EVANGELISM, SNAKE OIL SALESMEN & MIME ARTISTS

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So we are working our way through Mike Frost’s THE ROAD TO MISSIONAL and have arrived at chapter two “SLOW EVANGELISM: Moving Beyond The Four Spiritual Laws.” For me personally this is the most important chapter in the book because in a sense it deals with” the Achilles Heel of the Missional Movement. The missional movement has been strong in its criticism of attractional models of church, pointing out theological flaws in that ecclesiology and also that its ability to make an impact on most of the nonchristian population is very limited. Underlying much of this criticism has been a perception that evangelism in traditional church has been both too individualistic and simplistic. The charge is that evangelism has been reduced to a programatic presentation which offers individuals a place in heaven and an improved life here and now. There has been a general revulsion at the snake oil salesmen techniques of all too many tv and itinerant evangelists.

Not unnaturally others have focused their attention on the missional movement and pointed out that despite all the rhetoric about being missional and creating missional communities there is little evidence of any evangelistic impact being made. I have heard someone describe the missional church as being controlled by mime artists who, when it comes to the Gospel, are big on actions but short on words. There is no doubt in a reaction to pressurised sales techniques, simplistic presentations and probably a desire not be triumphalistic many in the missional movement have been wary of calling people to make a decision about following Christ.

That’s the backdrop to this chapter and I think what Frost talks about here is so important that I am going to deal with it in several posts. I really appreciate Mike’s forthright position that evangelism is an integral and indispensable component of the missional paradigm. It doesn’t get much clearer than this
<“Those who claim to be missional but who never find themselves in a relational place where they can proclaim the Lordship of Jesus to a friend, even if that proclamation occurs over several conversations over a period of time, are hardly missional at all. I get tired of people telling me that they concur with St Francis of Assisi, who was claimed to have said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and use words if necessary.” I happen to agree with the assumption behind this Franciscan maxim, but those who are most inclined to quote it to me are those least inclined to find it necessary to ever use words when preaching the Gospel” p43″

Frost contention given all of this is that there is a real need for those involved in the missional conversation to develop and clarify their understanding of evangelism and of course this chapter is his contribution to that debate. As someone involved in trying to get a missional community off the ground I know that this is something I really need to grapple with. Its not enough for me to avoid the pitfalls of other evangelistic approaches. Mosaic Edinburgh needs clarity as to what the Gospel is and how we share it authentically and with integrity in our context. Personally I am also glad someone has finally taken a tilt at the Francis of Assisi quote. I am getting to the point that I want to scream when I hear it being quoted because generally it is uttered in a really condescending tone as if to pity the poor fundamentalist that still feels the need to call people to reorientate their lives around Jesus.

CONVERSATION PRIMERS

What has been your experience of evangelism in the church? Has it been a positive or negative experience by and large?

Do you agree that evangelism is the Achilles Heel of the missional movement?

Why do you think that so many people who are apparently committed to mission have been so hesitant about evangelism?

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