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With thanks for our readers' patience, I am very pleased to be sharing this year's volume of Witness: Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education. While we tend to release a volume closer to the mid-point of the year, our choice to delay publishing was intentional, as it allowed us to include several fine presentations made at the annual meeting of the AETE in June. They display the kind of work we hope might be developed in the field, presenting rigorous theological, historical, and practical research for the purpose of shaping Christian witness. The same can be found in the span of reviews included in this volume, with many thanks to our Book Review Editor, Dr. David Gustafson, for his curating work.
We are already turning our face to the coming year as 2023 represents the 50th anniversary of the founding of AETE. For the annual meeting as well as for the next volume of the Witness journal, we have chosen the theme: "Gospel Witness: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." Our hope is that such a theme will invite pieces that consider the whole span of AETE's work and witness, past, present, and future. Let me encourage you now to consider presenting a paper at the annual meeting or submitting a piece for next year's journal. You can find more information at our Journal's website.
It is a pleasure to announce the release of the thirty-fifth volume of Witness! In looking back over the three-plus decades worth of prior volumes, the depth and range of scholarship is striking. It is an honor to continue that tradition with this new edition.
This volume appears in the midst of the ongoing, global COVID-19 pandemic. Preventative lockdowns and travel restrictions resulted in having last year’s annual meeting cancelled, and this year’s meeting was held entirely online. While travel has been limited for us all, it is pleasing to note the decidedly global focus in the slate of articles featured in this year’s journal.
Engaging in the study of a New Zealand congregation, Lynne Taylor’s article directly considers adaptations in pastoral mission and ministry following the onset of the global pandemic. With focus on the other side of the world, William Payne reports on a national study of Irish religious identity and practice as a means to inform the shape of effective evangelistic outreach in that context. Closer to home, Tony Chuang draws attention to the particular opportunities and challenges for shaping Christian faith among the hybridized identities that characterize first-generation Chinese populations in North America. We widen the aperture in a final article, in which Sochanngam Shirik considers the general character of transcendent religious experience as a form of divine revelation and an avenue for evangelistic initiative.
As always, we also are grateful for the several excellent book reviews in this issue due to the good work of our Book Review Editor, David Gustafson.
Let me close with another word of encouragement: please continue to consider Witness as a context to share your research and scholarship, or to offer a review of new work in our field. We welcome your submissions, and if you have questions about relevant content or the process, please let me know.
Many readers of Witness will know that this volume is being published somewhat later than is typical. The growing COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of our annual meeting (with the American Society for Missiology) in the spring of 2020 and, in turn, to a delay in the production of the journal. I suspect this news comes as no surprise - one more disruption in a season defined by disruption. Even so, we are grateful for our readers’ patience.
While we have been navigating life amid the Coronavirus pandemic, we have also been paying renewed attention to the suffering caused by another systemic illness- the one we call racism. In June, the Executive Committee of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education (AETE) joined with the leadership of the American Society of Missiology (ASM) and the Association of Professors of Mission (APM) to develop a “Statement on Race and Injustice in the United States of America,” in order to “express our commitment to oppose and resist the forces of evil manifested in the longstanding scourges of racism and the legacy of slavery that ravage this nation in personal, communal and systemic ways.” While that statement was released in June and is posted on the website of the AETE (https://aete.online), we have also included it in this volume of the Witness Journal, commending it to you and to all who teach and lead in the ministries of education and evangelism.
That statement reminds us that this is a journal that draws focus to the redemptive hope of the gospel. In the practice of evangelism, even in the midst of despair, we proclaim a word of hope, announcing and embodying the divine promise of health, and hope, and salvation.
That good news is embodied in the articles featured in this volume, the first two explicitly and appropriately drawing focus to the theme of healing in these difficult times. Seeking to overcome evangelism’s limitation to concern for the metrics of congregational membership growth, Darryl Stephens argues for a concentration on congregational health as crucial to the possibility of a renewed evangelistic witness. The concern for healing continues in an offering from Michael Herbst who imagines the church overcoming the contemporary challenges that threaten vital mission through the embrace of a new therapeutic approach.
