Fragments & Reflections

David Chronic
Fragments & Reflections has written 227 posts for fragments and reflections

Fight Like Jesus with Jason Porterfield

We are in the season of Lent, a time in which we rehearse Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem, his suffering, and his death on the cross. Often, we participate in Lent by giving up certain pleasures (i.e., meat, alcohol, chocolate, social media, etc.). Sometimes, believers celebrate by adding something to their daily practices (like silence, generous giving, meditation, etc.) Our Lenten practices help us remember our baptismal vows, lead us to grieve the cost of our sin, and move us to change patterns of behavior. Yet, rarely, does Lent cause us to consider our relationship to violence. Jason Porterfield, in his book Fight Like Jesus, invites us to reflect on peacemaking, especially during Holy Week.

Interestingly, I got to know Jason through his acts of violence. We were at the Urbana conference in December, sharing an exhibition space where we invited university students to consider urban mission among impoverished communities. As I sat at the table, I was frequently bombarded by pieces of candy. After a little investigation, I discovered that I was being pegged by Jason. Was he trying to teach me to fight like Jesus?

In his book, Jason Porterfield walks us through Holy Week, providing insightful biblical commentary, demonstrating Jesus’ intention to bring peace, and raising provocative questions about how we as Christ-followers emulate Jesus’ peace-making way. Jesus reveals practices of peace in the middle of a most violent week.

Palm Sunday: In the midst of waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!”, we fail to notice Jesus’ tears. He weeps over Jerusalem for failing to know what would bring it peace. Porterfield discerns Jesus’ lament, amid the crowd’s joy, as an interpretive key for Holy Week. The struggle for peace is understood as the central struggle of Jesus’ march to the cross. Rather than riding the gleeful expectations for a messianic liberator to bring a righteous revolt, Jesus weeps for peace.

Holy Monday:  Contrary to popular notions of the cleaning of the temple being violent or spontaneous, Porterfield shows how this was a methodical act, which took time and preparation (i.e., trips to the temple for reconnaissance, making a whip, etc.). The act was not designed or used to harm people, but to purify space meant for the “gentiles” and being used instead for money-changers and the selling of animals for temple sacrifice (in contrast to the Maccabean violent reaction to abuse of the temple). When discussing the temple cleansing, we often overlook the fact that after the money changers and animal sellers went out, the blind and lame came in and were healed (Matthew 21:14). For these marginalized people, their admittance into the temple was just as miraculous as the physical healing they received. Matthew goes on to write that children also entered the temple courts and praised Jesus (21:15). Their presence in the temple is equally astonishing, for, as theologian Stanley Hauerwas notes, “children had always been excluded from the temple” (p. 24).

Holy Tuesday: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The listeners realized that Jesus was alluding to the central Jewish tenet that all of humanity is created in God’s image. The implication is this: since the coin has Caesar’s image imprinted on it, give it back to him. Although the coin made claims for pax romana, Jesus intimates that he did not look to the face of Caesar for protection and peace. If everything belongs to God, what’s left for Caesar? What do we owe the Caesars of this world? The logical answer seems to be nothing.

Tuesday also includes the “seven woes to the Pharisees” (woe being a term of grief) and the “little apocalypse” in which Christ-followers are told to flee the immanent war with the Romans rather than defend Palestine. Christlike peacemakers follow Jesus in nonviolent love, speak truth to power and listen with humility when such truth is spoken to them, break the cycle of violence by routinely engaging in small acts of radical love.

Holy Wednesday: This day includes the anointing of Jesus’ feet (as a preparation for burial) by an unnamed women, the prophecy that one man should die for the sake of the nation, and Judas’ actions to betray Jesus. The anonymous women from the margins of society and vulnerable to violence of society, acts in ways that those around her find suspect or of disrepute, but Jesus defends her.  Jesus contends for peace on the margins of society. He refuses the mythology that violence is redemptive (that believes that violent means can bring peaceful ends). His efforts to make peace would result in his death, not the death of his enemies.

Maundy Thursday: This is the occasion of the Last Supper or the Passover meal – the breaking and giving of the Messiah’s body, not the enemy’s body; this is where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet; Jesus commands them to love one another as he has loved love. This new mandate is new as it commands us to become a newly formed community, loving like Jesus love and making Jesus known by this love. As violence encroaches and prompts the violent cutting off of an ear, Jesus heals the servant who intends to capture him.

Good Friday: Jesus is before Pilate, representing a kingly challenge to Caesar; proclaiming a kingdom that is not of this world’s violent kingdoms; prompting a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, the violent insurrectionist; and experiencing torture and death on a cross – suffering for the sake of sinners and enemies that breaks the cycle of violence.

Holy Saturday: Jesus is lain in the sealed tomb; later epistles tell us that Jesus descends into Hades, trampling on death with death and setting the captives free.

Easter Sunday: the women visit the tomb and find it empty; the first encounters with the resurrected Jesus, who commissions the disciples to make peace.

We do live in a violent world. Conflicts in central Africa, Myanmar, and Haiti disturb our deepest notions humanity and survival. The communities of Word Made Flesh are intentionally present in places where people are vulnerable to violence, whether that is in poor neighborhoods, helping abused women, or responding to Ukrainian refugees. At times, violence may be a last resort to the threat of violence – and then always regrettable. However, most often, our choice is not between abuse or abuser, victim or victimizer, fight or flight. There are creative choices in the space between. Jason’s book invites us to practice peacemaking, to image loving and helping those who threaten us rather than harming them, to cultivate communities of security rather than sharpening our aim with guns, and to envision a future shared by us and those considered threats and enemies.

While violence should always be regretted, one thing I do not regret is suffering the attacks of flying candies from the hand of Jason (and perhaps retaliating), getting to know him, and being led by his book to becoming Christians that better resemble the way of our Messiah.


Some Brief Thoughts on the Outpouring at Asbury

With our proximity to Asbury University, many have asked me about what has been happening. Our home is a 3-minute walk to the Asbury University chapel, which I see from my back window. I taught classes at the university last year and am in a doctorate program across the street at Asbury Seminary. Also, Word Made Flesh was founded by Asbury students, and our US office is based in Wilmore. It is surreal to see the cars overrun this two-traffic-light town and to see lines of thousands and thousands of people wrapped around the university, waiting to get into the chapel. For the moment, this is what I will say about the events:

Celebrate the experience of the students. I have heard testimonies of many who struggle with depression or anxiety, with acceptance and isolation, or without having heard God’s voice ever or for a long time. Let’s suspend our evaluations of the event and simply recognize the students’ intense encounters with God as a good in and of itself.

Prioritize the voices of the students. While many are trying to name or explain this movement of God, it began with students, has been led by students, and has been the primary experience of students. So, let’s let them articulate this experience for themselves. Time will come for analysis but let us continue to be sensitive to the students and to listen to them and to what they are hearing from God.

Recognize people’s hunger for God. This past week there was a shift of focus from the AU students to those who are visiting. The long lines in the sun, in the downpouring rain, and in the cold speak of the genuine hunger that people have to encounter God. This too is a good to be celebrated.

Pray for the leaders. The leadership of the university as well as the student leaders have done an excellent job of facilitating this spontaneous movement, maintaining a safe space, limiting access to fringe groups or those who want to coopt the event, focusing on students and young people, and organizing all the volunteers needed to sustain this 24 hour prayer and worship for almost 2 weeks. Hats off to them. They are certainly exhausted, and they are aware of the hard work that will follow.

Expect this to be a beginning and not an end. While some may be coming to witness this movement, hoping for healing, salvation, deliverance, or an experience in the Spirit, what is happening is only a starting point. What follows is discipleship, formation, counseling, the long work of healing and recovery, institutional change, reconciliation, and mission. Students who I’ve spoken with are aware of this and excited for what’s next.

A Summary of The Transformation of American Religion – Alan Wolfe


I read it because it is often cited along with James Hunter’s To Change the World, a book on culture to which I refer often.

