Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Evangelism has long been at the heart of God's mission for the church. The arrival of the twenty-first century brought with it renewed interest in both the mission of the church and evangelism, a practice central to the church's mission. A leading factor in this resurgence is the decline in church attendance over the past several decades. The most influential factors leading to the decline in attendance are culture changes from modernism to postmodemism and from a Christendom society to a post-Christian pluralistic society. These culture shifts resulted in the diminishing influence of the church and non-Christians' often harboring hostile feelings toward the church. Some missional churches, attempting to contextualize the gospel by not offending or alienating non-Christians, emphasize a nonverbal form of evangelism through blessing others with good deeds. Verbally telling the gospel story of Jesus is deemphasized.
The problem this dissertation addresses, as presented in chapter 1, is, What should be the nature of evangelism in missional churches? Should evangelism take the form primarily of nonverbal proclamation, or should evangelism include verbally sharing the gospel of Jesus alongside blessing others by good deeds? To answer this important question, I propose finding the answer in Scripture. Otherwise, missional churches may be behaving in ways not entirely congruent with scriptural guidelines for evangelism. My claim is that evangelism in missional churches should be verbally telling the gospel message in the context of blessing those in one's community with good deeds carried out with love, compassion, and respect.
Chapter 2 explores the culture changes affecting the church from earliest Christianity to today, especially noting the effects of Christendom on ecclesiology. The chapter is divided into three periods: The Earliest Church and the Birth of Christendom, The Modem Era: The Death of Christendom, and The Postmodem Era: The Beginning of a Post-Christian America. A statistical portrait showing the declining church attendance in America is included.
Chapter 3 surveys a history of evangelism beginning in the late eighteenth century. Particular to this discussion is the division between mainline Protestants and evangelicals over the definitions of evangelism, which reveals that nonverbal proclamation had its roots in the mainline Protestant movement.
Chapter 4 examines the history of the missional-church movement, which was born in response to culture and church crises described in chapter 2. Emerging from these crises is a missional theology and ecclesiology that focuses on the missio Dei, the mission of God. Lesslie Newbigin's influence on the development of a missional hermeneutic receives special attention.
Chapter 5 presents a biblical rationale for answering the question, What should be the nature of evangelism in missional churches? First, biblical authority is established. Then, I survey the sending language in the Old and New Testaments and evangelism language in the New Testament. The meaning of mission and evangelism are explored, including an exposition of the Great Commission.
Chapter 6, the concluding chapter, addresses what should be the nature of evangelism in missional churches. Based on the biblical rationale presented in chapter 5, there is clear evidence that evangelism in missional churches should include verbal proclamation in the context of blessing people with good deeds. Finally, I suggest areas for further study.
Four appendices provide additional information for understanding the context of what should be the nature of evangelism in missional churches. Appendix 1 provides examples of sending language in Scripture. Appendix 2 examines evangelism language in Scripture. Appendix 3 surveys the Social Gospel and fundamentalism movements. Appendix 4 presents a history of the emerging-church movement.
York, Russell, "The Nature of Evangelism in Missional Churches" (2011). Doctor of Ministry. 330.