The ethics of evangelism

Representatives of the World Evangelical Alliance (evangelicals), the World Council of Churches (mainline liberal Protestants, plus the Orthodox [why?]), and the Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue (Roman Catholic)  meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a document entitled “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.”  It affirms the importance of evangelism (a.k.a. “proseletyzing”), but sets forth some ethical guidelines when doing so.  You can download the document at the link, but here is a news account summarizing the points:

There are three main parts that make up the Recommendations for Conduct.

The first part provides a biblical basis for Christian mission, asserting the Christians should follow the “example and teaching of Jesus Christ and of the early church” in their witness and that “conversion is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.”

The second section outlines 12 principles Christians are called to follow in witnessing of Christ in a manner consistent with the Gospel. These include: acting in God’s love; living with integrity, compassion and humility; rejecting any form of violence; and offering respect to all people.

The document concludes with six recommendations to all Christians, church bodies, mission organizations and agencies.

They are: study the document; build respect and trust with people of all religions; strengthen religious identity and faith while at the same time deepening knowledge and understanding of different religions; advocate justice and respect for the common good; call on governments and representatives to ensure religious freedom for all people; pray for the well-being of neighbors, recognizing prayer is integral to the Christian life and of Christian mission.

via The Christian Post

See any problems with this?  Can you think of other ethical considerations or applications that should guide one’s “witnessing” or a church’s evangelism efforts?

UPDATE: Christianity Today has a fascinating article on what these new rules for evangelism mean and what they leave out. I think I’ll do a post on that next week.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    As written, this all seems pretty reasonable, albeit rather obvious as well–why exactly was a large ecumenical meeting needed to come up with “act in God’s love” and “live with integrity”?

    My concern is that the involvement of mainline liberal protestantism could indicate that none of the words in the document mean what I think they mean. I don’t know how often I’ve encountered people who think that compassion means being nice (doing nothing to make waves), that humility requires being a relativist, that respect precludes disagreement on religious matters, or that disapproval is a form of violence.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    As written, this all seems pretty reasonable, albeit rather obvious as well–why exactly was a large ecumenical meeting needed to come up with “act in God’s love” and “live with integrity”?

    My concern is that the involvement of mainline liberal protestantism could indicate that none of the words in the document mean what I think they mean. I don’t know how often I’ve encountered people who think that compassion means being nice (doing nothing to make waves), that humility requires being a relativist, that respect precludes disagreement on religious matters, or that disapproval is a form of violence.

  • http://www.wordoflifelbc.org Pastor Ed

    You’re right on the money Matt. Too many in the liberal church have thrown out the concept of sin, so actually preaching the Law is equated with hate speech. If sin isn’t a big deal then grace isn’t a big deal. And if grace isn’t a big deal than there is no signifigance to Jesus other than his example. So what’s left to convert anyone to?

    The document isn’t the problem. Any confirmation student of mine could have come up with that!

  • http://www.wordoflifelbc.org Pastor Ed

    You’re right on the money Matt. Too many in the liberal church have thrown out the concept of sin, so actually preaching the Law is equated with hate speech. If sin isn’t a big deal then grace isn’t a big deal. And if grace isn’t a big deal than there is no signifigance to Jesus other than his example. So what’s left to convert anyone to?

    The document isn’t the problem. Any confirmation student of mine could have come up with that!

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Here’s my recommendation (were I included ):

    ‘Open mouth and speak of Jesus as Savior for sinners.’

    We will now recess for a short lunch and then head for the airport.

    Thank you all for coming.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Here’s my recommendation (were I included ):

    ‘Open mouth and speak of Jesus as Savior for sinners.’

    We will now recess for a short lunch and then head for the airport.

    Thank you all for coming.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I agree heartily with comments 1-3. The Evangel (Gospel) itself seems to be missing from the summary above. If it was present the ethical considerations could be read in a good light, sure, but as has already been said, they could serve very easily to completely remove the offense of Christ’s cross and resurrection in the place of all us sinners. Christless, crossless life-lessons is what one usually encounters among “Christians” anyway these days – and then, as has also been said, what’s the point?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I agree heartily with comments 1-3. The Evangel (Gospel) itself seems to be missing from the summary above. If it was present the ethical considerations could be read in a good light, sure, but as has already been said, they could serve very easily to completely remove the offense of Christ’s cross and resurrection in the place of all us sinners. Christless, crossless life-lessons is what one usually encounters among “Christians” anyway these days – and then, as has also been said, what’s the point?

  • DonS

    The first of six recommendations is “Study the document”? “Study the Word” does not appear, however. This follows on to what Bryan said @ 4 — where is the Gospel, and what is the point of evangelism without it?

  • DonS

    The first of six recommendations is “Study the document”? “Study the Word” does not appear, however. This follows on to what Bryan said @ 4 — where is the Gospel, and what is the point of evangelism without it?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Presumably everybody at this meeting was already in Switzerland earlier this month for the Bilderberg confab. Or did the Bilderbergians spin off the faith discussions to a separate meeting in Geneva? Does that mean that the One World Government is tired of religious issues and about to dispense with religion in general? Or did the religious types get tired of endless discussions about where was the best place to put the bar code, the hand or the forehead?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Presumably everybody at this meeting was already in Switzerland earlier this month for the Bilderberg confab. Or did the Bilderbergians spin off the faith discussions to a separate meeting in Geneva? Does that mean that the One World Government is tired of religious issues and about to dispense with religion in general? Or did the religious types get tired of endless discussions about where was the best place to put the bar code, the hand or the forehead?

  • Marty

    Everyone needs to read the book “American Grace.” It’s not just “liberals” who are backpedaling on the absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation these days. (I don’t have the book in front of me, but something like 86% of LCMS laypeople think that there are other religions that lead to God!) That anyone is talking about evangelism in this cultural milieu is, I guess, sort of a positive sign.

  • Marty

    Everyone needs to read the book “American Grace.” It’s not just “liberals” who are backpedaling on the absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation these days. (I don’t have the book in front of me, but something like 86% of LCMS laypeople think that there are other religions that lead to God!) That anyone is talking about evangelism in this cultural milieu is, I guess, sort of a positive sign.

  • Tom Hering
  • Tom Hering

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