POLICY STATEMENT ON EVANGELISM
16-17 June 1966
An old definition of evangelism, originally coming from the Archbishop’s Committee of the Anglican Church, goes thus:
To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve him as their King in the fellowship of the Church.
It is clear from this well-accepted definition that the essence of evangelism is proclamation—the proclaiming of the evangel. It is the presenting of the gospel to all men, in the hope that in accepting the good news they will become active members of God’s people. This is primarily an individual matter, for it means the presentation of the gospel in such convincing and compelling manner that it will bring about the possibility of a free, personal response to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, which in turn will lead a decision for membership in the Church and participation within its fellowship at it witnesses for Christ in the world.
But evangelism also has a social concern. For God loves the whole man, including his world, and is concerned about man’s life in society. It is also a part of evangelism to declare the judgment and love of God upon the structures of contemporary life which keep men from being the free, truly human persons God intends them to be, or which keep men from a free response to Jesus Christ.
The proclamation of the gospel is the main business of the Church. But we must realize that there are various ways of presenting this saving word. We are prone to think that it must always be a matter of verbalization. But we can proclaim God’s love for men in Christ not only by word (which is undeniably important) but also by deeds and actions. These deeds, which may be also described as Christian love in the outsider may perceive the meaning of the gospel. When seen in this light, there is a direct connection between social service and evangelism, although evangelism may be different by virtue of its specific goals as stated in the opening definition.
However, we must be a little careful when we too strictly define evangelism as bringing people into the fellowship of the church. There is a danger here of becoming primarily interested in membership statistics, of getting people for our church and of seeing people as means to our end. There is also the possibility of thinking that the credit is all ours when we are able to win one. We must remember that it is only the Holy Spirit who can recreate, forgive, and bring men into fellowship with God. God is always at work in the hearts of men, not only when we arrive on the scene. Our real duty is to faithfully proclaim the gospel and live by it, in all areas of our lives, and leave the result to God. In some instances, this may result in more members of our United Church of Christ, in other instances it may not.
This is not to deny the necessity of bringing new Christians into the fellowship of the church for nurture and growth in the faith. We believe that common worship prepares for witness and service. The ultimate goal of the work of evangelism is to develop evangelists from those who are being evangelized. The end goal of our evangelism is the evolvement of true witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ, who loyally and consistently witness in all areas of their lives.
It follows from this that evangelism is a corporate task. It is a work to which the whole church is called. Every member must be involved in this great job—not only the ordained, set-apart members. In reality, in being faithful to this high task the local church finds its real life and strength. Therefore, evangelism must be a continuing concern of the church, not simply a seasonal, once-a-year effort.
This is not to underestimate the role of the ordained clergy. Their role in this task is indispensable. By faithfully teaching and guiding all members, the pastor helps to prepare them for their witness in the world and to become articulate proclaimers of the gospel. By the faithfulness of his teaching ministry, he may help the church to fulfill its common calling to evangelism. We further believe that the seminary curriculum should include courses designed to help the future pastor in this responsibility.
An additional world should be raised regarding the corporate witness of the church. The church not only witnesses through its members as they participate in various areas of secular life, it also witnesses by what it is, and by what it does and what it says. A church rent asunder by quarrel, bitterness, and strife makes witness a very negative one. A spirit of unity in our local congregations makes our witness more convincing. An active concern for the people or the community and their passing needs also facilitates our witness to God’s love in Christ.
In the preceding paragraph, it is evident that the line dividing evangelism and Christian Education or nurture is quite a thin one. Although the main task in evangelism is the proclamation of the evangel by whatever means possible, follow-up, and conversation has also been considered a part of effective evangelism. The desire to help all members become evangelistic has also been part and parcel of the program of evangelism. Thus we believe that the task of evangelism and Christian Education should not be rigidly separated, but go hand in hand.
STRATEGY AND TECHNIQUES
The policy statement on evangelism has the following objective: TO HELP THE WHOLE CHURCH BUILD EVANGELISTIC STRATEGY AND TECHNIQUES APPROPRIATE TO THE LIFE AND WORK OF THE CHURCH IN ITS MINISTRY TO THE WHOLE MAN AND HIS PARTICULAR SOCIETY. To this and we would like to set forth ten suggestions for your thoughtful consideration.