Where Hunter looks at how the church, in its distinctive liberal, conservative and Anabaptist expressions, tries to change society and culture, Wolfe looks at how culture has changed religion (looking primarily at Jewish, Catholic and Protestant religious communities). As a non-believer and non-theologian, Wolfe’s analysis is of one looking from the outside in.

“Sociologists a few decades ago predicted the decline of religion in modern societies, but in the most modern society of all religion has neither declined nor advanced; it has been transformed.” Hence, Wolfe is sympathetic to religions and aware of their prominent place within American society.

Yet, he affirms, “American popular culture is both amazingly indifferent to those seeking to shape its direction and astonishingly competent at absorbing and transforming anyone who tries.” From the book jacket, it states that “God has met and struggled fiercely against American culture – and the culture has won.”

Wolfe begins with worship, stating that it no longer centers on God but rather on the self: the self’s experience, relationship to the divine, development and general good feelings.

He then looks at fellowship, which he thinks has moved from being denominational to being anti-institutional. The effect is a free-agent moving from denomination to denomination and to non-denominational and para-church gatherings, looking for that which best meets the individual’s needs.

Concerning doctrine, Wolfe says that it is no longer central to faith communities. Doctrine is liberalized, making it more palatable for the surrounding society. Where commitments are made to doctrine, they are mostly superficial and adherents rarely know the rational for the doctrine or are able to engage with countering ideas. Often, there is belief without a specified content of the belief.

Tradition. Conservative religious communities may continue to commit to traditional forms, but the locus of applying tradition is not in the “handing down” but in the “picking up” of what the individual wants and how they want. Generally, traditions succumb to American innovation that seeks to be familiar and welcoming to potential converts.

In his chapter on morality, Wolfe talks about how conservative doctrine marginalizes women. Yet, the actual practice in their faith communities is less misogynistic and more empowering of women. While sexual promiscuity and divorce rates are the same if not higher in religious communities, sexual practices are shaped by the religious communities – although in ways that view sexuality positively (as opposed to Church Fathers like Augustine or Puritan beliefs). That is to say, morality is redefined. Because of its success in adhering to its moral requirements, Wolfe treats the Mormon Church in this chapter, stating that it too may be more influenced by surrounding society as it grows out of its Utah bed. While he is skeptical of calling it causal, Wolfe also mentions religious communities engaging in helping poor communities and the holistic change that occurs in these communities. Finally, Wolfe cites a study in which religious adherents were more honest than their non-religious colleagues (signs of the impact of faith on behavior) and other studies that show that they are just as likely to cheat and more hypocritical (signs of behavior irregardless of faith).

Wolfe surprisingly laments the loss of conceptualizations and vocabulary for sin because he understands the social costs of not naming and aspiring to high ideals of conduct. He sees the crux of the problem shifting from offense to God to the destruction of the human. He sees the loss of sin in its homiletic usage as preachers do not want to sound judgmental but rather positive. He sees the replacement of sin with psychological notions of dysfunction. Thus, response isn’t repentance or penance but rather therapy.

Wolfe goes on to discuss “witness,” by which he means the sharing of one’s faith with non-believers. He notes how conservative Christians have moved from fire and brimstone preaching to the sharing of faith by their lifestyle or by service to others. While there may be increased timidity in the face of society, where there is willingness to share, it is not judgmental. In this way, the evangelist, like a good salesperson, is asking less from the potential convert and offering more. Wolfe also looks at the changing demographics caused by urban sprawl, which make the public spaces, where interaction occurs with potential converts in the city less secure, and greatly reduces space for interaction outside the city. Finally, using the Christian television and music industries as examples, Wolfe describes how in employing the media of the world (i.e. radio, movies, etc.), Christians gain notoriety and finances but loose their Christian identity – what Wolfe calls a Faustian pact.

In his chapter on identity, Wolfe discusses Islam, its ability to preserve the religious identity of its adherents while also changing its religious practices in the American context. Wolfe here also describes how immigrant communities, typically from Asia or Latin America, are conservative and stable, aspects which meet deep needs of volatile migrants. Some convert to Christianity upon arrival in America, describing their new faith as enabling to their becoming good Americans. For second-generation immigrants, conservatism is not as important and many turn to charismatic and para-church expressions of Christianity. Where Islam is being preserved by its immigrant adherents and Christianity discovered, Buddhism is drawing Americans. However, Wolfe describes this as an Americanized Buddhism that is more psychological, more meditative and organized more like churches and that is not wholly condoned or accepted by Buddhist immigrants. Looking at the broad sweep of American identity, Wolfe believes that religion, in light of immigration policy, can no longer be a central and unifying feature of American identity, which raises questions about pluralism, tolerance and social cohesion. (Written in 2003, Wolfe’s optimism for increased religious tolerance, while perhaps true, did not anticipateTrumpian exclusive nationalism.)

Wolfe concludes by advocating for ongoing religious practice in society, albeit with lower expectations as it shifts in conformity to American democracy. Wolfe also chastens liberals who quickly write off religious communities as close-minded and unable to engage intellectual debate, suggesting that they make room for democratic discourse, for their voice and practices, even when they are not agreeable. Pragmatically, Wolfe advises that society give less credence to what believers say (which may be dogmatic and exclusive) and more to what they do (which is typically moderate and more shaped by the surrounding culture than not.)

Interviu cu David, fondatorul fundației Cuvântul Întrupat din Galați – Pană Bogdan

Source: Interviu cu David, fondatorul fundației Cuvântul Întrupat din Galați – Pană Bogdan

March Update

It’s about time that I update you on all that is happening with us. Compared to past years, our Christmas season was much more relaxed. We still did a lot of caroling, but it was spread out over many days. We still had a big Christmas party, but we held it on thcraciune 23rd, rather than the 25th, and we finished it at midnight rather than the following morning. All things considered, the kids had an enjoyable time and we were able to fully celebrate the season.

After celebrating a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve and Day, I got on a midnight bus to Bucharest – the first of 5 red-eyes I would suffer in January. 32 hours later I arrived in Sierra Leone, grateful to be in the warmth and to be among friends. We spent the first few dayssierra-leone on a community retreat that I led on “Kingdom Community” – reflecting on God’s purposes, covenant community, lament and hope, vulnerability, and particular missiological challenges. After the retreat, we spent another few days reviewing 2016 and making a tactical plan for 2017. I was grateful to see their ongoing growth and maturity as
a community and the amazing ways that God is using them.

I departed Sierra Leone for a weekend in the UK, where I met with friends, updated supporters, and spoke at St. Mary’s church of England.

rwandaAfter the quick weekend, I traveled on to Rwanda, my first visit ever in that part of the world. WMF sent Shelbye, the first staff person in October of 2015, after she had done a 3-month internship with us in Galati. In the autumn of 2016, Annie arrived as the second WMF staff. Together, we took a few days to put together a tactical plan for the coming year. I was also able to see some of the beautiful country and meet with some of their friends and partners and was very grateful to visit the weekly meeting in a poor community with women who are responsible for their own savings and loan project.

st-marysAfter Rwanda, I returned to England where I participated in a little golf fundraiser and then shared with friends at Kingsway Fellowship in Liverpool. Then, finally, I was back to icy Romania.

Of course, there was lots of catching up to do in February. We continue to look at ways to help our new staff integrate well, to develop life-giving activities for the children and families at our centers, and to find ways to connect our activities and relationships to the local churches. In addition, I led another local organization with whom we partner through an annual tactical plan, which I’ll review with them throughout the year.

Lenutsa and I have also started planning our sabbatical. This is something that we practice in WMF every seven years. Most likely, we will begin this time in September. We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom and guidance for this time.

child 2.jpgDorin is the third born of 8 brothers and sisters. His mom lives with his biological father, but it seems that the father didn’t want to claim him as his own, as another man’s name is written on Dorin’s birth certificate. The family atmosphere is tense because the father drinks and is often physically and emotionally abusive. Dorin’s mom cannot cope with the situation and confessed that she wished that the man would move out. Recently, she went to the police after a violent fight. The police gave Dorin’s dad a fine for disturbing the peace, but Dorin’s mom had to pay it because he does not work. In the end, Dorin’s mom has given up going to the police. So, the incidents continue to happen and affect the whole family.

