Thursday, July 28, 2011

Evangelism: Past, Present, Future via John Stott

Yesterday, John Stott died and went home to be with the Lord. He has been called an architect of 20th-century evangelicalism. His influence on the evangelical church's mission and beliefs was far reaching. In 2006, CT senior writer Tim Stafford interviewed him at his home in London specifically on the topic of evangelism - a topic near and dear to my heart.

Here are the first two questions and answers where he lays the foundation that links evangelicalism and evangelism:
CT: As you see it, what is evangelicalism, and why does it matter? 
Stott: An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.

For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

I think it's necessary for evangelicals to add that what God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax—meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God's word in Christ, and there is a finality about God's work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
CT: You didn't mention the Bible, which would surprise some people.
Stott: I did, actually, but you didn't notice it. I said Christ and the biblical witness to Christ. But the really distinctive emphasis is on Christ. I want to shift conviction from a book, if you like, to a person. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me. Their main function is to witness to Christ.
That statement resonated with me wholeheartedly and is something that often gets ignored on both sides of debate. Liberals tend to eschew strong Biblical teaching, supposedly in favor of "reaching" people for Christ, when the Bible clearly shows that we should be reaching people WITH Christ (ie, the Scriptures). Many conservatives overly emphasize the imperatives found in the Scriptures - things that we need to do, do, do, but forget the the purpose of the Scriptures is not primarily prescriptive, but rather a revelation of WHO GOD IS and what He has done in Christ. The unfolding of scripture moves from types and shadows to fulfillment.1 Cor. 13:12 says, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Until then, His grace is sufficient and His revealed Word will continue to point us to Him.

The whole interview is a worthwhile read (esp. on the topic of evangelism) >>>

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