Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Relational Evangelism?

Should evangelism be almost completely relational these days? By “relational”, I mean the Christian already has some kind of relationship with the non-Christian. It is not a public proclamation of the Gospel, such as in Church. I am very sympathetic to the relationship angle. However, I am not sure that is how it always worked in the early Church, in a period similar to ours in that the general culture was not friendly to the Gospel message. Peter did not have a relationship with the crowd of people he preached to on Pentecost. What he did is use familiar language, and "fill in the blanks" after he got their attention. Now that I think of it, Paul did the same thing at the Aeropagus--he started from their "Unknown God", and went along pointing the Athenians to the real God, and the Resurrection of all flesh. He did not teach the Athenians Sin/Redemption--instead his "sermon" was one of "God is now calling you all, and he is the one you seek, you seek him because you have a place for the unknown God!" In other words, for non-believers, he did not use the Law/Gospel dialectic. It also seems to me St. Paul used a bit of “Christus Victor”.

I have been thinking about this lately.


Preachrboy said...

Some further thoughts on this I didn't post on the WT:

I'm basically with you on the modification of language to suit the needs of the hearer. This to me is just a lower level of translation - something no one has a problem with when it comes to an entirely separate langugage (i.e. the day of Pentecost!).

In each of these examples, there are a couple of points worth noting.

For one, the individuals you cite were apostles. Their calling or vocation was different not only from your average layperson today, but also from the office of pastor. This might be a fruitful line of discussion for comparison/contrast. We might try to think of some other examples of New Testament "Evangelism" for further comparison.

Secondly, in both situations, though there was no "personal relationship", there was, however, some kind of permissive context. The Aereopagus was designed for rhetorical debate and such, so Paul would have been welcomed there on that basis.

In the case of Peter, I personally believe the Pentecost event took place in the Temple (perhaps that's a side issue), but there again we have a context in which religious faithful have come and in which Jesus had taught publicly, so in a sense they were carrying on with his already established context of preaching there...

The point I guess I am getting at is that a reason that "relationships" are important when considering evangelism is that it is one way to obtain the permission we need to appropriately share the word (Law or Gospel). You say, "get their attention". I think permission is more important.

Going up to strangers on the street corner just doesn't seem to me the best (or most appropriate)use of the believer's time in the evangelistic endeavor (though I could easily "get their attention").

Help me think through this.

Bill said...

There are few if any examples of Jesus, Paul or Peter preaching the Gospel to their friends or people they had a relationship with. Paul seemed to be constantly open air preaching in the book of Acts--even when they had him in handcuffs ready to take him away.

Jesus started out commanding the woman at the well to get Him water, and they had a conversation lasting a few minutes. Nicodemus and the rich young ruler approached Jesus, and it doesn't seem they had previously spoken. Jesus open air preached in and out of the synagogues.

You can obtain permission to speak to someone on a street corner, and I think we should be doing that as much as possible, because it's what they did in the Bible. In my experience, many people are open to talking, and most people really have no idea what the Gospel really is. They desperately need us to explain it to them.


Edward Reiss said...

Preacherboy and Bill,

I think you are both on to something with the "permission" idea. I like it, a lot.

So, a lot has to do with the social context we are in. Obviously, St. Peter's Pentecost sermon was one kind of context, one we will no tlikely see again because, as Preacherboy said, he is an Apostle.

However, there would seem to be some contexts today for laymen and preachers.

St. Paul found himself in a place where ideas were discussed. He used what was available and moved the discussion toward the Gospel. Another point is that it was not forced.

I really think a permissive context will help keep the "firewall" down.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Ever thought about studying for the pastoral office?

Edward Reiss said...

I have thought about it, but I don't have a BS degree, and I am not sure I am called to that office, due to my argumentative, confrontational nature.

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