “when it comes to God, we have nothing to say to others and we must not be ashamed of saying it.”

It’s an interesting idea, I think, and it reminds me of a quote from St. Francis of Assisi that I’ve heard a million times, maybe you have to?

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

I think that Rollins is taking it a little bit further than Assisi did, in saying that we have “nothing to say”, and I’m not sure that I would take it that far either. Granted, I still need to read the book myself, maybe he isn’t actually saying that we never should have anything to say.

But I absolutely think that we’ve relied too much on our arguments and our words to introduce people to the Kingdom of God, and less so on our displaying God’s love to the people around us. I’ve always been under the impression that if we do our best to love people, they will naturally be drawn to the source of that love (God). At which point God will make Himself known to them in a way that they will understand, since He desires that no one should be apart from Him…

For me, I’m going to do what I can every day to love those around me, and I’ll let God handle the actual “saving” since it’s up to Him anyways, isn’t it? And if someone asks me something, or a situation presents itself where only my words can help, then I’ll use them. But otherwise, I’m putting my words on the back burner, and moving my actions up front and turning it on high…

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4 thoughts on “The end of Evangelism?

  1. “…rather than engaging in a ‘power discourse’ that beats them over the head with the One System that gets them “saved”…”

    i’ve recently come to believe that apologetics are best used to strengthen the reasonable faith of those who believe or want to believe, not for converting/convincing those who don’t know Christ.

    “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

    wouldn’t it be nice if all evangelism could be so non-confrontational. of course if your walk doesn’t match your talk, then PLEASE keep your mouth shut. maybe that is St. Francis’ point, because surely he believes in the importance of preaching and making disciples…

    “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? ….Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:14,17)

  2. Scott-

    “i’ve recently come to believe that apologetics are best used to strengthen the reasonable faith of those who believe or want to believe, not for converting/convincing those who don’t know Christ.”

    Well said, and I agree.

    I actually think that that may be one of the author’s points. That in the changing culture that we’re in, people are actually more open to spiritual ideas than they have been in recent history. And because of this, maybe we don’t need to speak as much (at least not at first) and we need to just live out God’s love among people that don’t know Him, and they will be drawn to Him.

    So maybe it is that there doesn’t need to be as much converting/convincing with words, and more actions that show God’s Truth to people around us…

  3. Assisi’s viewpoint on evangelistic silence comes from the perspective of a more holistic service (servanthood) in which the gospel is present. Rollins viewpoint is more about creating a sacred space for the recipient to discover God. So they are a bit different as I see it., probably more to do with the cultural difference as Rollins speaks from postmodernity.

    Here is a review that I did on Rollinss’ book:
    http://www.pauldelsignore.com/?p=209

    I like your blog and the subjects you communicatee

    vapor

  4. Vapor-

    Thanks for stopping by!

    I REALLY appreciate your insight into the context of Assisi’s vs. Rollins’ differing contexts. Those are VERY important distinctions; cultural differences that we would be wise to acknowledge and understand…

    I’ll definitely be checking out your series of posts on the book to see what else I can garner… sometime here I need to actually get the book and read it for myself! ha ha.

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