Modern Evangelism in a Postmodern World

Have you ever wondered why the modern church is failing in effective evangelism?  If so, how can the church right its course in accordance with the Great Commission of Christ?  The answer to this pressing question lies in the distinct change in questions and issues that postmodernism brings to the forefront concerning Christianity.

In stating that postmodern questions and issues regarding Christianity have changed, Will McRaney renders a spot-on answer to why the modern church is failing in effective evangelism, and I am in total agreement with him.[1]  These differing questions are a direct product of the shift from modernism to postmodernism, and how the role the individual plays in each.  According to Paul Enns, while modernism “sees issues in black and white, postmodernism rejects the notion of absolutes and objective truth and is affected by the culture in determining issues.[2]

Unfortunately, the current message of the church is nonexistent.  It seems that, for the most part, the evangelism strategy of the modern church consists of pouring more efforts into boosting the attractiveness of the physical church to draw people in rather than venturing beyond the church walls to share the gospel.  In addition, when modern Christians do interact with society, they seldom fail to represent the gospel accordingly.  This brings to mind James’ discussion of faith and works in James 2:14-24.  According to Blackaby, “works without faith produce nothing that counts for eternity; faith without works produces nothing that meets earthly needs; the two belong together in a dynamic synergy:  faith producing works, which in turn, give practical life and impetus to greater faith.”[3]  Essentially, evangelism is simple, but Christians tend to overcomplicate things by neglecting either faith or works.  While the majority of the church have the faith part down pat, they seldom make the connection between works and evangelism.  In turn, both their faith and works lack the dynamic synergy discussed above, and can appear dead and nonexistent to the surrounding world.

In contrast, a recipe for disaster, as depicted by McRaney, is a modern church trying to evangelize a postmodern culture.  In addition, when one considers the ingredient of humanism in this recipe, the end result is a lost society seeking self-focused answers to eternal questions.  By following Jesus’ example in His encounter with the Samaritan woman, Christians can become relevant in a postmodern culture by taking the initiative, shattering boundaries, actively listening, addressing spiritual needs and sin, stressing accountability, and, ultimately, offering a positive alternative to its present condition.[4]

Some evangelists that have put this into practice seem to think that postmoderns take longer to come to Christ.  While I disagree with this broad assessment, I do agree that they may often start farther away from Christ, but, by learning to address their specific needs, Christians can effectively and efficiently share the gospel in a postmodern society.  Since many of the questions from postmoderns are self-focused due to influences of humanism, an efficient evangelism strategy would be to use Scripture to answer these questions directly.  One can still share the gospel effectively by ensuring that it directly relates and applies to their specific circumstances.

In a way, postmoderns may come to Christ a lot sooner than some due to a quicker understanding of Christ’s willingness to save each individual, since that seems to be their primary focus.  Jesus’ parable of the one lost sheep is a great example of this.[5]  However, one must use a bit of caution and never compromise the integrity of Scripture in order to appear relevant to postmoderns.  Our evangelistic duty to each unbeliever is to present the gospel as it is revealed in Scripture, and effectively showing Christ’s concern and love for each individual.  He will go to great efforts to save just one person as the parable mentioned above declares.

McRaney also discusses a phenomenon that is even more damaging to a Christian witness in a postmodern culture—a lack of love within the body of Christ.[6]  I wholeheartedly agree with his observation, and have been witness to this tragedy on many occasions.  Scripture is very clear on love’s role in the Christian life, and should permeate one’s every fiber.  As a result, one can be obedient to God’s two chief commandments:  1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; 2) love your neighbor as yourself.[7]

In turn, through obedience to these two commandments, every aspect of the Christian life, including relationships and evangelism, will exude genuine love.  One effect of this genuine love is servant evangelism, which Jesus Himself demonstrated by washing His disciples’ feet.[8]  By following His example, coupled with a fervent obedience to the two commandments discussed above, servant evangelism becomes a way of life for the individual Christian.  In addition, given that “Christianity is a living process of multiplication,” a body of servant evangelists making up a church will become a living testimony of Jesus.[9]  Furthermore, a church in this state of unity and service becomes an effective organism that can be effectively used by the Holy Spirit to evangelize ANY culture.

_________________________

[1] Will McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003), 128.

[2] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 692.

[3] Henry & Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 37.

[4] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 121-127.

[5] Luke 15:3-7, KJV.

[6] McRaney, 131.

[7] Mark 12:30-31, KJV.

[8] Early and Wheeler, 149-150.

[9] Ibid., 201.

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