Evangelism, rightly called “the lifeline of Christianity” and the central task of the Christian Church, is getting much attention these days. This is especially significant in view of the confident assertion by religious leaders of the thirties that “personal evangelism” was dead.
Of course, not all who are now discussing evangelism are dealing with the historic mandate of the Church to proclaim Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Some are attempting to deprive the term “evangelism” of its clarity and vitality.
There is a tendency to set in antithesis an “evangelism of decision” and an “evangelism of identification.” The implications of this are clear. Evangelism concerned directly with the individual and his spiritual anxieties and hungers is regarded as aloof, unrelated to the realities of the time, and hence irrelevant. We are asked to believe that evangelism that leaves the chancel and moves into the streets (particularly for protests and demonstrations) is now the only type worthy of the name. As the Christian becomes an active part of power-movements for social betterment, we are told, he is best displaying the heart of Christianity.
Granted, the Gospel, when true to our Lord’s example, is concerned with the needs of the poor and the disinherited. Not granted, however, is the contention, often recklessly made, that historic evangelism at its best is insensitive to the needs of those who have been left behind in the march of progress. Even persons who are unenthusiastic about Dr. Billy Graham will, if they are fair, admit that he is vitally concerned about the problems that plague today’s society, such as urbanization and ghetto living.
Part of the problem is to define the task. Has social change made it necessary to view ...1
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