Dorin is extremely intelligent and sensitive, but his home life affects him more than he allows to show. He rarely talks about what happens at home. The last time he did, it was about a violent episode at home in which his dad’s head was severely injured. Dorin missed a number of days at school and at our community center because he was spending time with his dad at the hospital.

Although you can see the marks of sadness on his face, Dorin is happy to be at the center where he knows that he is loved and appreciated. He is a bit awkward whenever he is shown any positive affection, but we hope and pray that the love that surrounds him here will help him overcome any obstacle or barrier and that his many God-given talents will be able to show and grow in his life.

  • Please pray for Dorin, his family and all the families in similar situations with whom we interact daily.
  • Pray for our communities in Sierra Leone and Rwanda as they respond to those who are severely vulnerable.
  • Pray for the health of the kids and the staff as many came down with flues and colds during the cold winter.
  • Pray for the integration of new children received into the Centre this month.
  • Pray for the accommodation of our new cook and two new social workers.
  • Pray that the kids would consistently attend school and the Centre during these cold months.
  • Pray that all our financial needs would be met.

The ballad of Miorita | The defining Romanian myth

The Miorita ballad, is perhaps, the most eloquent Romanian folk poem ever created, summing up the most important beliefs of this nation.

Source: The ballad of Miorita | The defining Romanian myth

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

“No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged. …

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness. …

“And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly … God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

“I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose, he needs men [and women] who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all times of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future.”

What Do We Mean by “Evangelism?”

Word Made Flesh presently ministers in nine countries where we live among the poor and long to communicate the Good News of King Jesus and His coming Kingdom. Typically, the term we ascribe to this activity is “evangelism.” But as we minister among the poor, we wrestle with the limitations and follies of our traditional understanding of the concept.

The word “evangelism” often conjures in the contemporary mind images of televangelists, traveling preachers or zealous proselytizers. When we define evangelism, we usually talk about “getting people saved” or “making sure you know where you are going when you die.” Although we do long for people to come to know God and to have eternal security, this view is a narrow and truncated form of biblical evangelism. Such a view creates a gospel that is mere word, void of content. It secularizes and domesticates the gospel, which constrains it to the private realm and withdraws from social and political sin. It turns the gospel into a consumer product by aiming to satisfy the individual’s needs while lacking the commitment to transform humanity. This gross individualism has mutilated our concept of evangelism and fed the atomization of humanity and society.

This faulty understanding, propagated by many American evangelicals, has been successfully exported to evangelical churches around the world. Consequently, when telling our fellow Christians that we evangelize, some think we’re only talking about biblical paper dolls moving across flannel boards or PowerPoint presentations. Worse yet are the unsatisfied frowns we often see when explaining that we do not simply evangelize through our words. Therefore, we want to take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning of biblical evangelism so that our concept and practice of mission may be radicalized.

We must ask ourselves what biblical evangelism is, and how the tradition of the church can correct our currently deviated understanding. The word “evangelism” is derived from the Greek euangelion, “good news, gospel, evangel.” Likewise, “evangelization” means “to announce the good news.” However, since the early 19th century, church and mission circles have changed and increasingly distorted the meaning of the verb “evangelize” and its derivatives (David Bosch, Transforming Mission). In this article, we will attempt to outline an understanding of evangelism as differentiated from contemporary definitions and in line with its original meaning.

Evangelism is often described as the proclamation, presence, persuasion and prevenience of the gospel. Let us outline each of these aspects of evangelism, then look at their implications.

Evangelism is Proclamation

Evangelism is proclamation, but it is not synonymous with verbiage. It is helpful to distinguish between euangelion (gospel) and kerygma, the Greek word that refers to preaching or proclaiming that which is fundamental and all-embracing in the New Testament. Kerygma was the event of being addressed by the word. Some have suggested that there was a particular kerygmatic formula about Jesus—that is, the “language of the facts,” and the facts being that God came in Jesus Christ, was crucified, resurrected and ascended. But evangelism cannot be reduced to verbalizing the Good News. Proclamation from the pulpit or mass-media tends to be a monologue, detached from relationship. Evangelism that is reduced to only proclamation is extremely individualistic. It often leads people to an interior repentance that is merely felt or pondered in thought without becoming real repentance (See Jon Sobrino, Christology at the Crossroads).

Biblical evangelism is personal. The Word was made flesh. The gospel was embodied in the person of Jesus. That is why the expression “gospel” is used in the New Testament to refer both to the apostolic proclamation of Christ and to the history of Christ. The gospel is the message; the gospel is also the life of Jesus. In Christ, the message and the messenger are indivisibly one. Jesus desires to disclose Himself; He is the Evangelist in that He continually is communicating and drawing humanity into dialogue with God. He communicates personally to persons, and He commissioned persons to continue communicating personally.

To evangelize is to communicate this joy; it is to transmit, individually and as a community, the good news of God’s love that has transformed our lives (Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation).

Therefore, the proclamation must be made in relationship and in the power of the Spirit. Paul says, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5).

Evangelism is not just proclaiming otherworldliness. Either to justify the status quo or to anaesthetize our inability to change it, we often preach about the “pie in the sky.” Of course, we do believe and proclaim the wonderful day when God will consummate His creation, when justice and righteousness reign, and when God’s people dwell forever in His presence. But God wants us to experience abundant life even now. He wants us to experience the in-breaking of His presence and to participate in the anticipatory celebration. Jesus invites us to pray: “Let Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). An overemphasis on otherworldliness causes us to detach ourselves from creation and from history. Consequently, evangelism does not speak about the promises for creation, that God will make all things new, nor does it seriously confront historical sins. That is why it is important to remember that we do not emancipate ourselves from history altogether, but we take the past promises of God up into our hopes of the future consummation as disclosed by the gospel (Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit).

The other side of otherworldliness is this-worldliness. But evangelism is not synonymous with the gospel of progress or any other socio-political movement. The martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero pointed out,

The danger of reductionism as far as evangelization is concerned can take two forms. Either it can stress only the transcendent elements of spirituality and human destiny, or it can go to the other extreme, selecting only those immanent elements of a kingdom of God that ought to be already beginning on this earth (Voice of the Voiceless).

Unfortunately, human projects have identified themselves as the coming Kingdom of God. Much of modern mission has piggybacked on the colonization of the world by Western powers. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ was adulterated with the promises of Western culture, which assumed itself to be better and more advanced. Often in the name of civilizing, the church transplanted a foreign god and a foreign religion that not only failed to keep its promises but also actually led to cultural regress (See Jonathan J. Bonk, Missions and Money). The gospel cannot be identified with any cultural, social or political movement. In fact, it must confront and challenge them (Mortimer Arias, Announcing the Reign of God; Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society). True evangelism is Good News. It rings true in an indigenous environment because the people exist through the Word (John 1:3) and because the Spirit has already been there preparing the hearts of the people (Rom. 2:15).

Evangelism is Presence.

Evangelism is presence but needs explication. The gospel is not only declaratory; it is performatory. It can be the first because it is the second (Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society). The presence of the gospel is of particular importance today as we are flooded with words, yet often experience the powerlessness of language. We know that our “actions speak louder than words,” that our lifestyles “speak for themselves,” and that a message is validated by its medium. The people of God embody, explain and are the living interpreters of the gospel. A Romanian Orthodox missiologist, Ion Bria, said, “[Evangelism] is not only oral proclamation of the gospel but also martyrdom (martyria), the following in the steps of the crucified Christ” (The Liturgy after the Liturgy). Martyria means “witness.” First we witness through our lives and deeds, then we explain what happened. For example, Jesus’ witness to the Kingdom provoked those around Him to ask questions. Who is He that even forgives sins? Who is this Jew that receives a drink from a Samaritan? Who is this Prophet that dines with sinners? The gospel, then, is an answer to the question that a person or a people is asking (Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society). Jesus’ example shows that evangelism does not only mean that we “go and tell”; it also means that we witness through the work and lifestyle of the Christian community, provoking questions to which the Good News of Jesus Christ is the answer (Myers, Walking With the Poor).