If the first two articles draw focus to healing and wholeness, the second two articles remind us of the shape of healthy evangelistic witness engaged in the world. Achim Härtner’s research offers another picture of ecclesial renewal through focus on the work of pioneering places, fresh expressions of church in the Netherlands. Looking to a very different context, Thomas Seckler shares his research on the missional contextualization of the gospel, taking up the specific case of evangelistic practice in Cambodia, offering helpful insight into the ways this work might continue in other contexts where the gospel brings good news.
Continuing to live in hope, we look forward to gathering face-to-face in June, 2021. With my colleagues on the AETE Executive Committee, we encourage you to keep this gathering on your calendar and to make plans to join. Let me also encourage you to continue to consider the Witness Journal as a context to share your research and scholarship. As we all have been reminded this year, this is an important time to keep going in the work of sharing good news.
Dr. Jeffrey Conklin-Miller
Editor, Witness: Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education
This is a very special volume of the Witness journal. Given that this is my first year serving as the editor of the journal, perhaps I am biased (every editor must believe the same about their volumes), but there are several reasons that make this particular issue unique.
First, this issue features just one article. Perhaps this appears more strange than unique, but let me be clear that there is editorial intent behind this decision! Last month (June, 2019), the annual gathering of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education (AETE) took place at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. The meeting featured the participation and leadership of three Past Presidents of the AETE: Drs. Ron Johnson, Hal Poe, and David Lowes Watson, as well as an international collection of participants representing three generations of scholarship and service.
Following this celebration of the past, present and future of AETE, it seemed appropriate to feature one key article in this volume, written by the current president of the AETE, Dr. Mark Teasdale and offered as his presidential address. Entitled, The State of Evangelism in Theological Education in 2019, Teasdale briefly describes the historical context for the development of the AETE, articulating the need for and the early steps taken in developing an academic engagement with the theology and practice of evangelism. Teasdale then considers the results of a survey he conducted among contemporary professors of evangelism over the past year. What he finds is interesting, to say the least, and important not only to fellow professors of evangelism, but also to the deans and presidents who employ them. Teasdale’s study affirms the significant roles these scholar-practitioners play in the interpretation and contextualization of evangelism in the crucial, yet complicated space at the intersection of Church and Academy.
The scholarship generated by those who study, teach, and practice evangelism points to the second characteristic that makes this volume unique: the superabundance of book reviews. With thanks to our Book Review Editor, Dr. David Gustafson, for securing so many reviewers and so many reviews, this issue offers a helpful glimpse into several recent additions to the scholarly conversation in our field. Seeing so many new books and reviewers is yet another reminder that the practice, teaching, and scholarship that began more than 33 years ago in the AETE and in this journal continues and thrives in the formation of new scholarship continuing today.
Looking to the future, let me offer my encouragement for all to consider submitting an article or a book review for our next volume. Pertinent information can be found on our journal’s website. I look forward to working with you as we continue this important work in the years ahead.
Dr. Jeffrey Conklin-Miller
Editor, Witness: Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education
Part of what makes the Academy for Evangelism in Theoligical Education a genuine academic guild is that we promote the groundbreaking, primary research in the field of evangelism by our membership. We read about it last year in the work of Moon, et al in conjunction with the Knox Fellowship. This year we are pleased to present two articles that both provide this sort of research.
Gustafson and Kang offer us a study of how those who are not Christians interact with two different presentations of the gospel message. Tracking the responses that their students received when sharing two different forms of the gospel with others, they offer insight into more effective ways to share the gospel in the Chicago area. This, of course, provides suggestive research for what might be meaningful for those who are not Christian beyond Chicago and offers other researchers a wealth of possible opportunities to follow up on their study in their own contexts.
Thompson takes us back to the site of one of St. Paul's greatest evangelistic messages as he shares with us his deep love for the city of Athens. Out of a personal sense of calling to encourage greater discipleship formation among the Athenians, Thompson has canvassed the work of several church start pastors in the city to learn about what may prompte more effective disciple-making there. Interweaving his data with respect for the long-standing witness of the Greek Orthodox Church, Thompson ends with some provocative thoughts about how we might rethink church planting.
My own article is drawn from my inagural address as the new President of AETE beginning in June 2017. I have since gotten good mileage from this address, having refined it and presented it as both the Wallace Chappell Lecture in March 2018 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and as the Aus Lecture in July 2018 at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. In the address, I seek to weave together the need for global leadership with evangelism, all through the lens of stewardship. I can tell you that the part of this my audiences most enjoyed was my use of Don McLean's "American Pie!"
