1. Evangelism is for trained ministry only.
This is by far the most expressed comment concerning evangelism. For some reason believers think that only the pastor, or a trained vocational minister, should be involved in evangelism. However, the Word of God (i.e. 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 3:6, 6:4) is clear that all believers are chosen to speak the Gospel. Paul proclaims, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). If you have been saved by the Gospel, through faith, then you are called to evangelism. There is nothing Biblical about sitting on your talents, even if you only have one (Matt. 25:18).
2. Evangelism is an event or outreach.
Connected with an excuse from the first threat to incarnational evangelism, is this poor understanding of what is evangelism. If the word evangelism is a derived from the Greek word for “good news” (euangelion) and our English word Gospel, then certainly the Lord called believers to express their faith openly. For this reason, baptisms were performed outdoors, in public, in full observation of the world. Baptism is an outward profession of an inward heart, confessing death and burial in Christ and the hope of the resurrection in Him (Rom. 6:4-5). How could the “good news” of your eternal life, be hidden under a table, or only expected to be shared in a corporate event? “Incarnational is the reality of God entering into human affairs” (Bosch, 181). Therefore, incarnational evangelism is engaging culture with the Gospel of Christ; each believer, where he or she meets the world (i.e. work, home, neighborhood, school).
3. Servant-Evangelism is only another name for the “Social Gospel.”
As we briefly examined, incarnational is God revealed to humanity and evangelism is spreading the good news of Christ. How more did Christ, our Lord and Savior, express to humanity His will for man, than demonstrating love (1 Jn. 4:10). Humanity only knows love because Christ loved us first and became the propitiation for our sin. Therefore, servant-evangelism is not merely a “social gospel,” but it illustrates the Gospel in community; namely, servant-evangelism puts the feet and hands of Christ in culture. For we know that God is love (1 Jn. 4:7), and He commanded us to “love one another” (1 Jn. 3:23). There are times for confrontational-evangelism, but servant-evangelism is one of the most effective ways of illustrating and living the Gospel, to a hurting world.
4. The purpose of evangelism is to make unbelievers like believers.
The Roman-Constantinian methodology of evangelism and discipleship, for centuries, attempted to “civilize” other cultures and “make them” look, act, read, and live as Romans. When St. Patrick went back into Ireland to reach the “barbarians,” he was highly criticized (by the institutional church) for loving the people as they were, and integrating Christ into their culture; not trying to force Celtic culture to be Romanized-Christian. This provides a good example of what not to do. The purpose of evangelism is not to make “mini-me’s,” but to let the power and creativity of God reach and cultivate a culture, so that its impact splashes onto other cultures. The threat is that believers do not know what the definition of culture is. Culture “is the software that determines how things function and how people relate in a given society” (Vanhoozer, 27). Kevin Vanhoozer, in his book, Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, provides a great illustration by stating that culture is what people do, sense, imagine, project, and create in their environments (26-27). Therefore, incarnational-evangelism reveals God to culture, with the understanding that Christ will be interwoven into its fabric of life; leaving the unique expression of that succinct culture’s footprint, in society.
Bosch, David, J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 2009.
Vanhoozer, Kevin. Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker. 2007.