Evangelism as showing Christ to be Glorious

glory to christ centre header 2In my last post, I talked about how I now believe that Paul’s view of the Christian mind, as shown in Romans 12:1-3 is a fundamental alteration in the way a Christian processes their world and their place in it. It isn’t simply that we exchange a “worldly” set of opinions for a “Christian” one.From this, there’s a raft of interesting (and slightly controversial) implications for thinking this way. I’m going to deal with one of those today.When I was much younger, I had an image of Christian evangelism that could most easily be likened to the Church as a fortified camp which, from time to time, sent out raiding parties into the world to bring people into the camp to become Christians like us. Of course, this is a fairly pejorative image, and coming from how I understand the Christian walk now, it’s flatly unhelpful. It comes from the idea that the difference between Christians and the non-Christian is merely a surface set of opinions, and if we take them from the world made up of worldly surface opinions, and indoctrinate them into Christian surface opinions, they will suddenly be Christians.

When I was much younger, I had an image of Christian evangelism that could most easily be likened to the Church as a fortified camp which, from time to time, sent out raiding parties into the world to bring people into the camp to become Christians like us. Of course, this is a fairly pejorative image, and coming from how I understand the Christian walk now, it’s flatly unhelpful. It comes from the idea that the difference between Christians and the non-Christian is merely a surface set of opinions, and if we take them from the world made up of worldly surface opinions, and indoctrinate them into Christian surface opinions, they will become Christians.

Yet, if the change that comes from conversion is what I think it is, a fundamental alteration of a person’s central heart-paradigm, this method of evangelism is not only unhelpful, it may actually be damaging. It would be convincing people that they are saved from sin when all they have been saved from is a set of incorrect opinions. Indeed, it can even result in entire churches for whom their central object of worship is their own doctrinal correctness instead of the Glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ. We can end up defining “Christian” as “person who agrees with Christian opinions” instead of “person who desires to be like Christ”. The former can be created through indoctrination, the latter requires an act of God to change the heart.

But if this is true, there is a very sobering conclusion to be drawn. I can affirm every point of the creeds and catechisms of the Church, and even memorize large chunks of scripture, but be as utterly lost as the most egregious sinner I can imagine. The question of whether one is a Christian is not whether we agree with a creed (though as I will talk about later, creeds are great diagnostic tools), but whether we have had the kind of change in ultimate goals. Are we desiring to be transformed into the very image of Christ?

So what does this mean for evangelism? It changes our goal. This can be encouraging for some, and discouraging for others since the goal is not to convince people that they should make a profession, read their Bible, or start coming to Church (though those things will all be effects of real evangelism). No, the goal is to glorify Jesus Christ as beautiful, and then live in close community with those who see His beauty.

To change my opening image then, we are not called to make raiding parties into the world, but instead, show the all-surpassing value of Christ.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.