Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Necessary Tedium of Evangelism

Everything’s re-badged and never original. The Sunscreen Song a.k.a. Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) mentions this in the lyrics, “Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

It comes home to me at times that we ministers of the Word of God have essentially the same old message, yet must come up with fresh ways of making the original message relevant[1] to the people we know and minister to.

I’ve been reading an insightful little book on Martin Luther’s life and ministry and in that book the author, Graham Tomlin, notes the patriarch almost got tired of stressing that “Pastors are primarily to be preachers, not Mass-providers, like the priests in the old church. The message of the forgiveness of sins, ‘not on account of merits, but on account of Christ,’ is to be repeated again and again in their sermons, until everyone gets the point.”[2]

The grace message of reformed theology seemed to never really settle in the hearts and minds of the 16th Century populace, or did so very slowly, as the new order set to undo (in part) centuries of Christian religion of Roman Catholicism (and human-catalysed tradition).

Legalism in our own hearts suggests that we must serve, and there’s no choice in the matter. And we grudgingly do this. Certainly Luther went to the opposite extreme at times it seemed in his fight to free people of the burden to serve.

Contrarily at times, he stressed three essential components of living a good life of: fearing God, faith and good works, and this was to be ‘drummed into pupils’ by their teachers.[3] Getting the order right was mandatory; good works were the convulsing outcome of the first two.

And what does this same old message of “the forgiveness of sins on account of Christ” consist of? Well, a good many things. But “the forgiveness of sins on account of Christ” is the basic premise, or the Christian message is dangerously flawed toward heresy. Not only that, but we feed our sheep[4] inappropriately; a stale fibre-only diet that misses the mark in, and hinders, the process of salvific revelation (for the unsaved) and true sanctified living (for the already saved).

Thought it might seem tedious, we must get the teaching right, consistently right, and relevantly right (in view of footnote 1) if we’re to come close to presenting an accurate picture of the essential gospel of God that all people need.

At least this way, we give the Spirit of God the opportunity he needs to break through into the pupil’s mind and heart.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Big disclaimer: relevance, unfortunately, is so often defined [in the context of] ‘at a personal level.’ The gospel message is always (was-is-will be) relevant to all people.
[2] Graham Tomlin, Luther and his World (Oxford, UK: Lion Books, 2002), p. 155.
[3] Tomlin, Ibid, p. 156.
[4] See John 21:15f.

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