Trends And Issues In Evangelism Today -- By: John F. Havlik

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 02:2 (Spring 1985)
Article: Trends And Issues In Evangelism Today
Author: John F. Havlik

Trends And Issues In Evangelism Today

John F. Havlik

Former Director, Evangelism Education and Writing,
SBC Home Mission Board

Each generation has its own fears, preoccupations, frustrations, mindsets, lifestyles, and insanities. Each new generation of believers must interpret and communicate the timeless gospel—a difficult task because the gospel comes to us from two millennia of culture and tradition. An even more formidable dynamic increases the difficulty of the task; each new generation of believers is infected to some degree with the evils of the culture in which it lives.

Evangelism invites the world into redemptive fellowship, the body of Christ, the church. How does the church effectively remain open to invite the world in and keep worldliness out? Brunner called evil in culture “the axiom of contemporary society.” Others call it “world myths.” The social sciences would call the whole cultural picture the “psycho-social climate.” The Bible calls it the “spirit of this world.”

Because the church is human, it is inevitable that world myths get in. Because this is true, the church must constantly hold up to the light of the Scriptures, the searching of the Holy Spirit, and the judgment of God, how it interprets the gospel to the world—both by words and actions. Not everything in contemporary culture is evil. There are times when the psycho-social climate outside the church is more sensitive to justice and compassion than the church itself. Two examples are the struggle for black civil rights and the struggle for ecological sanity. Except for a few scattered voices in the white church and the black church, the voices raised for justice, compassion, and sanity were outside the church.

The church must not be co-opted or captured by the political right or left. When the gospel becomes identified with the right or left it loses its power to hold them up to the promises and judgments of God. History shows that politicians can be quick to use the church, and, finished with it, leave it impotent. Southern Baptists, in following the drift to the right, are in serious danger of being so identified with the right that they lose the power and the privilege to be prophetic people. Just as dangerous is that, as the psycho-social climate swings the other way, the general population will see us as out of step with the modern world.

My task is to develop a critique of Southern Baptist evangelism under the umbrella of communicating the gospel in a modern world. I will accomplish this against the background of the preceding paragraphs by underlining trends I perceive and issues that have been raised in Southern Baptist evangelism. It is evangelism to which I have given most of my life. It is...

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