Evangelism: A Revolution
That Old Question: What really is Evangelism?
I’ve posted a couple of things previously which reveal my unorthodox take on what ‘Evangelism’ actually is, but more recently the threads that I had been alluding to have been woven together in a quite remarkable way in real life. It is time to review and restate what I see as “Evangelism”. You won’t find this in any “missiology” textbooks as far as I’m aware.
What I’ve said before
Here’s a little trip down memory lane:
In June 2012 I posted an essay I wrote (Evangelism: What is it? Do you have to do it?), in which I was arguing that evangelism is not just something you proclaim, but something you live-out as a community, and that the living-out of the life of the people of God is actually the message. My lecturer thought I was trying to say that evangelism is all about social justice, found it confusing, and marked it down somewhat. That’s not what I was saying at all. I was saying something unusual. I was saying:
This “evangelism” which the Church has as its primary role is therefore not merely verbalising the kingdom of God, but manifesting it both individually and, importantly, as a community.
In April 2013 I wrote a largely reflective piece (Evangelism: A View from the Inside), about what it feels like to be imparting the Kingdom of God. The key here was that evangelism is not something you can “do”, but someone whom you must be. It is not something you “tell”, but something you impart through loving ministry. It is, in short, a very expensive gift which one constantly gives away by investing endlessly in loving people.
As a teacher, it is my own walk with God that teaches people more than anything I speak out, and my own integrity is the foundation my words rest upon:
Paul was clear that Timothy should think about Paul’s way of life when considering the wisdom of Paul’s pattern of teaching.
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. … as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it”
– 2 Tim 3:10-12, 14
The common thread is that evangelism is not primarily about proclamation. It is primarily about living out the life of faith. In the first case I was talking about corporately living it out, and in the second case I was looking at it more on an individual level, because that was what I was experiencing at the time.
More recently I wrote (It Starts: The Kingdom of God is Germinating in Ipswich) about a group of men which has been living out this calling with dramatic results:
God’s strength is made perfect in their weakness. I am able to show them constantly how this works, as they discover that the holy man, the gentle man, the man of God, is actually pervaded by the power of God. Each of these men has begun to experience the power of God being manifest in their relationships and in the situations they experience.
<Edited 27th October 2014>
Here is a more recent update, reflecting how some of these changes are affecting the community:
“Corporate” here does not mean “commercial”. It means “as a group”. Evangelism by a group as a single body, not as a series of individual efforts.
The recent emergence of a core group of men who are pursuing God within the street culture of Ipswich has reaffirmed and reinforced what I had theorised back in June 2012. What happens is that the very fact of their faith as a group is rattling their peers, attracting a range of responses, and is performing the very role that I had anticipated. It is a sign from God in the midst of the community.
On an individual level, each of these men is finding, under heavy encouragement from me, that the harder they push into the experience of God, the more they experience the incredible miracles in their lives. Several of the guys have been having trouble in their marriage relationships, but since beginning this amazing journey of faith, all of those relationships are thawing, and some heading for reconciliation and so forth. None of these men has appealed to their wives to reconsider anything, nor have they insisted that the wives should give them another chance. They have simply “manned-up” to God and they are being transformed in His image. Their women barely know what is happening, but they know that the guys are safe men, and that these are the men they fell in love with.
All of this, despite much of it happening at an individual level, has begun to send its ripples into the community. Families are being affected – most in very good ways, but where there is entrenched evil this is causing friction.
Again I emphasise that these guys are not confronting anybody or chasing out “sin” among their peers. They are focussed on their own piety with such an intensity that they are blazing hot. To the powers of darkness, this is a deep affront.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
– Matt 5:14-16
This is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
– John 3:19-21
The Spiritual Battle
This is the Spiritual battle. This is what it means that “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12).
We confront the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” by boldly facing God, and by bearing the glorious searing pain of being made clean and whole by Him. This process sends tectonic shockwaves through the spiritual dimension of our relationships and our social environment. It is a direct assault on the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. This is the realm in which “spiritual warfare” consists. It is for this battle that the “armour of God” Eph 6:13-18… yes, including verse 18 as far as I’m concerned…) is designed.
Jesus was seen as a revolutionary by the Romans. They were right. But his revolution was not a military one. It was a revolution of heart and spirit. He was preaching something deeply subversive, which undermined everything that held up the Roman Empire, as well as the Jewish religious institutions. He was preaching a revolution of equality, love, and peace. This revolution was very violent, but it did not practice violence. It suffered violence.
I once claimed, in a sermon I was preaching, that given just half a dozen men “who just want to hear the voice of God“, I would produce a Revolution (24th July, 2011). About 12 months ago I recorded a little audio message about what such a revolution would look like. I posted it just recently (Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? – Luke 18:7).
I have now been given at least that many men.
Vive la Revolution!
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