Beyond our articles, we have several excellent book reviews, thanks to our Book Review Editor, David Gustafson. As always, they consider the most receive books that deal with the study and practice of evangelism.
Teaching and practicing evangelism is not an easy activity, especially in our present cultural climate in the West. It is even harder in parts of the world where the Christian faith is outlawed or restricted. And, while there is no lack of material available to train and support evangelists, much of it is often of questionable quality. We are grateful as an academy, to offer these articles and reviews to you as a means of support and blessing in your continued work to honor Christ and offer His salvation to the world. God grant you great fruit in your ministry.
Evangelism is a highly contextual activity. As Christians, we are called to know how to share the apostolic message of salvation through Jesus Christ, but we are also called to share that message in a way that people can understand and receive it. This is the incarnational act of evangelism: bringing the gospel to each time, place, culture, and subculture, and demonstrating that Jesus is just as powerful to effect salvation there as he was in first century Palestine.
Our authors in this issue all address this point. First, we have Mike Breen, who is well known for his pioneering missional church work in England. Reflecting back on what he did "intuitively" at the time, he offers us a series of dialectics to hold in tension as we evangelize. We must be aware of both the setting in which the Bible was written and the setting where we minister. We also must have a "social imagination" that allows us to see the individual biographies of those we minister to and a sense of the macro-stories that shape those people's lives.
Lee Beach and Nicole Reid demonstrate pick up the theme by reclaiming the act of face-to-face conversation for evangelism. In a time when personal interaction is so often mediated by technology, they call us back to the power of conversation as a means of meeting a deep cultural need many people have today for personal engagement. Drawing on examples of how Jesus conversed with people during his earthly ministry, they offer insight into how we can help spark the interest of our interlocutors about the gospel.
Finally, Jay Moon, Tim Robbins, and Irene Kabete share the results of research they conducted with the support of the Knox Fellowship. This research involved training seminary students to understand the contours of 21st century postmodern Western culture and equipping them with strategies for personal evangelism in such a context. Identifying six "complexities" of this culture, they found ways to help students see these complexities as opportunities for greater evangelistic engagement with others rather than roadblocks.
In all, we have three fine articles that all seek to provide clarity on the practice of evangelism in context. While the saving message of Jesus Christ remains constant, they provide clear insight and direction on how to carry that consistent message into fluid and broken settings. It is especially exciting for us to be able to present the results of primary research addressing these issues, both in Breen's reflection on his groundbreaking work and in Moon, Robbins, and Kabete's pedagogical methods.
Our apologies for the latenss of this year's volume. Our editor, Rick Shaw, had to step away from his duties. It took us awhile to pick up the pieces after that. Our plan is to be back on the summer publication schedule in 2018, so we encourage you to submit your articles now for review. Likewise, we welcome you to consider having your papers do double duty, both submitting them for a presentation at our annual meeting in June 2018 and for publication in Witness.
Mark R. Teasdale
Welcome to the thirtieth volume and first all-online volume of Witness!
I apologize for the later than usual role out of this year's volume, but we had two big hurdles this year: 1. We (and our authors) had to learn the new online format, 2. We are changing hands as to who will be editing Witness.
We are now running at full speed with the journal, so we welcome new submissions. Please click on the "For Authors" area to the right to learn about how you can register and submit. As always, we especially welcome new evangelism scholars who are seeking to publish in a peer-reviewed journal to submit their work to us.
Second, this will be my final volume as editor, as I shift toward becoming the VP and, in 2018, President of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education. I am being ably succeeded by Rev. Dr. Rick Shaw from Wayland Baptist University. Rick has been serving as our book review editor for several years now and is well prepared to take over the task of being the managing editor. If you have any questions about the journal, you can continue to connect with Rick through <email@example.com>.
This year's volume features three strong articles that each seek to deepen our understanding of evangelism by resisting the ways that we often dichotomize or reduce our thinking about evangelism. (As a Methodist, I am grateful for this! It is always good news for me when the rest of the church discovers how much a gift John Wesley's insistence on God's grace saving us into a liftime of holy living is.)
