Has the personal evangelism ship sailed?

[Note: article updated—see below.]

When I first arrived in Sydney in 1981 as a keen young curly-haired Christian from country NSW, I knew nothing about expository preaching or house-parties or quiet times or the importance of things being ‘helpful’, or any of the other commonplaces of modern evangelicalism.

And I had certainly never heard of ‘personal evangelism’—the idea that any Christian could be trained to explain the gospel to their friends and neighbours and family. And so it was with a mix of curiosity and excitement that I embarked on a new course that was just starting to do the rounds called Two Ways to Live. The course materials were fresh off the Gestetner,1 and there was no accompanying DVD (such things in those days still being in the realm of science fiction), but it was revolutionary for me, and for so many others. Not only did I come to understand the gospel clearly (probably for the first time), but I was trained to share that understanding with other people if and when I got the chance.

I don’t remember being particularly good at it—especially the part that involved showing some boldness with my non-Christian friends. But I learnt an enormous amount through the training, and I saw the world with new eyes. There were only two ways to live, which meant that the great multitude from every nation and tribe living in red-roofed houses all around me, sitting next to me on the bus, milling with me in the shopping centre—the vast majority of them were living as rebels against the God who made them, and doomed to face his judgement. And here I was in possession of the news that they desperately needed to hear.

I guess I was a young and inexperienced Christian, but it had never crossed my mind before that the gospel had been entrusted to me, simply by virtue of being a Christian disciple. And that the most loving and caring thing I could do for everyone around me was not to keep that glorious news to myself.

It also never crossed my mind that ‘personal evangelism’, and training people in it, might be a controversial or contested practice—but so it has become.

Over the past couple of decades, various evangelicals have contested the idea that every Christian should be taught and equipped to understand the gospel, and to be able to share the gospel personally with others. Perhaps this resistance has stemmed from a desire to preserve the importance and position of the ‘Evangelist’ as a singularly gifted and commissioned individual; or it may have been motivated by a desire to avoid placing an undue burden on everyday Christians, or to avoid making them feel guilty for not being Billy Graham.

Whatever the motivation, the ensuing debate has been dissatisfying and largely counter-productive. Often the question was framed as: “Is every Christian an evangelist?” I remember John Dickson (the ‘no’ case) and David Mansfield (the ‘yes’ case) debating this question in the pages of Southern Cross in the 90s. John made the legitimate point that ‘evangelists’ were special people in the New Testament, and that there was no explicit command anywhere for Christians to be evangelists or even to evangelize (using those terms). He concluded that it was therefore unreasonable to place this burden on Christians when the New Testament didn’t. David responded, also quite legitimately, by asking how as a matter of love Christians could not feel a burden to evangelize, given the plight of those around us and the saving news of the gospel that we have in our hands.

There was a palpable sense of two brothers both keen to see the gospel spread, but speaking past one another. But not only were debates like these usually without resolution, the consequences have been damaging. It is difficult, of course, to trace cause and effect in these matters—but it is hard to deny that the urgency and effort to train every Christian to be eager and equipped for personally sharing the gospel has dwindled over the past 15 years. It’s simply not on the agenda for most churches.

The problem, as so often is the case, was in the question and the way it was phrased. “Is every Christian an evangelist?” is not a question the New Testament seems interested to answer.

A much better question, and one which the Bible says a lot about, is this: “How does becoming a Christian change the way we speak in manner and content, to one another and to the world?”

 

Spirit speech

Spirit-filled people speak differently. This is one of the key characteristics of those who are in Christ, who are saved by him and are one with him, who live in the new age of the Spirit. We are liberated not only to live a new life but to speak new words.

This is because our words are an outpouring of who we are. As Jesus says: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). We speak new words because we have a new heart.

This is also why the characteristic activity of the Spirit-filled person throughout the Bible is prophecy. When the Spirit rushes upon you, the immediate impulse is to speak the word of the Lord. When God takes some of the Spirit that was on Moses, and puts it on the 70 elders, they break into prophecy, although it doesn’t last (Num 11:25). And when Joshua wants Moses to stop Eldad and Medad prophesying, Moses replies (I think with a hint of exasperation in his voice): “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29).

