After a successful evangelism conference, kudos to Forward Movement and Transfiguration. There is certainly something happening in our Church when 600 people want to attend an evangelism conference! We were glad to offer hospitality. I do believe we have something to offer, both with respect to the doctrine that undergirds evangelism and to our experience in planting itself. In this spirit I offer as a blog entry my opening remarks.
On behalf of the Diocese of Dallas as a co- host, I want to welcome you all to Evangelism Matters. As disciples in this diverse, growing part of our nation we think it does matter, not just in church plants or renewal groups or ethnic ministries but in every parish, and we mean to learn from you this weekend even as we contribute what we can. We are also pleased to welcome back our presiding bishop, our chief evangelism officer and a friend of the diocese.
It is good to recall here at the outset that theology is largely a matter of keeping first things first. This means, in our case, getting clear about what evangelism is. Back in the antediluvian days of my seminary study, I was told that evangelion was a word, which had acquired an alien resonance from the occupying empire, much as “peace on earth and good will,” had. The good news was announced that the ruler was on his way to a town, only in the Christian counter-version that king was no Caesar, but Jesus crucified and risen. “Ride on king Jesus ride on, no man can a-hinder thee...” The first thing is that it is Jesus who is moving and has already moved. Evangelism is first declaring, like those ancient advance men, those summoners, that he has come.
But he is king Jesus. He rules over us. And that means our guilt, fear, and anger do not, appearances notwithstanding, still rule. But he has done so as the crucified, not as a terrible accident or tragedy or injustice (though it was tragic, and unjust) but rather with the cross as the way God our king comes to reign over all of us, and all parts of us. And that means that, somehow or other, evangelism implies atonement, whether we as wise stewards bring out old words or new.
If I had to give a compact definition of evangelism it would just this: ride on, king Jesus (Christology), ride on (as we follow in his wake, ecclesiology), (to Jerusalem, doctrine of the atonement), no one shall a-hinder thee (doctrine of grace).
A theology of evangelism starts with this the first thing, the one necessary thing, but it doesn't stop there. It wonders about the implications for social life and politics and psychology and art. Amen. And it wonders how other cultures including the one called, millennial, can hear this. These are all questions Anglicanism has historically been keen to ask. It tests every thought against cant or manipulation or self-justification. It makes sure that grace and not our own works constitutes the first and last word. Conference speakers and attenders - get to work!
So Evangelism begins with theology and it leads back there in humility as well. It speaks but it listens also, to our neighbor, to the word of God and His spirit. Let us discuss here many things, practical and theoretical. But as in that seminary class, let's not let ourselves off the hook too easily. For it is not just new member acquisition or social action we are talking about here (though I am for both) but about the spreading of the news About king Jesus on his way to Jerusalem that we are here to encourage. Welcome and God bless you all.