Current thought on evangelism is clustering around two poles: “presence” and “proclamation.” “Christian presence” is a current ecumenical “in” term, minted, apparently, in French Roman Catholicism. Charles de Foucauld, founder of the Little Brothers of Jesus order, who was murdered in the Sahara in 1916, described his vocation as “being present amongst people, with a presence willed and intended as a witness of the love of Christ.”

The term has been popularized since World War II, particularly, perhaps, through the mission of the “worker priests” in France. For French Catholics, “presence in the world” has meant a kind of evangelistic reentry to sectors such as the laboring world from which the church has been absent. In Western intellectual circles, the term has been expanded to include involvement in the political and cultural structures of society. Major WCC evangelism and missions studies have concentrated on “structures of missionary presence.”

Eszard Roland candidly says that the slogan “Christian presence” is “so abstract, so vague, that each of us can take it to mean something different.” The World Student Christian Federation statement entitled “The Christian Community in the Academic World” uses “presence” “to express both the center of Christian faith and our response to it.” “ ‘Presence’ for us means ‘engagement,’ involvement in the concrete structures of our society.” Colin Williams suggests that “presence” replaces the common view of mission, seen primarily in verbal terms, with a recognition that “mission ...

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