Monday, October 17, 2005

Part 1 -- The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind

This is the first of the six Great Ends, and it may be the most controversial. Our evangelism efforts have been neglected over the years, and many have gone so far as to discourage evangelism efforts among non-Christians in general and Jews and Muslims in particular.

The Great Commission places no limits on where and to whom we proclaim the Good News:

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – NIV
The Presbyterian Church, in the newest of its confessions, “The Brief Statement of Faith”, mirrors scripture with its clear statement on evangelism and social responsibility:

“…The Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.” -- Book of Confessions 10:4

The Witness and Evangelism Among People of Other Faiths page on the PC(USA) web site acknowledges the fact of our calling and provides some compelling reasons why we need to take this call seriously. The International Evangelism page has this to say:

“Through modern technology, the world has become a Global Village. However, many people still have not heard the Gospel and a significant number of ethnic groups still do not have a self-sustaining Christian church. PC(USA) partners around the world continue to ask us to join in their evangelism and church development efforts.”

Scripture, the Book of Confessions, the Book of Order and the PC(USA) website are in accord regarding evangelism (as it should be!), so why is the idea of evangelism so difficult to accept?

During Marj Carpenter’s year as General Assembly Moderator in 1995, she came and spoke in Jefferson City, Missouri. Her talk was on Mission (no surprise there…) and she told of mission 100 years ago. Presbyterians have historically had a three-pronged mission strategy involving evangelism, medicine, and education. Since then our mission efforts have diminished overall, but the evangelistic efforts have diminished the most. Her call to the PC(USA) was that it was time to reclaim our historic role in evangelism. Ten years after Marj Carpenter was moderator, mission budgets are still inadequate and as individuals and as a church we are just as uncomfortable with telling the Good News to the unchurched.

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