Ways to NOT be Missional – II

In continuation of the series, How NOT to be Missional, this post examines some of the defects in Evangelism-Driven Missional church.

Evangelism-driven Mission. These are churches that focus almost exclusively on evangelism. Their view of the gospel leads them to see social action as optional. For them, mission is synonymous with evangelism, and evangelism is highly programmatic. They focus on training individuals through Evangelism training programs, Apologetics, and use of evangelistic tracts. What’s wrong with individuals learning evangelistic presentations, memorizing apologetic defenses, and using tracts.

  • Evangelism-driven mission is often answer-based and heaven-centered. These churches training individuals and teams on “how to present the gospel” in a brief period of time. Typically, these programs, such as EE, are looking for the person being evangelized to offer a specific answer. For example, “If you died tonight and stood before God and he said: “Why should I let you into My Heaven?” what would you say?” Notice that the questions are answer-driven. The goal in this approach is to get someone to say the right answer, to believe the right facts, “Jesus died for my sins.” Lots of people in America can give this answer but show no true signs of faith. All they have is mere belief. Subsequently, the right answer baits them not with Christ, but with heaven. It is heaven-centered, not Christ-centered. In Evangelism-driven mission Christ is subordinated to the treasure of heaven, instead of heaven being subordinated to the treasure of Christ. The goal is heaven, not Jesus Christ. Answer-driven, Heaven-centered evangelism leads to nominalism and distorts the gospel. Evangelism-driven mission can undermine not advance the gospel.
  • Evangelism-driven mission can be defensive and fact oriented. Training in apologetics has its place; however, when our approach to non-Christians is driven by apologetics we very often reduce people to projects. Apologetic mission can foster too much defense and too much offense because they aim at the head to the exclusion of the heart. They aim at changing someone’s mind but not their lives. Just because someone agrees with our facts and embraces our logic doesn’t guarantee true conversion. We need to be prepared, not only to defend the faith, but to love the person intelligently. Most objections to the gospel have existential, personal roots. If we can get beyond the arguments to the idols of the heart, we can show just how tremendously superior and satisfying Jesus is to whatever they love, desire, and pursue most!
  • Evangelism-driven mission is often outdated and fails to contextualize. The Methods used are often pre-packaged and out-dated. Evangelistic programs falsely assume that our listeners still understand the meaning of  Sin, Christ, and Faith. But very often they  hear something very different, like Legalism, A Moral Teacher, and mere Belief. When we fail to express the gospel in context and vocabulary that our listeners can understand, we fail to share the gospel. Christ dated and contextualized himself to all kinds of people so that his message would make sense and connect with their deep needs for redemption. Using packaged illustrations and methods assumes a one-size-fits-all, but the Incarnation reminds us that the gospel is much more personal and dynamic.
  • Evangelism-driven mission is individualistic. This approach to mission trains individuals, not communities. It reduces the gospel to a conversation between two people, without focusing on embodying the gospel in communities. Statistics have show that individuals are consistently converted to communities before they are converted to doctrines. Our methods are often doctrine-driven and individualistic. Jesus prescribed a kind of communal evangelism in John 17, where our community is so redemptive and rich that it points people to Jesus. Paul called for a distinctive discipleship in churches that set the community of faith forth as an example, as salt, as light in their cities, attracting others to them. Individualistic evangelism doesn’t create community because it doesn’t convert people to the church. It aims at converting individuals to a set of answers and to heaven. Evangelism-driven mission has very little to do with the Jesus we love or the Church he died for.

Adapted from the talks Conversion to Christ and Conversion to Mission from LEAD ’09.