Laceye Warner begins by definitively arguing against the all-too-common practice in the church of separating evangelistic scholarship and practice, as if scholars never practiced evangelism and practitioners never thought deeply about what they did. Arguing for a broad view of what counts as evangelism, Warner reminds us that evangelism is the work of God, and that we cannot parse the work of God this way.
Trey L. Clark continues in this vein with a thoughtful reflection on Dallas Willard's theology. Drawing from Willard's work, Clark argues we cannot be satisfied with reductionistic understandings of evangelism that only focus on justification. Evangelism should take up the entire call of Jesus to make disciples, including the invitation and the process of guiding people into sanctification through the grace of God.
Finally, David Thang Moe seeks to deepen our view of evangelism by taking a fresh look at the ministry and theology of St. Paul. Moe contends that Paul's theology was informed by his conversion to Christ and was missional by nature. This dynamic interaction between personal faith, missional drive, and theological reasoning offers the church today a more holistic example of how to approach the evangelistic task God has given it.
As these three articles demonstrate, we are in an exciting time in reference to evangelism. For over a decade, scholars have been talking about the changes in the North American culture and the challenges that presents to the church. The new work around evangelism suggests that we have finally reached a place where we are embracing this new context as an opportunity for living into the Great Commission rather than resisting it as a death knell to the institutional denomination.
The Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education is working to be at the forefront of this evangelistic fervor. More than ever, evangelism scholars want to move beyond academic theorizing to engaging with the living mission of the church in order to obey Christ's directive for us both to be disciples and to make disciples. The kind of work being done to support church planting and multiplication movements, to learn alongside of Christian brothers and sisters around the world, and to rediscover the longterm call of Jesus for us to forge disciples instead of just register one-time decisions for Christ are all part of this. We invite you to join AETE as we take these next steps together to find out what God will do. Please take a moment to check out our website <aete.online> and, when the call for papers comes out for our annual meeting next year, to submit your work so we can support one another as we participate together in Christ's redemptive work.
Mark R. Teasdale, Editor
The articles in this volume of Witnesspick up on the idea of evangelism moving into this broader field of operations. Drawing on the theme of the AETE annual meeting for 2014, “Training Evangelism Clergy to be Relevant for Today’s/Tomorrow’s World,” they offer reflections on how evangelism can be an influence in larger contexts and how it can be adapted for sharing the gospel in different cultures.
Our first article is from former ASM President and noted missiologist Robert Schreiter. In it, he reviews the conflicts that have broken out across the globe over the past several decades and considers how the church might engage in evangelism in the face of these vast difficulties. He points to the practice of reconciliation as a means for the church to share the good news in a powerful and desperately needed way.
The second article is the transcript of a scholarly lecture given by Mark Teasdale at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The lecture suggests that the logic of evangelism can be used as a basis for revamping the core outcomes as well as the means of achieving those outcomes in theological education. The video of the lecture can be viewed at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcSsKoPUSFQ&feature=youtu.be>.
The third article is by Beth Seversen, who considers the role of evangelism in relation to how members of African diaspora churches in the United States assimilate into their American host culture. Central to this is the idea that these churches are most effective evangelistically when they can relate easily to the host culture while retaining their distinctive African identities.
Finally, Jennifer Pedzinski offers an article that reminds us of the importance of respecting the cultures of those with whom we wish to share the gospel. Drawing on years of experience as a missionary in Thailand, she offers an ethnographic analysis of the Thai people as a case study for how to present the gospel in a way that honors those who hear it.
Evangelism, just as surely as missions, is bound up to the purposes of the God who sent Jesus Christ into the world that people might have abundant life. In its connection to this vast christological activity, evangelism is as expansive as missions, offering the good news throughout the globe in a wide variety of ways that meet the people of the world in the midst of their needs and in ways that are accessible and redemptive within their unique cultures. Our hope is that these articles will help further equip the leaders of the church for today and tomorrow as they engage in this work.
Mark R. Teasdale, Editor
The Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education dedicated its Annual Meeting, held June 2013 at Wheaton College, to the topic of evangelism as a bridge-building endeavor. The presenters and ensuing discussion endeavored to show how evangelism could be taught and practiced in ways that foster relationships and helps reach across doctrinal divides. The two keynote addresses, by Rick Richardson and Mark Teasdale respectively, demonstrated how this could be done both in a post-Christian culture (Richardson) and in the seminary (Teasdale). Both of these addresses are viewable on Youtube. Richardson’s is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlh3lr0ON-E and Teasdale’s is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKEJ0YKkSWc.