We should state at the outset that many of these suggestions are based on the prior assumption that in the light of our changing society there is an imperative need for some new approaches and directions in this work of evangelism. This is not to say that all of our old methods must now be thrown away. It is always foolish to discard the old before the one has something better to take its place. Rather than throw away the old, we must build on the old. In some areas, the so-called old method of mass evangelism is still very effective. Generally speaking, in urban areas, it is no longer. there is one basic question we must ask about both old and new approaches. Are we reaching the outsider, the non-Christian, through this method? If we aren’t, it is time for us to ponder.
another assumption here is that at least a minimum of unity already exists in a local church committed to the ministry of evangelism. We doubt that a church (local and national) divided by personal animosities and strife can effectively fulfill its calling to evangelism unless it goes through renewal and change. Unity is a pre-requisite for dynamic evangelism.
1. Understanding our Society
We believe that we must give more attention to the kind of culture and society in which we live. We must listen to the world, in order to know how to speak to it. Our Filipino people have a particular culture, with a particular world-view. Of course, this does not change the message of the gospel; but it is related to how we frame the message in order to get it across.
2. Dialogue with the Outsider
We believe that if we want to reach the outsider and proclaim the gospel to him it may first be necessary for us to listen to him–even to the so-called atheist or agnostic. In the past, the church has usually wanted to do all the talking. Now, in some parts of the world, the church does not want to do all the talking anymore. This is the other extreme. There is a need for real dialogue, which may eventualize when we are first willing to listen. We believe that this is becoming more important in our increasingly secularized society. Especially is it true with the intelligentsia and students who are enamored by science and who seem to think that the church and the gospel are irrelevant. If we are going to confront philosophies which many of our citizenry embrace we will have to cultivate this art of dialogue with the outsider.
3. An Ecumenical Enterprise
We believe that in our day evangelism should be viewed as an ecumenical undertaking. In our kind of world where Christians are not growing as fast as other groups, and where people seem to be indifferent to the gospel, the challenge to evangelism is too great for us to assume in isolation from other Christians. We must cooperate with all other groups dedicated to proclaiming the same gospel. We should present a united front. In this day we believe that this also includes our brethren in the Roman Catholic church, for it is becoming more and more obvious that our goals are very similar, if not identical. Some may raise the question as to whether this means that w should no longer seek to win Roman Catholics to our evangelical faith. We believe this is not our purpose. However, if through our witnessing to nominal Roman Catholics they desire to join our fellowship we should be glad to receive them. But we should not put great pressure on them to make this step. It is time for us to recognize that there are sincere and committed Christians in the Roman Catholic Church.
4. Urban and Rural Approaches
We believe that while our country is industrializing at a good rate and while urbanization is also significant, the majority of our people are still rural-oriented. This means that if our pastors are to be effective in mobilizing our membership for evangelism, we will need to have a definite training for each situation, for despite similarities there are real differences between rural and urban people. We believe that urban pastors should be guided so as to be able to work in an urban-industrial context.
We think it is also necessary to prepare pastors for a ministry in rural areas. We would like to eradicate the idea that the rural pastor is lower on the ladder and that a sign of his progress is the move into a city pastorate. But we believe that in order to keep some of our best pastors in the rural area, we should consider the possibility of paying all our pastors an equal salary from a central fund.
5. The Small Group-Neighborhood Approach
We would like to recommend the revitalization of the neighborhood meetings plan, whereby a local congregation is divided into parish groups which meet from time to time in homes. This approach provides an opportunity to invite uncommitted or indifferent neighbors to the meeting, and in a friendly atmosphere introduce them to the Christian faith. This kind of approach also helps to prepare members for witnessing in the world.
6. Study Class for New Members
We believe that new members should undergo a period of study and preparation before being formally received into the membership of a local church. Our members should understand what they believe and know their faith. This study will help them to give a reason for the hope within. These classes should consist of some serious biblical and theological studies. If we make such study mandatory, church membership will mean more and we may have more and better evangelists among our membership.
