The church’s marriage with modernity and specifically it’s adoption of marketing has defaced evangelism into a bag of salesman tricks. This week our community will rethink the joy of evangelism. In order for us to go forward we’ll have to de-construct the methods we have been taught in previous years.
Part of the deconstruction will be a purposeful shying away from the rhetoric that casts the mind-blowing gospel narrative into a marketing formula. According to this formula every person has a need, Jesus become s the product that will fulfill that need and you as the consumer will be ensured of perpetual happiness and eventual eternal bliss. This ‘gospel-meets-the-marketing-and-business-world’ model is clinched with the ‘sinner’s prayer’ as the deal breaker. It is unfortunate that this kind of strategy has pervaded the church in the Western world with an amazing regularity.
To evangelize is to be an impersonation of good news, and we have to get the story that is the news right. Jesus is not a product. Never was, never will be. The ‘great I am’ is not one that leads disciples into ever-increasing modes of consumption. In some extreme cases I think people see Jesus’ relevance only in being a ticket to heaven. “I prayed and accepted Jesus and therefore I’m going to heaven!” can so easily become the whole purpose of evangelism. In the worst of these cases people evangelized according to the marketing model only tolerate Jesus. Ironically they are ignoring the One they’ll spend an eternity with …
So where to from here?
David Bosch, the brilliant South African missiologist can serve as a guide in our deconstruction: In his seminal book “Transforming Mission” he wrote:
“It has to be emphasized, therefore, that the personal enjoyment of salvation never becomes the central theme in biblical conversion stories. Where Christians perceive themselves as those enjoying an indescribably magnificent private good fortune, Christ is easily reduced to little more than the ‘Disposer and Distributor’ of special blessings and evangelism to an enterprise that fosters the pursuit of pious self-centeredness. Not that the enjoyment of salvation is wrong, unimportant, or unbiblical; even so, it is almost incidental and secondary. It is not simply to receive life that people are called to become Christians, but rather to give life.”
We have to redefine concepts like salvation. Salvation is not just about ‘getting to heaven’. It is a holistic term that encompasses all of our lives. It is therefore a word that includes our ultimate salvation but also the process of converting and being changed now. It is not just a concept that involves what happens after you die, it informs and realigns us with God’s purposes while we are still alive! This is Jesus’ concept of eternal life. It is assimilating God’s rhythms that will last for an eternity right now. If we want to evangelize we have to get the content right before we talk about method. More about this later ….