This volume of the journal follows on this theme. The first article is a written adaptation of Richardson’s address, which offers an overview of the various approaches to evangelism on offer in the North American context today. Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each, Richardson offers practical ways of synthesizing these approaches to foster unity among Christians and provide a better witness in the current American culture.
In the second article, Beth Seversen, with the aid of Richardson, discusses the implications of several recent studies on the faith life of teenagers and young adults for the practice of evangelism. From this, she presents several practical ways in which local churches can engage effectively with this demographic, and so build bridges to a generation that is deeply concerned with finding meaning. She describes her own experience of evangelizing at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada as an example of this.
The third article is an offering from our Australian colleagues Dale Stephenson and Darren Cronshaw. They deal with building bridges between congregations and the unchurched in an increasingly secularized Australian culture. Specifically, they consider how tools such as Alpha are less effective today because many seekers enter their spiritual explorations with less background knowledge about God and the Christian faith. They present and review the program “Ask Anything,” designed by the two and tested in Stephenson’s church, as a possible way forward in building this bridge.
Finally, from her bird’s eye view of local congregations as the Director of Evangelism for the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, Heather Lear argues that local congregations must reclaim the word “evangelism.” Central to this is the need for much more widespread critical education relating to evangelism for both pastors and laity. Drawing on Hal Knight’s typology or orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy, she suggests that this education will help local churches be clearer about their own emphases in ministry and will help them build bridges within their denominational structures as they know what gifts they can offer and where they can receive help from denominational resources.Our hope is that these articles will help to spur constructive conversations across the theological and cultural spectra within the church and beyond. As Christians learn to honor the variety of ways that those within their fold practice evangelism, and as they learn to recognize and participate in the work of God in the culture around them rather than battle it, evangelism may well become a bridge-building practice. Rather than being the source of awkwardness, competition, and distrust, it can become a source of mutual support and respect. And, if this happens, not only the specific practices of evangelism, but also the ethic of how Christians approach evangelism, will bear witness to the good news.
Scholars have picked up on the need to reclaim the church’s procreative nature, pointing to both church history and theology to demonstrate that founding new churches is a natural activity for Christians. This is opposed to church planting being perceived as a next-level activity for only the few large churches that can afford not to spend their entire budget and volunteer power on themselves.
It is with an eye toward this scholarship that Witness presents the following articles. This volume begins with the presidential address offered by Paul Chilcote at the 2012 AETE annual meeting. Bringing his expertise on the Wesleyan revival to bear, he presents the creativity and commitment of women who participated in the revival and suggests how they might contribute to present day typologies of church planting.
Following this is an article from Art McPhee, who considers the vast needs and opportunities for planting churches in the burgeoning cities of the world today. Marshalling historical data on church planting in Chicago, a survey of the current church planting marketplace in North America, and observations of the growing Christian movement outside of North America, he challenges the reader to participate in the remarkable work God is doing in the cities.
Marylin Draper shares her own, deeply personal experiences in church planting. Giving the reader open access to her successes and failures in the process of planting churches in Canada, she specifically calls on church planters to remember the essential role of worship in their work.
Expanding on the theme of church planting, Jon Hietbrink offers a retrospective on the establishment and growth of two mission organizations: the Student Volunteer Movement and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. In tracing the development of each agency over time, he points to the need for a clear theological identity for Christians to avoid being seduced into believing cultural values are equal with the gospel.
Finally, Christopher James provides an insightful view of conditions that help sustain evangelical church plants. Playing with the metaphors of ecology and microbrews, he suggests that there are ways for smaller evangelical church plants to thrive in a world of megachurches.It is particularly exciting to present the research of several young scholars in the field of evangelism in this volume of Witness. The diversity of generation, as well as the mixture of practitioners and scholars who have articles this year, has made for a richer contribution on the topic of church planting. It is the academy’s hope that these historical surveys, reflections on personal practice, and sociological and anthropological presentations of church planting will provide the readers with ample resources to encourage the planting and revitalization of Christian faith communities.
