A Wholesome And Intelligent Evangelism -- By: Delos Miles
FM 2:2 (Spring 1985) p. 23
A Wholesome And Intelligent Evangelism
Professor of Evangelism,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Evangelism during the last thirty years or so has passed through what might be called an adjectival phase: perennial evangelism, effective evangelism, true evangelism, cooperative evangelism, friendship evangelism, service evangelism, affirmation evangelism, proclamation evangelism, relational evangelism, target-group evangelism, pastoral evangelism, real evangelism, child evangelism, propositional evangelism, deductive evangelism, inductive evangelism, academic evangelism, authentic evangelism, incarnational evangelism, etc. Each of those adjectives has been used in some writing about evangelism during the last three decades.
Two new adjectives were impressed upon me as I talked with the faculty, administration, and trustees about coming to teach evangelism at Southeastern. They said, “We are committed to a wholesome and intelligent evangelism.” Obviously they believed that I too was committed to a wholesome and intelligent evangelism, or I would not be here.
An Image Problem
Evangelism definitely has an image problem as we look toward the third millenium of the Christian era. That image problem was fleshed out for a professor of evangelism when he went to teach an adult Sunday School class. After introducing himself as a seminary teacher of evangelism, he asked class members to tell him the first thing they thought of when he mentioned that word evangelism. Their answers:
“I think of a ‘holy roller’.” “A Billy Graham revival.”
“Two young men in black suits riding bicycles.”
“A TV preacher—one of those smooth-talking super salesmen in a $400 suit raising those ‘love offerings’.”
“Tent meetings and a flashy, emotional preacher who sways the crowds.”
“Hellfire and brimstone.”1
Emilio Castro, upon his election as the fourth General Secretary for the World Council of Churches in 1984, said: “Ten years ago very few people in this house took ‘evangelism’ seriously. It was almost a dirty word: it meant copping out of real life. Something has obviously changed at the official level. But has this penetrated our work?”2 That is a significant statement by the man who directed the WCC’s Commission on World Evangelism from 1973 through 1983.
Let me try to give some shape and substance to what I mean by wholesome and intelligent evangelism. The word “evangelism” has become so
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