In our affirmation of evangelizing through presence we must also recognize that this aspect has received current favor by many because we have lost confidence in the Truth—which if it is true, compels us to proclaim it. The Good News is entrusted to us. If we fail to proclaim it, we are unfaithful stewards. The gospel must be explicit. Though we often like to quote St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Preach the gospel and use words when necessary,” we must also realize that he did use words and many heard the Good News and many came to the Lord. In fact, he preached to a Muslim sultan, who invited him because he had heard of St. Francis’ lifestyle. Peter exhorts us to live such a lifestyle:

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12).

Evangelism is Persuasion

Evangelism is persuasion, but not peddling or proselytizing. Persuasion is convincing people of the gospel through apologetics2. Paul said, “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). But evangelism is not selling or enticing people to buy a marketable product. Paul said, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 2:17). The Indian theologian Vinay Samuel is fond of saying that evangelism is a commitment to sharing, not an announcement of expected outcomes (Myers, Walking With the Poor).

Evangelism means persuading people, but it does not mean proselytizing them (See Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble). Evangelism does not mean making converts—though that is a desired result—or adding members to our club. Many times, we find ourselves struggling with feelings of guilt because there seems to be no tangible “fruit” from our ministry. At other times we find ourselves tempted to tell other Christians what they want to hear: “… we just saw another one come to the Lord,” “… he has been coming to church on his own accord for a few months now,” or “… she is starting to pray at mealtimes.” These remarks may bring a few pats on the back, but only serve to propagate the misconception about “successful” evangelism.

When we place exclusive emphasis on the winning of individuals to conversion, baptism and church membership, numerical growth of the church becomes the central goal of mission. Then seeking justice and peace are separated and relegated to the margins of the church’s mission. Over the last century, much of the church has defined its failures and successes by numbers. If the church was growing numerically, it was successful; if not, it was failing. Though a growing church may be a sign of God’s life and work, this predisposes us to value the size more than the persons. Just as the ideology of the Industrial Revolution turned humanity into a cog in the machinery of society or an item on the assembly line of productivity, so the ideology of modern church success has turned humanity into a donor resource and community into church membership. This is not simply evangelism misconstrued; it is anti-evangelism because at its core it dehumanizes.

If Jesus is the model Evangelist, then we must let the cross be the critique of evangelistic success. At the cross, those persuaded by Jesus’ ministry either betrayed Him or went into fearful hiding. At the cross, there were no supportive crowds, no grandiose church buildings and no tally of the day’s converts. “Successful” evangelism is faithfully testifying to the crucified God, who died to preach the Good News to a lost and confused world; the attestation of successful evangelism is the Resurrection. This understanding puts the indication of success not in the response of the evangelized but in the obedience of the evangelist.

Evangelism is not an activity for non-believers only, because Christians never cease to need evangelism. Avery Dulles reminds us that evangelism is not complete with the first proclamation of the gospel: “It is a lifelong process of letting the gospel permeate and transform all our ideas and attitudes” (Cited in Bryant Myers, Walking With the Poor). This creates space for our worship, discipleship and spirituality to be evangelistic. This also frees us from our “savior complex” and releases conversion and salvation to God. As the song joyfully affirms: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10).

Evangelism is the Prevenience of the Spirit

Evangelism is the prevenience of the Spirit, not simply the activity of the Christian missionary. It is not enough to speak of the proclamation, presence and persuasion of the gospel; we must also recognize the prevenience or the previousness of the Spirit (Lesslie Newbigin. The Open Secret). That is to say that long before the Christian arrives with the Good News, the Spirit of God has been moving, preparing and wooing humanity to Himself. Evangelism participates in and flows from God’s previous activity.

Implications for Life and Ministry

This brief analysis of evangelism as proclamation, presence, persuasion and the Spirit’s prevenience has many implications for our lives and ministries. We learn that evangelism is holistic, not fragmented. Holistic ministry is an approach to mission that considers the whole of humanity without compartmentalizing it, the whole of society without atomizing it, and the whole of the cosmos without categorizing it. Each day the WMF community welcomes hundreds of children in our lives and homes around the world. This welcoming includes shelter, advocacy, education, the sharing of meals and discipleship. We minister to the whole child—mind, soul and body. We also minister to the families of these children. We do not isolate them from their society or from their world but try to bring transformation within it.

In his book Good News and Good Works, Ron Sider attempts to work out an understanding of doing evangelism and doing social action without confusing the two tasks. Sider defines evangelism as leading a person to become a personal disciple of Christ while arguing for social action as transforming social and political structures. He tries to preserve the integrity of evangelism by not confusing it with social action and vice-versa. Although Sider does affirm that the separate activities are inseparable, Vinay Samuel criticizes him for being dualistic. Samuel argues that we cannot be “dualistic evangelicals who think it is possible to come to Christ and not be engaged in social justice” (Chris Sugden, Seeking the Asian Face of Jesus). Because the evangelism is holistic, we cannot divide its parts. When Jesus brings the child, the outcast and the weak into the center of society, justice is done and the Good News is proclaimed. When, in the name of Jesus, street children learn to read and write, eat healthy meals and are protected from police brutality, the Good News is proclaimed.

Evangelism is transformational. Christ’s announcement of the coming Kingdom of God included community building, confrontation and intentional conflict, liberation, hope, repentance and the forgiveness of sins, persecution, healing, miracles and discipleship. Biblically, we are not called merely to supply a different interpretation of the world, of history and of human nature, but to transform them in expectation of a divine transformation (Jürgan Moltmann, A Theology of Hope).

Evangelism, for Christ, was transformation. This transformation influenced the whole of society and the whole of humanity. It demanded a response, either total acceptance or total rejection.

Biblical evangelism finds its basis in a proper Kingdom-of-God understanding. This Kingdom understanding requires total submission to the all-encompassing nature of this Kingdom. Such submission touches on every aspect of living, being and doing.

Evangelism is an announcement. The New Testament theologian N.T. Wright searches biblical history to learn what evangelism meant for Jesus and the apostles. He states, “The gospel is for Paul, at its very heart, an announcement about the true God as opposed to false gods” (What Saint Paul Really Said). Whether it is to the god of money, the god of sex, or the god of power, the gospel of the Kingdom announces the end to false gods, and their reordering and consummation into a new Kingdom. Wright likens evangelism to Caesar’s herald, who proclaims the royal announcement. The herald would not say, “If you would like to try to have an experience of living under an emperor, you might care to try Nero.” Rather, the herald’s proclamation is an “authoritative summons to obedience—the obedience of faith.” The Gospel of God is not an alternative to other gods, but it is the heralding of the Kingdom by which all others will be judged. The Apostle Paul writes, “The gospel is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Wright comments, “The gospel is not just about God’s power saving people. It is God’s power at work to save people.” Evangelism, therefore, is the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord.

This New Testament understanding of evangelism has deep implications on our practical ministry. We can no longer understand evangelism as mere words. We can no longer hold evangelism in one hand and social justice in the other while claiming that we are faithful to biblical evangelism. We can no longer democratize evangelism by submitting it to public opinion for its acceptance. Instead, we must acknowledge the totality of biblical evangelism: Jesus is Master of all, will be all in all, and is turning the kingdoms of this world on their heads.

Correspondingly, evangelism is a denouncement. When we announce the totality of Jesus’ lordship, we simultaneously denounce any opposition to His reign. Gustavo Gutierrez says that the church must make the prophetic denunciation of every dehumanizing situation, which is contrary to fellowship, justice and liberty. The truth of the gospel, it has been said, is a truth which must be done” (A Theology of Liberation).

