Evangelism – Part two: The practice and pattern of evangelism for Anglicans today

photo: Rob Park
 on September 29, 2018

Darcy LThe late Archdeacon Steve Hopkins spoke of Anglicans practicing “Vampire Evangelism”.

It was tongue in cheek but insightful.

He described church members looking around for new members to keep the church going and wanting “new blood”. This understanding of evangelism is self serving and not the outward and missional understanding of evangelism to which God calls us.

When we read the scriptures — Dr. John Bowen in Evangelism for Normal People has a wonderful reflection on this — we see the purpose of Israel is outward looking and at its root evangelical.

Evangelism, at its core, must be outward looking and not self serving.

Scripturally, Israel exists so that all the nations of the earth might come to know God.

Likewise, in the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16–20) we see the purpose of evangelism is not the survival of the church but rather making disciples of all nations.

Evangelism, at its core, must be outward looking and not self serving.

That said, the truth is that mainline protestant churches in North America are not good at evangelism, and for the most part have ceded this ministry to the more evangelical churches.

There are many reasons for this.

As discussed in the last article (Niagara Anglican, September 2018), we are still wrestling with our colonial past which has not prepared us for this ministry.

Additionally, with few exceptions, there has been very little modern theological attention given to evangelism. There certainly have been volumes of church growth and evangelism conference material but little academic reflection.

Further, between the legacy of colonialism and the rise of some of the American televangelists, evangelism for many just seems in poor taste.

Add to this, that some have discomfort in and around the Great Commission as being somehow exploitive — the result is this ministry has been neglected.

Further, whether we call it a multicultural society, a postmodern world or something else all together, there is a real fear we will somehow offend or contradict and that keeps us quiet when it comes to speaking about our faith.

So where does this leave us today?

Going forward we must find a way to be as comfortable speaking the gospel as we are living it.

While there are some Anglicans in North America who have embraced this ministry, it is fair to say most have not. Often, we hear those words which are attributed to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” While there is a sentimentality to this and it does spurn us to social justice and the social gospel, when we do so at the expense of evangelism, we do lose a key ministry to which Christ has called us.

Going forward we must find a way to be as comfortable speaking the gospel as we are living it.

We need to re-examine our fear of the ministry of evangelism.

We need to recover the Great Commission and we need to be able to articulate why we ourselves are disciples of Jesus.

The Reverend Canon Darcey Lazerte is Rector of St. Simon’s Oakville.

(Last month Darcey started his three-part series on Evangelism by giving us “A glimpse into its history from an Anglican perspective”. Next time he concludes with “Some approaches going forward”.)

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