To Burn or Turn & Other Thoughts on Evangelism

Today will, I believe, be a truly rambling edition of "The Ramblings."  I want to share some thoughts today about evangelism in the 21st century.  That is, what does it mean for us to be a faithful witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in our world today.  As I write this (9/10/2010 at 5:54PM CST), the very latest news out of Gainesville, Florida is that Terry Jones has indefinitely suspended his planned "Burn the Qu'ran Day" event.  That's a relief.  Of course, the news on Jones has been changing pretty quickly, so I'm not holding my breath.
But, I think there is in this whole, ridiculous affair an important question about evangelism.  In the mind of Jones, burning the Qu'ran was a necessary step in proclaiming the truth about Jesus in our world today.  In his own words, "Why is there always room for discussion and discussion and discussion . . . why is there not sooner or later a time when we climb upon the mountain and we tear the altar down?"  Dr. James White, on the contrary recommends an approach that is drastically different. He believes that mature Christians should actually read and study carefully the Qu'ran in order to demonstrate to Muslims why it is not truly the word of God.  So the question with regards to the Qu'ran is, do we burn or turn -- the pages that is.  Jones and White recently had this brief exchange on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network:

I think the point made by David Wood at the end of this clip is quite compelling. Islam depends on the existence of uneducated and immature Christians who know neither the sound teachings of the Bible nor the actual teachings of Islam in order to spread.  Let me add to this a great insight made by Jochen Katz on the subject:

"Ideas cannot be fought by burning the books that contain them. Ideas and ideologies have to be fought by putting sound arguments against them. They can only be overcome by exposing their errors and/or immorality."

I commend to you the entire Katz article, "Cancel the 'Burn a Qur'an' Day! When Irresponsibility Meets Irrationality". It is well-reasoned and well-written.  At the end of the day, I come down well on the "turn" rather than the "burn" side of this debate.

Now, if you are looking for a bit more positive, I want to commend to you another article.  This is one of the advance papers for the 3rd Lausanne Congress and entitled "A Fresh Approach to Witness for the 21st Century: A Global Perspective."  It has been submitted by Rebecca Manley Pippert and Bishop Benjamin A. Kwashi, two of the truly great evangelistic leaders of the Church today.  The article does a great job of illustrating the need for the Church to have a renewed vision from the Lord about sharing the gospel.  The authors point out that "less than 2% of Europeans call themselves Evangelical Christians" and less than 5% of Australians attend church.  They articulate concern over the "prosperity gospel" that is often being proclaimed in Africa and much more.  The following video is meant to provide an introduction to the problem of "prosperity preaching" in Africa:
Pippert and Kwashi also make some great points about contextualization such as, "There is no such thing as a Christian culture or civilization." The provide some snapshots of evangelism issues from different parts of the world and ask compelling questions such as:
  • How do we communicate the absolute uniqueness of Christ in a country where there are many faiths or as in India, where there are literally thousands of gods and goddesses to worship?
  • How do we respectfully share our faith when our family is of another faith and where there is deep misunderstanding and prejudice concerning Christianity?
  • How do we present Christ to someone who finds the claims of truth offensive?
  • And more.
Most important for me where the comments made about confidence.  That followers of Christ must become confident that the gospel is not only for us but for the whole world.  That we must become confident in the fact that there is no greater power in the world than the power of the Holy Spirit.  That we must become confident in the power of the gospel message itself.

So, do take time to read the Pippert and Kwashi paper. And, I would love to hear from you any comments, questions, or views that you'd like to share on the issue of evangelism in the 21st century.

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