Walter Wink says that “evangelism is always a form of social action. It is an indispensable component of any new ‘world’” (Naming the Powers). That is to say that the Good News engages and challenges persons, societies, structures and the cosmos. We fully realize that only persons can repent and receive Christ, but persons are social beings within social structures, and the gospel announces the lordship of Christ over the whole cosmos, including its society, structures and systems. Wink goes further to affirm that “social action is always evangelism, if carried out in full awareness of Christ’s sovereignty over the Powers.” Although there needs to be more than a simple awareness of Christ’s lordship for this statement to be true, it certainly shows our need for a paradigmatic change in our understanding of evangelism. “Jesus did not just forgive sinners, He gave them a new world” (Wink). If this is true, then we rule out the idea that evangelism and social action are two separate segments or components of mission.

David Bosch explains that evangelism is mission, but mission is not merely evangelism. Thus, these terms should not be equated. Bosch, in a very detailed examination of evangelization and mission, shows that evangelism must be placed in the context of mission. Each context demands that the gospel addresses its particular predicaments: injustice, corruption, abortion, murder, greed, gluttony, drug abuse, etc.

Evangelism that separates people from their context views the world not as a challenge but as a hindrance, devalues history, and has eyes only for the “nonmaterial aspects of life” … What criterion decides that racism and structural injustice are social issues but pornography and abortion personal? Why is politics shunned and declared to fall outside of the competence of the evangelist, except when it favors the position of the privileged society? (Bosch, Transforming Mission).

Could it be that we have re-defined evangelism to suit our own lifestyles and forfeited biblical evangelism because it is too radical? Biblical evangelism is Jesus’ Good News to the poor, imprisoned, crippled, deaf and blind; biblical evangelism is Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and to become His disciples; biblical evangelism is Jesus’ call to service in the reign of God; biblical evangelism is a call to mission.

Paul exhorts us in 2 Timothy 4:5 “to do the work of the evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” From the aspects discussed in this article, it is easy to see how our ministry will reflect our understanding of the meaning of evangelism. We must unlock the shackles of our contemporary definitions and seek to know God’s intention for evangelism. He is calling us to announce the Good News through proclamation, presence, persuasion and the promised prevenience of the Spirit. This means we must denounce anything that opposes the gospel; we must be holistic and transformational in our evangelism; and we must do evangelism in the context of mission.

Our hope is that we lay our ideas and misconceptions before Jesus, where they can be transformed and radicalized. Jesus is the Gospel made flesh. He is the embodiment of the Good News. He is the point where the evangel and the evangelist are one. Our prayer is that by His Spirit, we may be Christ’s heralds, announcing the coming of the new heaven and the new earth, and that the Good News of the Father would truly be Good News to the world.

Ce înţelegem prin „evanghelizare”?

Dintr-un articol scris de mine în 2000:

„Cuvântul Întrupat” (Word Made Flesh) slujeşte în prezent în nouă ţări unde lucrătorii misiunii noastre trăiesc în mijlocul săracilor şi unde încearcă să propovăduiască Vestea Bună a Regelui Isus şi a venirii Împărăţiei Lui. Termenul pe care îl atribuim acestei activităţi este „evanghelizare”. Dar, pe măsură ce slujim în mijlocul săracilor ne lovim de limitările şi absurditatea înţelegerii noastre tradiţionale a acestui concept.

Cuvântul „evanghelizare” evocă de cele mai multe ori în minţile contemporane imagini ale tele-evangheliştilor, ale predicatorilor care călătoresc sau ale zeloşilor prozelitişti. Atunci când definim termenul „evanghelizare” vorbim de cele mai multe ori despre „a-i salva pe oameni” sau despre „a fi sigur de locul unde mergi după moarte”. Cu toate că dorim ca oamenii să ajungă să-L cunoască pe Dumnezeu şi să aibă siguranţa mântuirii, acest punct de vedere este îngust şi trunchiat faţă de forma evanghelizării biblice. Este rezultatul culturii noastre post iluministe care L-a privatizat pe Dumnezeu şi care a expediat Evanghelia bisericilor geto-uri, doar ca pe un cuvânt lipsit de conţinut. Aceasta secularizează şi îmblânzeşte Evanghelia, lucru care o constrânge doar la domeniul personal şi care se retrage de la angajarea socială şi păcatul politic. Aceasta transformă Evanghelia într-un produs de consumat care are ca scop satisfacerea nevoilor individuale fără luarea angajamentului de a transforma umanitatea. Acest individualism brut a mutilat conceptul nostru de evanghelizare şi a hrănit atomizarea umanităţii şi a societăţii. Această înţelegere greşită, propagată de mulţi evanghelişti din Vest a fost exportată cu succes bisericilor evanghelice din lume. Ca urmare, atunci când spunem prietenilor noştri creştini că evanghelizăm, mulţi cred că ne referim la personajele biblice de hârtie de pe flanelografe sau la prezentările PowerPoint. Mai expresive sunt încruntările pe care le vedem când explicăm faptul că noi nu evangelizăm numai prin cuvinte. De aceea, vrem să folosim ocazia aceasta de a reflecta la înţelesul evanghelizării biblice astfel încât conceptul şi practica misiunii să fie radicalizate.

Trebuie să ne întrebăm ce este evanghelizarea biblică şi cum tradiţia bisericii ne poate corecta înţelesul deviat. După episcopul Mortimer Arias, termenul de „evanghelizare” vine din grecescul „euangelion” care înseamnă „vestea bună”, „evanghelie”, „evangel” şi din „euangelizomai” care înseamnă „a anunţa vestea bună”. Dar aşa cum subliniază misiologistul David Bosch, de la începutul secolului al XIX-lea, verbul „a evangheliza” şi derivatele lui au fost reabilitate în biserici şi în cercurile de misiune. Lucrarea de faţă va încerca să contureze o înţelegere a termenului de evanghelizare ca diferenţiat de definiţiile contemporane şi convergent spre înţelesurile lui originare.

Evanghelizarea este proclamare

Evanghelizarea este proclamare dar nu este sinonim cu verbiaj. Este de ajutor să facem diferenţa între euangelion (evanghelie) şi kerygma, cuvântul grecesc care se referă la predicare sau proclamare a Evangheliei ceea ce este fundamental şi atotcuprinzător în Noul Testament. Kerygma era evenimentul de a fi adresat prin cuvânt. Unii spun că exista o formulă „kergymatică” despre Isus, care reprezintă „limba faptelor” şi faptele în desfăşurare, Dumnezeu venit în persoana lui Isus Christos, crucificat, înviat şi înălţat. Dar evanghelizarea nu poate fi redusă la verbalizarea Veştii Bune. Proclamarea de la amvon sau prin mass media tinde să devină un monolog detaşat de relaţia cu oamenii. Evanghelizarea care este redusă doar la proclamare are un criteriu arbitrar pentru o viaţă creştină autentică şi este foarte individualistă cu consecinţe ale unei pocăinţe interioare (metanoia) care este percepută doar la nivelul simţurilor sau al meditaţiei fără a deveni realitate. Evanghelizarea biblică este personală. Cuvântul a fost făcut trup. Evanghelia a fost întrupată în persoana lui Isus. Acesta este motivul pentru care expresia „Evanghelie” este folosită în Noul Testament pentru a face referire şi la proclamarea apostolică a lui Christos şi la istoria lui Christos.

Evanghelia este mesajul dar în acelaşi timp, Evanghelia este viaţa lui Isus. În Christos, mesajul şi mesagerul sunt în mod inseparabil una. Isus doreşte să se reveleze pe Sine, El este Evanghelistul prin faptul că El, în mod continuu, comunică şi atrage umanitatea spre un dialog cu Dumnezeu. El comunică cu persoanele în mod personal şi împuterniceşte (termen militar) persoanele să continue să comunice la modul personal.

„A evangheliza înseamnă a comunica această bucurie, înseamnă a transmite, individual şi ca o comunitate, vestea bună a iubirii lui Dumnezeu, iubire care ne-a transformat vieţile”  Prin urmare, proclamarea trebuie făcută în relaţie şi în puterea Duhului Sfânt. De aceea, Pavel spune: „Evanghelia noastră v-a fost propovăduită nu numai cu vorbe, ci cu putere, cu Duhul Sfânt şi cu mare îndrăzneală” (1 Tesaloniceni 1:5) „Prin proclamarea Evangheliei, înţelegem, prin urmare, toate expresiile bisericii şi ale creştinilor, expresii făcute prin limbă care au drept conţinut istoria lui Christos şi libertatea omului pentru Împărăţia pe care o deschide acea istorie.”

