“Evangelism” is back in focus for the recently reorganized National Council of Churches. After two days of discussion by the council’s section on church renewal (one of five such controlling “sections,” which oversee priority areas of the council’s work), the NCC’s Governing Board, meeting in Los Angeles last month, approved plans to create a working group on evangelism complete with a paid staff—if the funds come in from member denominations.

The new group is described as being aimed at member denominations’ evangelism executives, though nonmembers will be invited to join also. The action was suggested by a task force on evangelism set up by the board at its Pittsburgh meeting last year and headed by Lutheran Church in America evangelism director Raymond May. The task force asked the board to set up a unit to assist member denominations with evangelism by providing resources, doing research on evangelism, offering training in “witnessing and proclamation,” and engaging in field projects. The group is to be lodged in the NCC’s division of Church and Society. Its first meeting will be in the spring, said May, by invitation only.

Contingent approval of the working group came about because of denominational grassroots concern over the NCC’s neglect of evangelism, according to board members who spoke up during the section discussions.

John Anderson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas and a former Southern Presbyterian evangelism head, said in an interview that preoccupation with social activism during the 1960s meant evangelism was “not a hot agenda item. It went by the boards.” Now, he said, the pendulum is swinging back to evangelism—although the board noted that its new group will seek to work in the areas of both ...

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