Moses’ wish comes true at Pentecost. As the Spirit falls upon all the gathered disciples, they begin to tell forth “the mighty works of God” in the languages of the nations that are gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:11). And when Peter explains to the stunned crowd what is going on, he makes clear that this extraordinary event is the fulfilment of the Old Testament hope that one day God would indeed put his Spirit on all his people, and that they would all prophesy: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Acts 2:17).

A few chapters later in Acts, the disciples are again gathered, and again the Spirit fills them, and again the result is speaking the word of God (i.e. prophecy):

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

What they had begun to do at Pentecost they continued to do through the work of the Spirit.

This Spirit-impelled speech also continues to feature in the early church, as the New Testament epistles describe it. In particular, the important passage in 1 Corinthians 12-14 describes and regulates this Spirit-filled speech. In 12:1-3, the Spirit opens our mouths to declare that Jesus is Lord—because only the Spirit can change our hearts to willingly submit to Jesus as Lord, and our mouths only reflect what is in our hearts. As the chapters unfold, Paul explains that because we have all been baptized by and in the one Spirit, we should manifest or give expression to the Spirit’s presence by acting in love for the common good. In particular, he urges us to be zealous for prophecy, because by prophecy (that is, speaking the word of the Lord under the power of the Spirit) we encourage and build others, including the outsider in our midst (14:24-25). Paul expects the Corinthians to come to their gatherings with intelligible words to say (whether in the form of “a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation”), and he wants them to use these words for edification, for ‘building’ (14:26).

The same picture emerges elsewhere in the NT, although we can only mention some examples briefly here:

  • In Ephesians 4, the result of the Christ’s work in us through the Spirit is that we speak the truth in love to one another and to our neighbours (4:15, 25); our speech should be fashioned according to the need of the occasion, and have one aim in mind: “that it may give grace to those who hear” (4:29).
  • One chapter later, Paul urges us to be filled by the Spirit, with the result that we speak to one another (in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs) and give thanks to God always and for everything (5:18-20).
  • In a similar vein, the consequence of the word of Christ dwelling richly among the Colossians is that they will be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col 3:16), as well as being ready to speak a gracious and salty word to outsiders as they interact with them (4:5-6).

To put it another way, when God pours his Spirit upon us, he radically re-shapes us at the deepest level—at the level of what the Bible calls our ‘heart’; the centre of our thoughts and will and personality. He springs us from the dark and delusional prison we were trapped in. He fills our hearts with his own presence, with his Spirit, and sets us free to live under the bright blue sky of the truth.

Christ-centred, Christ-exalting, Christ-filled speech is simply an exercise of the freedom of the Christian. It will be variegated—as variegated as we are in our linguistic abilities, our education, our background, our circumstances, our opportunities—but it will also be a universal consequence of being filled by the Spirit.

The nature of this speech is that it will meet the need of our hearer (as Eph 4:29 says), giving grace to the one who hears. But this brings us to the next logical question: which hearer? Is the new Spirit-impelled speech of the Christian mainly directed to other Christians, or to non-Christians as well?

In one sense, simply to ask this question is to answer it. Can we think of any possible reason why we should speak the powerful liberating word of the Lord only to our Christian brothers and sisters?

But here, too, it is easy to fall victim to a misleading dichotomy, as if the categories ‘Christian’ and ‘non-Christian’ are the only two relevant ones.

 

Moving everyone to the right

It is quite correct to say that there are only two kinds of people in the world—those who in the words of Two Ways to Live are living ‘Way A’ (rebelling against God, facing his judgement) and ‘Way B’ (submitting to and trusting in Jesus, forgiven by God).

But it is also true that within those two broad categories there is a wide spectrum of difference. There those who are ‘far away’ from Christ, either never having heard his name, or having fiercely and outrageously rejected him; and there are those who are “not far from the kingdom”, perhaps in the process of investigating the claims of Christ and coming to understand their implications. There are also people at all sorts of places in between.

