Sometime back I did a couple of posts about emerging evangelism to see where my thinking was on what I think is a pressing new issue: how to evangelize in a postmodern age to what I call the “Mr. Rogers Generation.” The book has now been written, and it is by Rick Richardson. It is called Reimagining Evangelism. As always, weigh in with your thoughts.
Let me remind us again of the three significant features of the emerging movement:
First, it is a missional movement.
Second, it is a missional movement in a postmodern context.
Third, it is a missional movement in a postmodern context that emerges out of evangelicalism.
Naturally, any movement so defined will have to face evangelism for the movement is “missional.” Which means it is view of God’s people as extending into the community and less a church inviting people to the church. (Attractional vs. incarnational — now don’t make these exclusive of one another. It’s a spectrum.)
Richardson’s book is the real deal because it doesn’t shy away from evangelism but instead transforms it. Here are some highlights:
Theses like statements: “Over the years, evangelism has gotten a bad name. It is sales, manipulation, TV preachers, big hair, … How did a word that means ‘good news’ get such bad press? …Our teachers and mentors in the evangelism adventure are now African and Asian and Latin American peoples.” So, he says, “let’s try seeing ourselves as travel guides on a spiritual journey rather than traveling salespeople on a call” (19). He then illustrates from Lord of the Rings, and left me hanging: not read that stuff. But I’m sure you have and would get it!
1. Evangelism is collaboration with what God is doing by listening to God, praying to God, and working with the Spirit.
2. God is raising up witnessing communities more than witnessing individuals. Belonging comes before believing — yep, he uses that old line because it is true.
3. Developing friendship through conversation is what it is all about instead of downloading information and content about the gospel. The current generation, we’ve been told over and over because it is true, does not trust the church; it will trust credible people. Become a friend. Do what you love with nonchurched folks.
4. Tell a story of God’s power and gospel realities. Stories are containers big enough to tell truth. Logic isn’t as effective as it once was. Connect your story to the stories of others.
5. Talk about a Jesus who is outside the box. Jettison the cliche Jesus. He’s more like Warhead candy than tofu [I know the latter, not the former]. He confronted religious elitism, consumerism.
6. The gospel is good news for the here and now and not just the there and then. The gospel is spiritual and physical, individual and communal, personal and social, human and cosmic, people and nations. It is good news for all of this.
7. It is an invitation to a wedding and marriage. He means it is a journey rather than an event. Inviting me to a wedding is not a good idea; too long, too formal, too much hub-bub. But, he’s got a good chp here. If salvation is union with Christ, then a wedding is a good image for what we are invited to because it leads to a marriage.