Tuesday, October 04, 2005

evangelism as process and event

My Friday blog post – found bears – became a sermon that compared the apostle Paul and the disciple Peter, conversion as event and conversion as process (Download file). Next week I want to explore the question: what does a church look like that takes seriously both event and process? For this week I just wanted to affirm that bears and people are found in unique ways. So much of contemporary evangelism seems to miss this point.

Posted by steve at 02:16 PM


  1. Hallelujah! I have to say this is one of my bugbears (pun intended). I have known some wonderfully gifted evangelists but they often seem to focus on the event and not the process.

    It’s heartbreaking and very confusing for me because we all serve the same God yet for some people (evangelists) the “Four points and a prayer” seems to be enough for them but in my view it robs people of the most amazing part of the gospel – the every day with Jesus aspect…

    ..and in the case of one person who is very close to me people focussing on the “getting a confession of faith” almost cost her her soul

    I’ll be looking forward to reading comments on this topic. Thanks for raising it Steve!

    Comment by Randall — October 4, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

  2. “..and in the case of one person who is very close to me people focussing on the “getting a confession of faith” almost cost her her soul ”

    I tried to bookend this comment with a rant indicator but it got filtered out – please note the above comment was me ranting and not intended to offend anyone…

    Comment by Randall — October 4, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

  3. I enjoyed reading your sermon very much. It raised a question in my mind though. We often stereotype Paul’s conversion to a moment on the Damascus road, but was it? Sure it was a dramatic moment that changed the course of his life, but did it start and end there.

    This is what we know of Paul before his blinding flash experience:

    • He was a pharisee and would have been well versed in Jewish history and scripture.
    • He was present when Stephen spoke about Jesus, using the Jewish history to explain his death and resurrection (Acts 7).
    • It is possible that he met Jesus, but we have no real evidence that he did.
    • After witnessing the death of Stephen he set out to Damascus, a long journey, probably on foot, though possibly on horseback.

    What did he think about on the way, we get a clue when Jesus speaks to him (recounted in his later rendition of the event). “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). The goads presumably refer to the emotional prods that Saul was receiving, like a farmer prodding (or goading) his ox with a stick.

    It looks to me like there was a process involved in the conversion of Paul, a process that ended in a blinding flash.

    Is conversion ever an event? In my mind, probably not. May I offer an alternate question for next weeks sermon: “What does a church look like that offers evangelism as a process and not an event?”

    Comment by Graham Doel — October 4, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

  4. Graham,
    I considered this in my preparation. Beverly Gaventa, who wrote From Darkness to Light, argued that Paul is a narrative of commission, not conversion. She points to some of the things you do, including that Paul is operating within a monotheistic, Scriptural (Old Testament) framework. But in the end I still think there is that much “dramatic” stuff in the Paul narrative — visions, voices, physical symptons — that it does form a contrast with quietly, quietly finding Jesus.

    I am also trying to focus on conversion as distinct from discipleship. That might in the end be an untenable dualism, but I want to at least push it for a while.

    Comment by Steve — October 5, 2005 @ 12:02 pm

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