Pastor-Evangelist: Individual Salvation, the Hallmark of Evangelism

   The word "slogan" is of Gaelic derivation. In its etymology, the word "slogan" means "battle cry."

   Warriors screamed their "slogan" as they ran toward the enemy to engage in the only combat mode available to them in days of yore; individual acts of courage, wherein one spilled the blood of an opponent or had one's blood spilled.

   A slogan was not a commercial jingle in those days.

   I guess the hardest things about "evangelism" is the "individual" act of courage. Once we used the phrase "soul winner," which, in turn, might imply that someone had to "lose." In fact, there is no such connotation. Personal evangelism is not an act of violence, but rather an act of charity, in which both the giver and the recipient benefit enormously.

   The "slogan" of the early Christian church is "Jesus Saves." Peter's announcement to the Council in Acts 4:12  is indeed a "battle cry," an individual statement of personal courage quite possibly costing him his life. We might benefit in acts of personal evangelism today if we could somehow change our "slogan" from things like "church is fun" to "this costs and it is not always really cool."

   I do not mean we have to display some archaic anomaly of Free Church Traditionalism made popular in the last fifty years and nowhere else occurring in church history. I do mean we need a battle cry, not a commercial jingle for the simple reason the demonstrable transformational quality of the modern gospel story is not worthy of a major change in one's daily schedule.

   The actor Brad Pitt says he goes to a Christian worship service (he is from Oklahoma) and sees displays of passion and zeal. He says he goes to a rock concert and sees the same display of passion and zeal. There is no difference, then, he thinks, between a Christian service of worship and a rock concert.

   Frankly, I wish I could see the same kind of passion in worship I see at rock concerts; people dressing like their favorite apostle, aping their idol's actions and repeating their songs. I see a lot of arguing about which songs we ought to sing and what instrumentation we ought to use. There is actually more unity at a rock concert.

   Writer's Note: Paragraphs like the one immediately above this one are the major reason I stay in trouble all the time. Do not attempt this activity at home in your pulpit or in your church newsletter. 

   Now, let us advance into the truly tendentious arena. The salvation Jesus offers is individual in orientation but intended to be lived out in a corporate model. A person comes to Christ and then alters his daily schedule to involve himself with Christians and to do Christian things. He ends up finding out Jesus is the enigma of all time for even Paul (no mean Christian himself) admitted he did not apprehend Jesus or things Christian but only kept chasing off after them because what he had found  was so meaningful to him he would alter his daily schedule.

   The putative Christ (messiah, anointed prince of God) and Yeshua of Nazareth embody the deepest conflict of Christianity; that what begins in the individual soul and so is deeply, subjectively personal, then has to find its expression within the dogmatic confines of the larger body, the Church, with its myriad expressions in local congregations.

   Does Jesus invite individuals to personal acceptance of His own doctrinal expression of the Messiah or does the Christ extend God-self to create a corporate body of acceptable belief, marred forever as Christianity moves from an organic, individually expressive romance between God and Humankind to a Book Religion? Yes, the two are not mutually exclusive and everyone who practices personal evangelism knows it. The personal evangelist first offers to his friend the offer of personal love God embodies (we talk an awful lot about the "body" of Christ, don't we?) and then teaches the new convert to solemnize his acceptance of this personal, romantic love within the boundaries of one Holy Catholic church, which we break into hundreds of tiny, universal quarks to fit our personal apprehension of the romance between us and God, which is what we thought we were getting in the first place.

   No? Is the bored, angry Free Church member who constantly attacks any movement of God in his church more or less repentant than the little Roman Universal practitioner who finds herself seated in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary on Resurrection Sunday and cries her eyes out? The Romantic Religionist in you insists the little Catholic girl is closer to God at that moment than the crazed church killer who would never cry to Mary.

   Why? You believe in a personal, romantic relationship between Personal God and Personal Human. This relationship is personal because God is real, really personal and really present and Humankind is so desperately in need of personal transformation. You won't find this change in church, certainly not from the church, though the Church is God's romantic ideal, with all its foibles.

   We need a slogan. No, not, "Church, the Sunday Night Place to Be." People saw through that one. No, any of the fifty other slogans we brand ourselves with for a season.

   We need a battle cry.

   Jesus loves you, this I know, for all of nature tells me so.





5 thoughts on “Pastor-Evangelist: Individual Salvation, the Hallmark of Evangelism”

  1. With respect to your “paragraph guaranteed to get one in trouble”, I find it singularly enlightening that folks will leave church early, or skip out altogether to take a kid to a soccer game, visit with relatives who come to town every other week, or stay at home because “it rained last night and don’t want to track mud into the church”, but will not leave the soccer game early to go to church, will not insist on the ‘company’ going to church with them (or stay home alone), or will not get out the umbrella to get from car to church door (this does not seem to deter folks from standing under an umbrella to see a 5 year old ‘scrum’ around a soccer ball on Sunday mornings).
    But that is just me. I think oddly.

  2. Also, I added a second blog post of my own for the week of evangelical posting
    Would ‘getta natural high with Jesus’ out of the sixties segue into ‘Share the Spirit with me’ for the Post mods.?

  3. It seems to me that we need to pay much more attention to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”(Mat 23:15 NIV) As I have understood the passage, it speaks of the tendency you have referred to in this article for even Christian groups such as our own denomination to move through the generations from relationship to “Book Religion”. The end result is not a pretty sight and does little to commend the faith to others.

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