Aceasta înseamnă că evanghelizarea nu este doar proclamarea despre o altă lume. Ori pentru a justifica „status quo”, ori pentru a anestezia inabilitatea noastră de a schimba acest „status quo”, predicăm de multe ori despre „plăcinta din ceruri”. Sigur că noi credem şi proclamăm ziua minunată când va domni dreptatea şi neprihănirea, când poporul lui Dumnezeu va locui pentru totdeauna în prezenţa Lui. Dar Dumnezeu vrea să experimentăm viaţa din abundenţă acum. Vrea să experimentăm manifestările prezenţei Lui şi să participăm la celebrarea anticipată. Isus ne invită să ne rugăm: „Vie Împărăţia Ta precum în Ceruri aşa şi pe pământ” O subliniere prea mare a „celeilalte lumi” ne face să ne detaşăm de creaţie şi de istorie. Rezultatul ar fi că evanghelizarea noastră nu ar vorbi despre promisiunile lui Dumnezeu pentru creaţia Sa, nici despre faptul că Dumnezeu va face toate lucrurile noi şi nici nu ar confrunta în mod serios păcatul istoric. De aceea, este important să ne amintim că nu ne eliberăm de istorie ci că luăm promisiunile lui Dumnezeu din trecut în speranţele noastre despre ceea ce se va întâmpla în viitor, aşa după cum o arată Biblia.

Cealaltă extremă a „celeilalte lumi” este „această lume”. Dar evanghelizarea nu este sinonimă cu Evanghelia progresului nici cu orice altă mişcare social politică. Episcopul Oscar Romero, care a fost martirizat, spunea: „pericolul reducţionismului, în ceea ce priveşte evanghelizarea, poate lua două forme: ori subliniază elementele transcedentale spiritualităţii şi destinului uman, ori poate merge la cealaltă extremă, selectând doare acele elemente imanente ale Împărăţiei lui Dumnezeu care îşi au începutul aici pe pământ.” Din păcate, proiectele umane s-au numit singure venirea lui Dumnezeu. Mult din misiunea modernă a mers pe spatele colonialismului lumii prin puterile vestice. Mesajul Evangheliei lui Isus Christos a fost pervertit cu promisiuni ale culturii vestice, care s-a presupus a fi mai bună şi mai avansată. De mult ori, în numele civilizaţiei, Biserica a transplantat un Dumnezeu străin şu o religie străină care nu numai că nu şi-au ţinut promisiunile ci au dus chiar la regres cultural. Evanghelia nu poate fi identificată cu nici o mişcare culturală, socială sau politică. De fapt, ea trebuie să le confrunte şi să le provoace pe acestea. Evanghelizarea adevărată este Vestea Bună. Şi asta sună a adevăr într-un mediu primitiv pentru că oamenii există prin Cuvânt (Ioan 1:3) şi pentru că Duhul a început deja să pregătească inimile oamenilor (Romani 2:15)

Evanghelizarea este prezenţă

Evanghelizarea este prezenţă dar nevoie de explicaţii. Evanghelia nu are doar caracter declarator ci este şi dusă la îndeplinire. Poate acoperi prima trăsătură pentru că o are pe cea de-a doua. Prezenţa Evangheliei este de o importanţă particulară astăzi, când suntem invadaţi de cuvinte şi când experimentăm sărăcia limbajului. Ştim că faptele noastre vorbesc mai tare decât cuvintele, că felul cum trăim vorbeşte de la sine şi că mesajul este validat de mediul lui. De aceea, Leslie Newbigin, misionar în India a spus: „Biserica este hermeneutica Evangheliei” Oamenii lui Dumnezeu întrupează, explică şi sunt interpretarea vie a Evangheliei. Ion Bria (misiologist român ortodox) spune că e vorba nu numai de „proclamarea orală ci şi de martyria” Termenul martyria înseamnă martor. Bryant Meyers spune: „pentru creştini, a fi martor este integral pentru ceea ce suntem şi pentru ceea ce credem.” Evanghelizarea ca spunere a Evangheliei este de obicei actul al doilea. În primul rând, mărturisim prin viaţa şi faptele noastre, apoi explicăm ce se întâmplă. De exemplu, mărturisirea lui Isus despre Împărăţia lui Dumnezeu i-a provocat pe cei din jurul lui să pună întrebări. Cine este acesta care poate să ierte şi păcatele? Cine este acest evreu care bea apă de la o femeie, care mai este şi samariteancă? Cine este acest profet care mănâncă cu păcătoşii? Evanghelia este răspunsul la întrebările unui om sau ale unei naţiuni. Aceasta înseamnă că evanghelizarea nu înseamnă numai „du-te şi spune!”, înseamnă a mărturisi prin lucrul şi stilul de viaţă al unei comunităţi creştine, comunitate care să provoace întrebări la care răspunsul să fie vestea bună a lui Isus Cristos.

În afirmaţia noastră de evanghelizare prin prezenţă, trebuie, de asemenea, să recunoaştem că acest aspect a primit o oarecare favoare din vreme ce am pierdut încrederea în Adevăr – lucru care, dacă e adevărat, ne convinge să proclamăm. Vestea bună ne este încredinţată. Dacă nu o proclamăm, suntem administratori necredincioşi. Evanghelia trebuie să fie explicită. Chiar dacă ne place să-l cităm pe Sf. Francisc de Assisi, care a spus: „predicaţi Evanghelia, dar folosiţi cuvintele doar atunci când trebuie”, este important să realizăm că el a folosit cuvintele şi mulţi au auzit Vestea Bună venind la Dumnezeu. De fapt. El a predicat unui sultan musulman care l-a invitat să-i vorbească pentru că auzise de stilul de viaţă al Sf. Francisc. Petru ne îndeamnă să trăim astfel de vieţi: „să aveţi o purtare bună în mijlocul Neamurilor, pentru ca în ceea ce vă vorbesc de rău ca pe nişte făcători de rele, prin faptele voastre bune pe care le văd să slăvească pe Dumnezeu în ziua cercetării.” (1 Petru 2:12)

Evanghelizarea este persuasiune

Evanghelizarea înseamnă persuasiune (convingere) dar nu prozelitism şi nu este vânzare prin amăgire. Persuasiunea înseamnă convingerea oamenilor de adevărurile Evangheliei prin apologetică. Pavel spune: „ca unii care cunoaştem frica de Domnul, pe oameni căutăm să-i încredinţăm” (2 Corinteni 5:11). Evanghelizarea este o invitaţie care ţinteşte spre un răspuns. Scopul este de a face ucenici şi de a forma comunitatea creştină. Evanghelizarea este o petiţie: „Vă rugăm fierbinte, în Numele lui Hristos: Împăcaţi-vă cu Dumnezeu!” (2 Corinteni 5:20). Ambasadorii lui Hristos nu au nici o autoritate decât autoritatea de petiţie; noi suntem cerşetori pentru Hristos. De aceea, evanghelizarea nu înseamnă a vinde sau a amăgi oamenii să cumpere un produs de piaţă. „Căci noi nu stricăm Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, cum fac cei mai mulţi; ci vorbim cu inimă curată, din partea lui Dumnezeu, înaintea lui Dumnezeu, în Christos” (2 Corinteni 2:17). Noi suntem cerşetori care spun altora unde pot găsi pâine. Teologul indian, Vinay Samuel, spune că evanghelizarea este angajamentul de a împărtăşi, nu un anunţ al rezultatelor aşteptate.