It is with this growing confluence of the two fields of evangelism and spiritual formation that the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education chose to focus its 2011 annual meeting on the theme of evangelism and spiritual formation. The plenary sessions focused on the fact that several evangelism scholars are now using spiritual formation as a hermeneutic for exploring evangelism theologically, as well as for how evangelists might more effectively reach people in North America in the early part of the 21st century. These included Richard Peace from Fuller sharing his view of evangelism as hospitality to explore spiritual things, and Elaine Heath from Southern Methodist University describing how her view of evangelism, grounded in the mystical tradition of the Christian faith, has led to the development of the New Day communities
This issue of the journal continues with the same theme, offering a series of articles that explore how evangelism has been shaped by a growing awareness of the need for exploring spirituality. In the first article, based on his presentation at the annual meeting, Bob Whitesel argues that there are specific spiritual “waypoints” which all people must pass if they are to come to a mature life in Christ. A careful knowledge of these waypoints can better equip congregations to evangelize people regardless of where they are on the way to Christian maturity.
George Hunsberger commends us to recall that Jesus presented the gospel in a way that also proclaimed the fullness of God’s justice coming upon the earth. In remembering this, Hunsberger suggests that those who seek to evangelize and those who seek social justice must do so in concert, recognizing that one Jesus does not prefer one to the other.
Christopher James offers an article on what he terms “missional acuity,” suggesting that evangelists and missionaries are in need of developing the spiritual discipline of seeing through new eyes those to whom they would offer the gospel.
Recognizing that evangelism and spiritual formation are of no value unless they are practiced, Dwight Judy and Whitney Starkey tackle the issue of how to communicate and embody the hope of the gospel in the face of doomsday predictions. To do this, they present two sermons. Playful and not scholarly, the sermons point to how evangelists can be a calming and wise influence through prayer and focusing on the abundant love of God in a world full of fear.
Doug Powe gives a careful overview of the ways that the African American church is struggling to find its identity fifty years after the Civil Rights movement. He challenges the African American church to ground its notions of sanctuary, blessing, and spiritual worth in the missio Dei rather than in a false sense of accomplishment defined by socio-economic achievements.
Finally, Rick Richardson lays out a helpful guide to makes sense of the increasingly complex manifestations of the church that are coming into existence. In doing this, he considers how these new expressions of the church both can learn from and can challenge traditional evangelical theological emphases.It has taken far too long to move beyond the popular stereotypes of evangelism and spiritual formation. Now that we have, numerous points of overlap between the two fields are becoming clear. The changing culture in North America demands even further exploration on this front as we seek new vistas from which to view and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
At the last AETE annual meeting, several members gave presentations that featured various forms of church renewal. Some of those presentations grace the pages of this issue of Witness. In the opening article, John Bowen provides an overview of the renewal that has been taking place within the Church of England, as “fresh expressions” of Christian community continue to sprout in the UK. Rick Richardson follows with an article on “emerging missional movements” in the United States, as he provides commentary on how these various movements, such as the emerging church, missional church, the new monastics, and others, are redefining American evangelicalism in both positive and potentially adverse ways.
Achim Härtner’s article, which was ably translated from German by Duke Divinity School student Stephanie Gehring and Duke Professor Stephen Gunter, focuses on the emerging church movement. The fact that Härtner brings a German— and furthermore, a Wesleyan—perspective to bear upon the emerging church, which has arisen primarily in Western Europe and North America, makes his interpretation especially intriguing. Paul Chilcote’s article, which is an adaptation of the introduction to his upcoming book, Making Disciples in a World Parish, discusses lessons from Methodist practices around the world on disciple-making that can be (and should be) learned by all.
We are honored to feature an article by Robert E. Coleman, author of the enduring Master Plan of Evangelism. Originallypresented at the Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting in 2010, this article reminds us that the precise meaning of “saving faith” should unite evangelicals; let us disagree on other theological matters, but not at this crucial juncture. And in the final article of this volume.
Jeffrey Snyder, who among other things is a professional Christian clown, draws from his experience as such to remind the church of the joy that should come in the evangelistic task. Evangelism is often characterized as hard, awkward, necessary, urgent, or all of the above—but joyful? Tied together, then, by the cords of saving faith and joy, this bundle of articles on church and evangelism aims to inspire reflection and action for the sake of the gospel.
