In this second part on evangelism in a secular culture, Lesslie Newbigin shares that it is not enough to try to impart evangelistic information to society, but rather, there needs to be a local and visible demonstration of the impact this Good-News-knowledge has had on real people. Therefore, the family of God becomes the best apologetic of the true story.
The clue to evangelism in a secular society must be the local congregation. There are many other things of which one could speak — mass evangelism of the Billy Graham type, Christian literature, radio and television, study and training courses, and so on. These are auxiliary. Many of them can be very valuable. But they are auxiliary to the primary center of evangelism, which is the local congregation. The congregation should live by the true story and center their life in the continual remembering and relating of the true story, in meditating on it and expounding it in its relation to contemporary events so that contemporary events are truly understood, and in sharing in the sacrament by which we are incorporated into the dying and rising of Jesus so that we are at the very heart of the true story. The congregation that does this becomes the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God among the members and in the wider society. And here, of course, an immense amount depends upon the leadership given through preaching, pastoral encouragement, and public action by those called to ministry in the congregations.
~ Lesslie Newbigin: a Reader, p. 234-235
I liked that part about the congregation becoming the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God…
We need to emphasize that present, new reality. While contextualization is important, one of the most compelling things about our gatherings (larger and smaller) is how serious and committed we are as a people to the true story. Rather, the focus is often on our “technique of doing church.”
The Gospel shared is the Gospel lived. So, to share that story in a radically attractive way (evangelism) will require us to ask, “How are we–together interpreting our world and responding to it by the truth of the Gospel?”
When people begin to encounter other people who are walking by the Gospel, they might see forms of church that are familiar to them but they will be drawn to the story because they see others who have authentically entered it and are taking it seriously.
Part one of this 5-part evangelism series can be found here: Living by the Other Story
- Contextualization: communicating the gospel in contemporary language (christopherlazo.com)