Evanghelizarea înseamnă convingerea oamenilor dar nu înseamnă prozelitism. Evanghelizarea nu înseamnă a obţine convertiţi, deşi acesta este un rezultat dorit, nu înseamnă adăugarea la numărul membrilor în clubul nostru. De multe ori ne găsim luptând cu sentimente de vinovăţie pentru că nu par a fi rezultate tangibile în misiunea noastră. Alte ori, suntem tentaţi să spunem altor creştini ceea ce vor să audă…”tocmai am văzut un altul întorcându-se la Dumnezeu…vine la biserică din proprie iniţiativă de câteva luni…a început să se roage la masă”… Astfel de remarci ar putea aduce câteva bătăi de încurajare pe umăr dar servesc numai la propagarea concepţiei greşite despre evanghelizarea de succes.

Atunci când punem un accent exclusiv pe câştigarea oamenilor spre convertire, botez şi membralitate, scopul central al misiunii devine creşterea numerică a bisericii. Astfel, căutarea dreptăţii şi a păcii sunt separate şi demise spre marginile misiunii bisericii. În secolul trecut, multe biserici şi-au definit eşecurile sau succesele pe baza numerelor. Exista succes dacă biserica creştea numeric şi eşua dacă nu se întâmpla asta. Deşi o biserică în creştere poate fi un semn al lucrării lui Dumnezeu, aceste lucruri ne fac să dăm mai multă valoare mărimii decât persoanelor.

Aşa cum ideologia Revoluţiei Industriale a transformat umanitatea într-o rotiţă din maşina societăţii sau într-un produs fabricat în serie, şi ideologia succesului bisericii moderne a transformat umanitatea într-o resursă de donat şi comunitatea în membralitate în biserică. Iar aceasta nu înseamnă doar evanghelizare greşită ci anti-evanghelizare pentru că în adâncul ei dezumanizează.

Dacă Isus este modelul Evanghelistului, atunci trebuie să lăsăm crucea să fie criticul succesului evanghelizării. La cruce nu sunt mulţimi care aclamă, nici biserici somptuoase, şi nici înregistrările cu convertiţii zilei. Evanghelizarea de „succes” este mărturisirea cu credinţă a lui Dumnezeu crucificat, care a murit ca să predice Vestea Bună unei lumi pierdute şi confuze. Atestarea unei evanghelizări de succes stă în Înviere. Această înţelegere pune indicatorul succesului nu pe cei evanghelizaţi ci pe felul cum răspunde evanghelistul la chemare.

Evanghelizarea nu este doar o activitate pentru necredincioşi pentru că şi creştinii sunt într-o permanentă nevoie de evanghelizare. Avery Dulles ne reaminteşte că evanghelizarea nu este completă cu numai prima proclamare: „este un proces de o viaţă în care lăsăm Evanghelia să intre şi să ne transforme toate ideile şi atitudinile” Aceasta creează spaţiu pentru închinare, ucenicizare şi spiritualitate pentru a fi evanghelişti şi de asemenea ne eliberează de „complexul de salvatori” lăsând convertirea şi salvarea în mâinile lui Dumnezeu. Aşa cum afirmă cu bucurie cântecul: „mântuirea este a Dumnezeului nostru care şade pe tronul de domnie şi a şi Mielului:” (Apocalipsa 7:10).

Evanghelizarea este prevenienta Duhului

Evanghelizarea este preveniența Duhului şi nu doar simpla activitate a misionarului creştin. Nu este suficient doar să vorbeşti despre proclamare, prezenţă şi persuasiune, trebuie şi să recunoaştem preveniența sau precedenţa Duhului. Aceasta înseamnă Duhul lui Dumnezeu lucrează, pregăteşte şi caută să câştige umanitatea pentru Sine cu mult mai înainte de a ajunge misionarul cu Vestea Bună. Aceasta înseamnă că evanghelizarea participă la şi curge prin activităţile anterioare ale lui Dumnezeu.

Implicaţii asupra vieţii şi misiunii

Analiza aceasta sumară a evanghelizării ca proclamare, prezenţă, persuasiune şi anticipare a Duhului are multe implicaţii asupra vieţii şi misiunii noastre. Învăţăm că evanghelizarea este holistică(totală) şi nu fragmentată. Misiunea holistică este aceea care ia în considerare umanitatea în întregime fără a o compartimenta, societatea în întregime fără a o atomiza, universul în întregime fără a-l categoriza. În fiecare zi, în comunitatea Cuvântul Întrupat (Word Made Flesh) primim sute de copii în vieţile şi în casele noastre în toată lumea. Această primire implică un adăpost, consiliere, educaţie, părtăşie la masă şi ucenicizare. Misiunea noastră se adresează copilului în întregime – minte, suflet şi trup. Ne adresăm, de asemenea şi familiilor copiilor. Nu încercăm să-i izolăm de societatea sau de lumea lor ci să aducem transformare în interiorul acestora.

În cartea sa, Good News and Good Works ( Vestea Bună şi faptele bune), Ron Sider încearcă să formuleze o înţelegere a ceea ce înseamnă evanghelizare şi acţiune socială fără a le confunda pe acestea. Sider defineşte evanghelizarea ca fiind conducerea unei persoane spre a deveni ucenic personal al lui Isus Christos iar acţiunea socială ca fiind transformarea structurilor sociale şi politice. El încearcă să păstreze integritatea evanghelizării neconfundând conceptul cu cel de acţiune socială şi nici invers. Sider afirmă deci că cele două aspecte separate sunt inseparabile dar Vinay Samuel îl critică considerându-l dualist. Samuel spune că nu putem fi „evanghelici dualişti care să credem că este posibil să venim la Christos fără a ne angaja în dreptatea socială.”  Pentru că evanghelizarea este holistică nu îi putem divide părţile. „Expresii de tipul Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu, predicare, proclamare, prezentare sau tradiţie doar reproduc aspecte parţiale. Ele nu cuprind tot conţinutul sau toată aura Evangheliei sau practicile acesteia, cum ar fi evanghelizarea – ceea ce înseamnă eliberarea lumii în viitorul lui Dumnezeu.”

Atunci când Isus aduce în centrul societăţii pe copil, pe lepros şi pe cel slab se face dreptate şi este proclamată Vestea Bună. Atunci când copiii străzii învaţă să citească, atunci când mănâncă sănătos şi când sunt protejaţi de abuzurile poliţiei, este proclamată Vestea Bună.

Evanghelizarea este transformaţională. Vestirea Împărăţiei lui Dumnezeu pe care o face Christos include construirea comunităţii, confruntare şi conflict intenţional, eliberare, speranţă, căinţă şi iertarea păcatelor, persecuţie, vindecare, miracole şi ucenicizare. Din punct de vedere biblic, noi „nu suntem chemaţi doar să furnizăm o interpretare diferită asupra lumii, istoriei şi naturii umane ci să le transformăm pe acestea în aşteptarea unei transformări divine.”3 Evanghelizarea a însemnat transformare pentru Christos. Transformarea a avut impact asupra întregii societăţi şi asupra întregii umanităţi. A impus un răspuns: ori acceptare totală ori respingere totală.

Evanghelizarea înseamnă vestire. Teologul N.T.Wright specializat pe Noul Testament a căutat ce a însemnat evanghelizarea pentru Isus şi pentru ucenici. El spune: „Evanghelia este pentru Pavel o vestire a Dumnezeului adevărat faţă de dumnezeii falşi.” Fie că e vorba de dumnezeul banilor, al sexului sau al puterii, Evanghelia Împărăţiei anunţă sfârşitul lor şi re-orânduirea acestora în Noua Împărăţie. Autorul aseamănă evanghelizarea cu solul lui Cezar care proclamă un anunţ împărătesc. Solul nu spune: „dacă aţi vrea să încercaţi experienţa de a trăi sub un împărat, aţi putea să încercaţi cu Nero” Dimpotrivă, proclamarea solului este „o chemare autoritară la ascultare – ascultarea credinţei” Evanghelia lui Dumnezeu nu este o alternativă la alţi dumnezei ci o solie a Împărăţiei de care vor fi judecate toate celelalte. Pavel spune: „Evanghelia este puterea lui Dumnezeu pentru mântuirea fiecăruia care crede.” (Romani 1: 16). Wright comentează: „Evanghelia nu este doar despre puterea lui Dumnezeu care salvează oameni, ci puterea lui Dumnezeu la lucru salvând oamenii”. Evanghelizarea este, prin urmare, vestirea că Isus cel crucificat şi înviat este Domnul.

