More on church and evangelism

Justin Taylor posts this thoughtful response to the place of evangelism in the gathered church:

Ken Stewart, professor of theological studies at Covenant College, posted a thoughtful comment below, which I thought was worth highlighting:

In the abstract, the argument of this post is unassailable. It has a weight of NT evidence behind it. But these are not the only considerations; one must at least have a curiosity as to how historical realities have factored in, at least since the age of Constantine. Since the era when ‘throne and altar’ became intertwined, evangelism in church has been ‘a propos’. Here’s why:

1. For those ministering in broad, comprehensive churches in which the spiritual status and allegiance of attenders is doubtful, you will have to preach the gospel for conversion Sunday by Sunday or miss your best opportunity. I find it paradoxical that among so many pastors serving in the broadly Reformed tradition, there is now such a strong push to focus on the Church as God’s covenant people that the presence of many nonbelievers in our services goes under-recognized and calls to repentance and faith are very rare. Even All Souls (London)-style “guest services” in which the gospel is cogently presented for the benefit of the curious are almost non-existent. Over- correction of course has brought about a new problem: dearth of gospel preaching.

2. For those determined to follow the counsel set out, please indicate where, and in what other venues you are preaching the gospel with a view to the conversion of your hearers if by your own admission, you will not belabor this in your Sunday services. If you can name open-air gatherings in parks and on beaches, accepted invitations to speak to service club luncheons and so on, then fine. But to fall into line behind this argument with no such preaching program in place is to join company with a very large company of perfectly orthodox preachers who no longer press the gospel on the unbelieving, because they limit their preaching to the edification of those who believe already.

3. Perfectly orthodox churches need to hear the gospel preached and to witness its power in transforming the curious and unbelieving. So many perfectly orthodox churches are ‘starved’ of the opportunity to observe people visibly responding to the gospel because that response is no longer sought. So, years pass into decades during which no one has been known to be effectually called under the preaching of the Word, because the preacher has not sought any such result.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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