7. The Role of the Church Building
We believe, as many have said, that the church building itself is a form of evangelism. A beautiful building (not necessarily ornate or luxurious), kept neat and clean may attract outsiders to our worship services. Well-kept surroundings also help. It is certain that people are more attracted to beauty than ugliness. However, a word of caution should be added. While the church building is necessary and helpful, it is not an end in itself. We do not erect our church buildings simply to impress society with our cathedrals. Nor do we build in order to seclude and isolate ourselves from the world that God loves. Our purpose is primarily to have a place of assembling ourselves for common worship and nurture. We must never allow our desire for a nice church building to stand in the way our primary calling to evangelism in the world.
8. Concerned Local Churches
We believe that every local church should be actively concerned about the people in its community who have not yet found abundant life through Christ. The local church should be a fellowship of the concerned. (Elton Trueblood). This means that each local church should have a committee on evangelism, a list of people to be contacted, a regular program of visitation by the pastor and lay people, and an up-to-date record of all members and their whereabouts. From time to time it might be helpful for a local church, eighter by itself or in conjunction with other churches, to conduct a laymen’s seminar on evangelism at which time the church’s evangelistic task is squarely faced and plans developed to fulfill the same.
9. Use All Available Media
We believe that there are various media which can be very effectively used in communicating the gospel to non-Christians. Among these, we should call attention to the following, but at the same time emphasize the need for continuing experimentation which these and other media.
a. Drama may be especially helpful. We are thinking here of two types–that presented in the church and that presented in public. Drama presented in the church preferably in local dialects may be very simple and still very effective. Chancel dramas may be presented without props or costumes and be more effective than the more elaborate ones. A team of young people might do a fine job in presenting public drama, even on the plaza. We need people who will attempt to write dramas for the Philippines with an evangelistic thrust, as well as people who will experiment with this form.
b. Radiocan be used to reach the outsider, as well as nurture present church members. We should like to see the radio stations of the National Council of Churches more widely used. We also believe that the influence of these class religious programs which could be used by the commercial stations now proliferating all over the country. We believe that some of our funds for evangelism could well be used for this purpose. We should also like to encourage some of our larger city churches to have their own weekly radio program. We also feel that we should be open to the possibilities of using television.
c. Audio-visual aids can be more effectively used than they are presently. Here we are referring to such things as filmstrips, slides, posters, charts, flannel boards, films, etc. Even simple visual aids can be very useful in communicating the gospel. For this reason, we highly endorse the plan of our Audio-visual Committee to sponsor, in conjunction with the Audi-visual Commission of the National Council of the Churches, Skill Shops of Communication throughout the country beginning May 1996.
We also heartily approve the plan to establish Conference audio-visual centers and help conferences to secure some of the basic audio-visual aids.
d. The power of the printed page is greater than we think. A well-placed leaflet, magazine or book can often lead a person toward Christian faith. The United Church of Christ has published many fine materials which could be used in our program of evangelism. We expect and hope that more will be produced by our denomination and the National Council. We would like to encourage every local church to help in the distribution of these materials.
e. The Written Word is one of the most effective media for the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the essence of evangelism to bring God’s Word to the world, to consider always the common responsibility to distribute the Holy Scriptures, especially at a time of multiplying populations and rising literacy. The Bible is recognized as the incomparable treasure of God’s Word which is the power for the salvation of the world. There is no part in the Church which does not acknowledge that it needs the Scriptures for its very life, and there is not part of the Church which disowns the obligation to pay its part in bringing to all men the knowledge of Him whom the Scriptures speak.
10. Natural and Spontaneous Witnessing
We believe that one of the main emphasis in our evangelistic strategy and techniques is simply that of person-to-person evangelism. While not dispising mass evangelism, we do believe that small natural and informal settings may be more conducive to sharing the gospel with outsiders. We believe that our members must be equipped to carry on evangelism in such situations. This does not mean giving memorized speeches or quoting a series of biblical passages but simply sharing with one another what Christ means in one’s life. God usually works through persons, and an evangelist is one who believes that imperfect as he may be, God wants to work through him and does.