El continuă: „imediat ce înţelegem aceste lucruri distrugem dintr-o suflare dihotomia dezastruoasă între ‚predicarea Evangheliei’ şi ceea ce a fost numit cu prea mare uşurinţă ‚acţiune socială’ sau ‚dreptate socială’.  Această înţelegere nou-testamentală a evanghelizării are implicaţii adânci asupra misiunii noastre practice. Nu mai putem înţelege evanghelizarea ca fiind doar cuvinte şi doar atât. Nu mai putem ţine evanghelizarea într-o mână şi dreptatea socială în cealaltă şi să susţinem că suntem credincioşi evanghelizării biblice. Nu mai putem democratiza evanghelizarea supunând-o opiniei publice pentru acceptare. Dimpotrivă, trebuie să acceptăm totalitatea evanghelizării biblice: Isus este Stăpânul a toate, va fi totul în toate şi acum răstoarnă împărăţiile acestei lumi cu sus-ul în jos.

Evanghelizarea este denunţare. Atunci când anunţăm totalitatea domniei lui Isus, denunţăm în mod simultan orice opoziţie a lui. Gustavo Gutierrez spune că biserica trebuie să: „facă denunţarea profetică a oricărei situaţii care dezumanizează, care  este contrară părtăşiei, dreptăţii şi libertăţii. Adevărul Evangheliei, s-a spus, este un adevăr care trebuie făcut. Autorul clarifică mai departe: „denunţarea se obţine prin confruntarea unei situaţii date cu realitatea care este anunţată: dragostea Tatălui care cheamă pe toţi la Christos şi prin acţiunea Duhului pentru a uni cu El pe toţi în comuniune.”3

Walter Wink contribuie la acest punct de vedere spunând: „evanghelizarea este întotdeauna o formă de acţiune socială. Este o componentă indispensabilă a oricărei lumi noi.”3 Aceasta înseamnă că Vestea Bună angajează şi provoacă toate persoanele, societăţile, structurile şi cosmosul. „Oricând se produce evanghelizarea în deplină cunoştinţă a Puterilor, fie în confruntarea celor aflaţi în poziţia de putere sau eliberând pe cei zdrobiţi de putere, proclamarea suveranităţii lui Christos este prin sine o critică la nedreptate, idolatrie…rezultă deci că schimbarea structurală nu este de ajuns; inima şi sufletul trebuie de asemenea eliberate, iertate, energizate şi reunite cu Sursa lor.” Înţelegem deplin că numai persoanele se pot căi şi Îl pot primi pe Christos dar persoanele sunt fiinţe sociale iar Evanghelia anunţă domnia lui Christos peste întregul cosmos incluzând aici societăţile lui, structurile şi sistemele. Wink continuă: „ acţiunea socială este întotdeauna evanghelizare dacă se produce în deplină cunoştinţă de suveranitatea lui Cristos asupra Puterilor.” E adevărat că pentru a fi adevărată această afirmaţie, este nevoie de mai mult decât de o simplă conştienţă a domniei lui Christos, arată totuşi nevoia de o schimbare paradigmatică în înţelegerea evanghelizării. „Isus nu a iertat doar pe păcătoşi ci le-a dat o lume nouă”, dacă această afirmaţie este adevărată, atunci putem elimina ideea că evanghelizarea şi acţiunea socială sunt două segmente sau componente ale misiunii.

David Bosch explică faptul că evanghelizarea este misiune dar că misiunea nu este doar evanghelizarea. De aceea, aceşti termeni nu trebuie egalaţi. Bosch arată că evanghelizarea trebuie plasată în contextul misiunii. Fiecare context cere ca Evanghelia să-i adreseze situaţiile specifice, cum ar fi: injustiţie, corupţie, avort, crimă, lăcomie, îmbuibare, droguri etc. „Evanghelizarea care separă oamenii de contextul lor vede lumea nu ca pe o provocare ci ca pe o piedică, nu dă valoare istoriei şi are ochi numai pentru aspectele non materiale ale vieţii.”

Bosch întreabă: „Care criteriu decide că rasismul şi injustiţia structurală sunt aspecte sociale dar pornografia şi avortul ar fi personale? De ce este evitată politica şi împinsă în afara competenţei evanghelistului cu excepţia momentelor când favorizează poziţia în societatea privilegiată? Se poate să ne fi re-definit noi evanghelizarea astfel încât să se potrivească stilului nostru de viaţă, se poate să fi pierdut noi evanghelizarea biblică pentru că este prea radicală? Evanghelizarea biblică este vestea bună a lui Isus pentru săraci, pentru cei închişi, şchiopi, surzi şi muţi; evanghelizarea biblică este invitaţia lui Isus de a-L urma şi de a deveni ucenici ai Lui; evanghelizarea biblică este chemarea lui Isus de a sluji în Împărăţia lui Dumnezeu; evanghelizarea biblică este chemarea la misiune.

Pavel ne îndeamnă în 2 Timotei 4:5 „fă lucrul unui evanghelist şi împlineşte-ţi bine slujba”. Din aspectele discutate în acest articol, este uşor de văzut cum misiunea noastră reflectă înţelegerea noastră asupra evanghelizării. Trebuie să descuiem cătuşele definiţiilor contemporane şi să căutăm să cunoaştem intenţia lui Dumnezeu pentru evanghelizare. El ne cheamă să anunţăm Vestea Bună prin proclamare, prezenţă, persuasiune şi anticiparea promisă a Duhului. Aceasta înseamnă că trebuie să denunţăm orice se opune Evangheliei; trebuie să fim holistici şi transformaţionali în evanghelizarea noastră; trebuie să facem evanghelizare în contextul misiunii.

Speranţa noastră stă în faptul că ne aşezăm ideile şi concepţiile greşite în faţa lui Isus pentru a fi transformate şi radicalizate. Isus este Evanghelia întrupată. El este întruparea Veştii Bune. El este punctul unde evanghelistul şi „evangel” sunt una. Rugăciunea noastră este ca prin Duhul Lui, să fim solii lui Christos anunţând venirea unui cer şi unui pământ nou, şi că Vestea Bună a Tatălui să fie într-adevăr Vestea Bună pentru lume.

The Atheism of Believers

By definition, atheism is the denial of God, a belief in the inexistence of God or the inability to believe in God. There are private atheists and militant atheists. (Personally, I have the same lack of patience for militant atheism as I do for militant fideism.) Yet, atheism doesn’t seem to be an option or a desire for most of the world’s population. Having traveled and lived in places where there is no hope except in a primordial cry for help – even in the face of that cry not being answered. This cry is an act of faith, of hope and of belief. So, while I do sympathize with protest atheism that protests the existence of God in an evil world and especially evil that is done in the name of God, I view atheism as a luxury made possible by individualistic cultures that see faith as a choice among other options and that desacralize and disenchant the world.

But it is relatively easy for people of faith to bash atheists, when we should recognize our own wrongheaded atheism. Let’s look at this oxymoron: believer’s atheism. The creation narrative found at the beginning of the Jewish Scriptures tells us that human beings are created in the image of God. Human beings – all of them – bear God’s image and likeness. The implication is that when we do not acknowledge the image of God in others, then we are practicing a different kind of atheism. Paradoxically, some atheists confer dignity to others – even to their enemies, while many so-called believers refuse. The believers’ atheism is most visible in their isolation from the poor, in their rejection of the stranger and immigrant, and in their inability to create space to relate to their enemies.

Being created in the image of God signifies a solidarity with all humanity. Through this basic dignity and vocation, God has offered us space to relate to one another – especially when we have fundamental disagreements with one another and are tempted to reject, hate and abuse.

So, we are called to a new kind of faith. We are called to denounce atheism that doesn’t believe in God’s image. And we are invited to believe in and to honor God by helping the poor, receiving the stranger and loving our enemy.

%d bloggers like this: