Vol. 34 (2020)

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

Published: 2020-09-01