Now at one level, every person needs to hear the same word—about Jesus. But how we speak to someone ‘far away’ and someone on the verge of becoming Christian will obviously be different. The first step with someone who is far away may simply be befriending them and letting them get to know you as a Christian.

The same is true with Christians—there is a spectrum. There are new Christians, growing Christians, struggling Christians, weak and suffering Christians, Christians needing a spiritual size-12 boot applied to the backside, and so on. And each one needs a word that meets them where they are, and helps them to press forward towards the goal.

What is that goal? It is captured in Paul’s brilliant personal mission statement in Colossians 1: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).

Our desire and intention for each person we know or meet is the same: out of love, we want them to be ‘in Christ’, and not only in him, but mature in him.

We could represent all this in what I’ve been calling the ‘moving to the right’ diagram:

Our desire for each person—no matter where they are on the spectrum—is that he or she might move to the right, towards Christ and maturity in him. And so the words we speak are aimed at doing that—at helping each one to take a step to the right, even just one step; to make progress from where they are to where we long and hope and pray that they would be.

Another way of putting this is that every disciple of Jesus has the joyful privilege and commission to disciple others—to help them come to know God in Christ, and then (once converted) to grow in that knowledge, obeying all that Christ has commanded (c.f. Matt 28:18-20). This discipling typically happens one step at a time, one word at a time, one prayer at a time.

This is love—to seek not our own good but the good of others. And what is their good? It is always to move towards maturity in Christ.

This way of thinking re-frames the old “Is every Christian an evangelist?” debate. It asks instead, “Should every Christian, with prayer and by the power of the Spirit, speak the truth in love so as to move their hearers to the right?”

The Bible’s answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”. This, however, leads to another (and our last) question.

 

Can you train someone to do this?

Is this kind of Spirit-inspired speech something you can teach? Or is it, as a work of the Spirit, something that God does in and through someone?

Should we urge and exhort and train people to be intentional in speaking to others to move them to the right? Or is this something that arises spontaneously as a gift of God, as a manifestation of the presence of his Spirit?

The answer to all these questions is “Yes”. We tend to see our effort and God’s work in us as alternatives, but the Bible sees them as two angles or perspectives on the same action. Two classic verses will suffice to make this point:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)

 

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:12-14)

We have an obligation or debt to put to death the deeds of the body (to work out our salvation in fear and trembling), but it is God by his Spirit who is working in us, and leading us to do this. From our angle or perspective, we are working hard to rid ourselves of the sinful behaviour of our old life; from God’s angle, he is working in us, leading and prompting and enabling us to do this.

These two angles or descriptions of the one action are not opposed or contradictory. They are quite compatible (which is why this way of thinking about human responsibility and God’s sovereignty is sometimes called ‘compatibilism’).

So it is with our Spirit-filled speech as Christians. It is a manifestation of God’s liberating work in our hearts by his Spirit; and yet it is also something we should be zealous to seek and to cultivate (1 Cor 14:1). It is God’s work in us, and yet it is also our work in him. Like every other aspect of Christian discipleship, it is something we need to strive to do, to be encouraged and admonished to do, to be taught and trained to do, even as we trust in God to lead and enable us to do it.

Is this a useful way of getting past the old and discouraging debates about whether every Christian is an evangelist? I hope that you agree it is.

However, further questions remain. In particular, you may be asking yourself two sorts of questions:

  1. If all Christians are Spirit-filled speakers, what of the theology of gift? Surely it is true, in both the Bible and our experience, that we are all different, and have different gifts. Isn’t that the point of 1 Corinthians 12-14? So what aspects of Spirit-filled speech do all Christians share, and what is the role of teachers and evangelists?
  2. Given that we know what we’re trying to train people to do, how exactly do we do that? Or is ‘training’ just shorthand for a course like Two Ways to Live?

Next issue we’ll turn to these and other practical issues, but in the mean time, why not commit to thinking who you could speak the truth in love to, in order to encourage them to move a step towards maturity in Christ?