One of the highlights of the 2010 annual meeting was the presentation given by Soong-Chan Rah, who shared insights from his controversial book, TheNextEvangelicalism. The perspective he brought to the table—namely, the absolute importance of considering what is happening in non-white Christian communities, lest church renewal studies become a strictly Western enterprise—must be taken into account. Although his presentation from the AETE annual meeting is not included in this issue, we are glad to present new insights from him via an interview conducted by Montague Williams as they conversed together around Rah’s recently published book, Many Colors.
How does the church’s call to bear witness to the gospel express itself in places of suffering? This question served as the guiding theme for members of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education in October of 2008. And to place ourselves in a context conducive to such a topic, we met in New Orleans, where one of the most devastating disasters in United States history took place just three years prior.
Monuments of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction were still on display—impassable roads, half-destroyed buildings, whole sections of once thriving communities now abandoned. Some areas were worse than others. We took the time to walk through several neighborhoods in the Lower Ninth Ward and were amazed at what we saw, even three and a half years after Katrina. Somebody explained to us that the big orange Xs on the doors of many of the un-restored homes marked places where casualties were found.
One image that I haven’t been able to shake was the inside of a sanctuary where it seemed like a bomb had gone off, mangling all the church furniture and hurling it viscously in all directions. I looked up the sanctuary’s high ceiling and saw chairs hooked onto the crystal light fixtures. We were told that these chairs were deposited there when the water receded. At one point then, this entire, magnificent cathedral was completely underwater. This house of God—a place where people came to worship, to learn the ways and purposes of God, to seek refuge from the storms of life— was submerged in destructive waters. I’m not sure why this scene left such a deep impression on me. Perhaps it symbolized the feeling that I imagined many people had during that time—that God had abandoned them.
So the question we asked about the gospel in places of suffering is a good one. How does one bear witness to the good news among traumatized, hurting people? The articles in this issue address this and other related themes from different angles. While some of the articles represent papers presented at the meeting, others do not.
The lead article, written by Catherine Williams, sets the stage by exploring the connection between the church’s mission and the Eucharist. How can the Table—the place where God regularly calls us to remember the sufferings of Christ on our behalf—be a truly welcoming place for sinners?
The next two articles explore the relationship between evangelism and social concern. Rick Richardson analyzes the delicate balance between the two in the context of college students involved in socially-active campus ministries. John Bowen clarifies the role that evangelization played in the highly lauded contextual and social work of missionary Vincent O’Donovan among the Maasai people in Tanzania. While both articles affirm the integration of word and deed ministries, they issue warnings, caveats, and practical considerations in the working out of the relationship between evangelism and social engagement.
The article by Samantha Schneider takes the theme in another direction by examining the intersection between trauma, theology and narrative theory. Those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), asserts Schneider, do not need a narrative imposed upon them, even if that narrative is the Gospel. Instead, they must be given space to discover their own narratives within the larger story of God.
The last full length article, written by yours truly, turns the spotlight on the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) in Oxford, UK, an evangelical theological institution of higher education that was founded on a vision of the whole gospel. This article, presented at the 25th anniversary celebration of OCMS in 2008, offers a perspective of the role that theological education in general and OCMS in particular can play in the holistic missionary movement.
A new feature graces this issue—namely, an interview with an author of a recently published book on evangelism. To kick off Book Talk, the name of the new column, Dan Lebo asks a few questions to Paul Chilcote and Laceye Warner, the editors of an ambitious compilation of key articles on evangelism entitled, The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church (Eerdmans, 2007).
Long time readers of AETE’s annual journal will notice several other new features in this issue, the most obvious being the new name—Witness. Not to put too much responsibility on a single word, but does it not capture the essence of that to which members of AETE and readers of this journal are wholly committed? We are called to bear witness to the gospel in the world and do it faithfully, sensitively and effectively. The hope, of course, is that this journal will help us reflect more deeply upon this call.
The other new item is the editor. The vacancy of Art McPhee, the former editor, left some rather large shoes to fill. Thanks for your faithfulness and diligence these last few years, Art. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve AETE’s readers in this way.
Please let me know if something in these pages encourages you, raises a question and/or rubs you the wrong way. For what good are journals such as this if they do not generate dialogue and discussion between us?