Not long ago I finished working through Lesslie Newbiggin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. He had a sentence that jumped off the page in one of his chapters dealing with the logic of mission.
He begins by noting that there has been a long tradition of seeing the mission of the Church as primarily obedience to a command. While this certainly has justification, it can seem to make the mission a burden rather than a joy.
He then argues that, “If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possible be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? the mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving” (116).
He also points out that the majority of the proclamations of the Gospel in the book of Acts are done in response to questions asked by those outside the Church (116). “In every case there is something present, a new reality, which calls for explanation and so prompts the question to which the preaching of the gospel is the answer” (117).
I often find myself using the terminology of “telling the story” rather than “preach” when I talk with people about evangelism because the latter term has so much baggage related to giving sermons from behind a pulpit in a church building setting. This fits well with Newbigin’s “explosion of jo”” because our role is not to convert or to force anything on people, but rather to tell the story of what has happened in Jesus Christ.
The question then becomes how do we live and conduct ourselves in a way to raise questions in the minds of those who surround us? In the book of Acts these questions are primarily raised after some kind of supernatural intervention. Being present in real-life situations so that we can be the channel for God’s power to operate is critical to releasing his grace in lives and circumstances so that questions can be raised.