“Evangelization” and “Evangelism”

Pope Francis has said that he is against “proselytizing.”  But he is also speaking on what his predecessor started, the “new evangelization.”  After the jump, some of his remarks on the subject.  He is advocating “dialogue with those who do not share our beliefs,” which he has been doing, and projecting “God’s mercy and tenderness.”  He’s been doing that too.  He is talking about “witnessing,” which we often think of as a Protestant term, depending on what is meant by that.

I’m curious if there is a difference between “evangelization” and “evangelism.”  And how a Roman Catholic, in particular, for whom church membership is critical, carries out “evangelizing” without “proselytizing.”  Can Christians who are not Roman Catholics join in these efforts as he describes them?  Also, is the “evangel”–the good news of Christ’s forgiveness won on the Cross–always clear, either in Catholic “evangelization” or Protestant “evangelism”?   [Read more...]

Evangelizing the Nazis

Chad Bird tells the story of Henry Gerecke,  a pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and a military chaplain assigned to minister to the war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, including walking with ten of them to the gallows.  Many of the Nazis clung to their Nietzschean paganism.  But some of them Pastor Gerecke led to Christ.

That might bother some of us.  Surely, if anyone deserves Hell, these mass-murdering monsters did.  We might think that it’s wrong to extend the Gospel to sinners of this magnitude.  As if Christ, when He bore the sins of the world on the Cross did not carry what these men had done.  That would make the Cross too hideously ugly.  But it is.  And this is what Christianity is all about, or it is nothing.

After the jump, read about Pastor Gerecke.  And follow the link to read him tell his own story, including the names of the Nazis who did and who did not come to Christ. [Read more...]

Catholic evangelism

Roman Catholics have been launching a major world-wide evangelism effort.  It includes “witnessing,” knocking on doors, and sharing what Jesus has done in my life. They are adopting techniques associated with evangelicals.  Do you think Catholics might have some advantages in the competition for the “unchurched”?  Their mystical tradition could appeal to the “spiritual but not religious” crowd.  They aren’t saddled so much as evangelicals with conservative politics, which is turning off so many non-Christians.  Catholic worship will come across to lots of people as more interesting than what most Protestants do.  To those attracted by megachurches, Catholicism is the most mega church of them all.  Despite their theological differences, should Protestants welcome Catholic evangelism efforts? [Read more...]

Military will allow evangelism but not proselytizing

Responding to the uproar about the prospect for court martials for evangelism that we blogged about, the military is clarifying that evangelism will, in fact, be allowed.  Just not proselytizing.

So what’s the difference?  The military’s definition is after the jump.  Is this a valid distinction?  What will determine one from the other?  How might this apply outside the military, to the ways Christians share their faith in the public square?  Is there some “witnessing” that should be out of bounds?  [Read more...]

Court martial for evangelism?

How persecution begins:

The Pentagon has released a statement confirming that soldiers could be prosecuted for promoting their faith: “Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense…Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis…”. [Read more...]

The latest mission strategy: “Insider Movements”

We’ve blogged about those translations of the Bible for Muslims that avoid little terms like “Son of God” in order, supposedly, to attract followers of Islam.  It turns out that such Bible translations are only one strategy in a whole new approach to mission work, one that encourages Christian converts to continue as members of their old religion!  Bill Nikides explains in Modern Reformation:

The most explosive issue in global missions within the evangelical church today is something called “Insider Movements.” . . .

It has become a go-to option for all sorts of traditional evangelicals working with ostensibly reputable missions organizations such as Navigators, Frontiers, Summer Institute of Linguistics (a branch of Wycliffe), Global Partners for Development, and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some embrace the Insider Movement label and identity; others prefer to remain low key. In many cases entire organizations—while in others, only some individual members—are committed to its core principles. Even worse, it appears that some missionaries and agencies are guilty of dissembling so as to maintain plausible deniability. . . .

Here are a couple of stock definitions to get us on our way. Insider Movements (IM) are variously defined as “popular movements to Christ that bypass both formal and explicit expressions of Christian religion” (Kevin Higgins, “The Key to Insider Movements,” Internal Journal of Frontier Missiology, Winter 2004). Another definition Higgins offers is that they are “movements to Jesus that remain to varying degrees inside the social fabric of Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, or other people groups.” In other words, as John Ridgeway of the Navigators relates, Insider Movements advocate “becoming faithful disciples of Jesus within the culture of their people group, including religious culture.”

Fundamentally, Insiders are those who profess faith in Christ but remain members of their original religious communities; Muslims remain Muslims, Hindus remain Hindus, and Buddhists remain Buddhists. In the Muslim world that means they must acknowledge one exclusive God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his final and greatest messenger. They remain members of the mosque, practice the five pillars of Islam, live openly in their cultures as Muslims, participate in Muslim sacrifices and feasts, and identify themselves as Muslims. In many cases, I’m familiar with baptized Christians who are persuaded to re-enter the mosque after renouncing their Christian identities. . . .

There are, of course, major problems with such an approach to missions and evangelism. First, Insiders make the unbiblical assumption that such biblical passages teach that true believers can have a purely inward faith that can be manifested inside any faith system, including that of other non-Christian religions.

Second, practitioners and Insider missiologists (or scholars of the theology of missions) ignore the fact that the Bible is loaded with texts, even entire books, devoted to distinguishing truth from error and true religion from false religion. In other words, doctrine matters and has to be central in our theology of missions. Unfortunately, doctrine is surprisingly absent from much Insider literature, and rarely do their proponents address the twin topics of idolatry and false religion. Instead, Insiders suppose that religions are relatively harmless cultural creations, that they are man-made and therefore disposable. Even Christian articles of faith, such as the church and the sacraments, can be said to be cultural creations that can simply be replaced with other things in Muslim cultures.

via Modern Reformation – Articles [subscription required].

Never mind about what the Bible says about syncretism, idolatry, having no other Gods, Church, etc., etc.  But this approach helps missionaries rack up bigger numbers of converts!

Here is an objective, fair and balanced Wikipedia account that  confirms that description.

This is an example of the mindset that I’m seeing more and more that is at the root of a lot of church issues today:  Christianity is just about becoming a Christian–having a conversion in which a person “accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”–whereupon, since “once saved, always saved,” the Church and the Christian life don’t matter!

HT:  Jim Rademaker


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