Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Some of you probably recall that not long ago the Facebook page “Emerging Evangelists” gallery of exclusively male blogging evangelists (excepting a couple brave, smiling wives) elicited an outburst.  What was so “emerging” about an all-male club of evangelists in the 21st century, I wanted to know.  This seemed a bit “neanderthal” if you ask me.  (Okay, so Neanderthals probably didn’t have Billy Graham-style altar calls, but you get my drift- and the image is rich, don’t you think?  I can see some club raising and wild chest beating in response to the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.)

Matt Brown, who helped to found the network of blogging evangelists and is also founder and director of the organization, “Think Eternity,” has graciously responded to my inquiry and agreed to indulge me in a few questions about women and evangelism.  I would also add that Matt has an impressive bio, having authored several books, including Revolutionaries: Men and Women in Every Century Who Advanced Christianity.  Matt, thank you again for your time and thoughtfulness in engaging some of our questions.

How did you first sense a call to evangelism, and how are you living that out through the work to which you are called with Thinke?

Both my wife Michelle and I sensed a strong leading from God to evangelism when we were teenagers, before we ever met. It was amazing when we started dating years ago, and began to discuss what we felt God leading us to do, that he had pointed us in the same direction.

We have been speaking at churches full time for the past decade. I started this while I was in Bible College. Now, this is taking shape in unique ways as we have a significant amount of ministry taking place online through blogging and social media. Ultimately, we feel a strong leading towards proclamation evangelism through live events. In a similar way as Billy Graham and Luis Palau and many evangelists before them have done it. Partnering with cities and bringing denominations together for seasons of unified prayer and outreach.

How did “Emerging Evangelists” begin, and what is its purpose?

We started Emerging Evangelists as a blog site about 4 years ago, pulling along about four other young evangelists originally, from different corners of the country. We started initially to share blogs for those who sensed a call into vocational evangelism, but it has morphed into a site for every Christian, with bloggers sharing their hearts and encouragement to spread the Gospel all over the world.
It has grown organically based on relationships, and we now have 32 regular bloggers from many diverse backgrounds, all coming together around the Gospel.

How do you define “evangelism”?

Evangelism is doing what Jesus came to do. It is proclaiming the simple Gospel, and allowing God to work through us to get His message out to people He really cares about.

What distinguishes “emerging” evangelism from other forms of evangelism? Also, is there any association here between “emerging” and “emergent”?

Emerging is simply a word I used years ago to express our desire for evangelism and the evangelist to emerge from negative connotations into a more ancient, Biblical model. To emerge into what God has for it and for us. It is not associated with emergent church beliefs at all.

You have been very gracious to speak with me after my FB outburst regarding the noticeable absence of women’s faces in your network. You mentioned in an earlier conversation that you’ve tried unsuccessfully to invite women into your ranks. Why do you think this is so?

We’ve had several women ask about this, and I feel really bad that we don’t have any individual women bloggers yet. We do have Mindy Hirst, who often co-writes books and blogs with her husband Jon.  Honestly, the current bloggers have been mostly based off friendships I have, so we have been lacking in having great women bloggers. I have asked several who haven’t felt they could commit, and one of our biggest priorities right now is to pull on a few good women bloggers in the coming year. Praying this happens. I have run across a few great women bloggers lately; people like you, Nicole Cotrell, Ally Vesterfelt, Addie Zierman, Cissie Graham Lynch and others.

As a follow-up…has “evangelism” as we have historically associated it (Billy Graham altar calls, four-step tracts, revival meetings, etc.) been a more traditionally “masculine” function of the church- in which case your network, in its (as you put it) “organic” development, is simply witnessing this trend? OR, is the issue that these more “traditional” displays of evangelism tend to be made on behalf of churches that largely don’t recognize women’s ministerial calls?

I think evangelism and ministry leadership in general has historically been more a “masculine” function of the church at large, however, I have been surprised and impressed by shifts I’ve seen recently. Leading up to an outreach a few years ago, I noticed about 50% of the Lead Pastors in a nearby city were women pastors. A friend of ours, Justin Lathrop recently wrote about this in an article entitled “Your Church Staff Needs More Women.”

However, beyond leadership roles, women through history have carried the torch of spreading the Gospel as effectively as men. I wrote about women in Church history, like St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Hildengard of Bingen who consulted with Popes, were named Doctor of the Church, and Catherine Booth and Aimee Semple McPherson who made staggering impacts on the world. Urbana missions conference, typically attended by 20,000 young adults in Illinois every other year posted recently: “What is the place of women in world mission? Jesus said, ‘You – and the word means You, male and female – are my witnesses.’” – Elisabeth Elliot Leitch at Urbana 1973

Do those within your network support or reject, for example, women in ordained ministry, and is this a related issue for you?

My wife is ordained in ministry, and we’ve always personally supported the idea of women in ordained ministry. One of the clear evidences of God’s approval on this, is the great impact so many women have had in reaching people for Christ, faithfully distilling the duties of the Church, and even ministering through blogging online. God is using women everywhere, in every generation to spread His message.

What are some ways that together we can be encouraging women with gifts of evangelism to live out their calls?

I don’t consider myself an expert in this arena, but my strong encouragement would be to do exactly what God is leading you to do. The world needs you to bring a message of hope about the grace and love of Christ! People will find Christ because of your faithfulness!

Got a question for Matt?  Leave it below.

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