[UPDATE:]

Hi everyone,

I’ve been off the air doing other things over the past few days; so sorry for not responding to particular questions and comments. A few final thoughts:

  • First, my apologies for the somewhat brusque tone of a couple of my responses above. I confess to being a little frustrated that rather than discussing the merits (or otherwise) of my attempted re-framing of the questions, many of the comments related to personalities and the old debate and the history of the past 15 years—the very things I was hoping we might step lightly past in order to have a new conversation about Christian speech. Perhaps it was a vain hope; or perhaps the fault was mine in the way I introduced the article. Or perhaps that’s just one of the limitations of comment threads. I am certainly aware of my own limitations in trying to interact in this way.
  • Some have suggested that what I am proposing is basically a re-statement of my side of the former debate. Others have suggested the opposite—that my position in this article has now become indistinguishable from the other side of the former debate. So I’m a tad confused about that.
  • All in all, speaking historically, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the debates of the past 15-20 years or so (including John’s widely read book on the subject) focused largely on the part every Christian should play in God’s mission with respect to the role of ‘evangelist’. The question was framed in terms of seeking to differentiate ‘evangelism’ per se (that is, what an ‘evangelist’ does) from the multi-faceted obligations and contributions of all Christians to the mission of God. My article did not interact with this debate or approach, but sought to address the question from a different angle—from the perspective of the Spirit’s power to transform Christian speech, so that as a matter of Christian love and maturity we seek to speak the truth in love to one another and to our neighbours, according to our opportunities and circumstances (in constant prayerful dependence on God and his Spirit, as Lauren helpfully emphasised). I continue to hope that this will be a more helpful and productive perspective, because it is better anchored biblically and theologically. But I will leave it to readers to make that assessment.

That’s all from me.

Warm regards,

TP

  1. For readers under 35, Gestetner duplicators were the fashion of the time, especially among churches and schools. Think of a steam-driven photocopier.

69 thoughts on “Has the personal evangelism ship sailed?

  1. Great article, couldn’t agree more.

    It’s interesting that Paul is eager to “preach the gospel” to the saints in Rome, given the fact that they are among those who are called to belong to Jesus (Rom. 1:6) and Paul has already noted their faith, which is reported all over the world (Rom. 1:8). I wonder if the “harvest” (lit. “have some fruit”) that Paul seeks to have amongst them is not only a harvest of conversion but also maturity (Rom. 1:13).

    “Evangelism”, it seems, calls us into the “obedience of faith” throughout our Christian lives. This is how Paul seeks to present everyone mature in Christ.

  2. Tony, so very glad you seek to bring your thoughts captive to the word of God and that God enables you to do so.
    .
    Thanks for the challenge and encouragement on such a serious issue.
    M & D

  3. I wonder if we read into “evangelist” too much. Very often the NT uses the word with no explanation, such as in Ephesians 4:11. Can anyone think of passages which explain what is mean by the word?

    Or is the meaning not really in doubt… was it used outside of a Christian context like “evangel” was? If so, is “evangelist” really the best translation?

  4. It is sometimes said that there are two types of people in the world – those who think that there are two types of people in the world, and those who don’t.

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  6. Tony, I loved this paragraph…

    Christ-centred, Christ-exalting, Christ-filled speech is simply an exercise of the freedom of the Christian. It will be variegated—as variegated as we are in our linguistic abilities, our education, our background, our circumstances, our opportunities—but it will also be a universal consequence of being filled by the Spirit.

    Sadly I think the answer to your opening question is yes, we have turned our personal evangelistic responsibility into “Thou shalt invite your friend to our evangelistic event”. And because we Christians are affected by the consumerist culture we live in, mostly we won’t even consider issuing that invitation unless the event is organised to a very high quality, with just the right topic and angle, with only the best marketing, and of course, requiring a top name speaker. And then only if it’s convenient to our busy diaries.

    I speak as a guilty party. As a church leader, I have sometimes over-emphasised ‘guest events’ and contributed to the inflationary expectations of standards at such events. Of course, I am keen for good gospel events to continue (they are better than poorly organised ones with unhelpful preaching!) But…

    We all need to get back to speaking about Jesus and God in all sorts of ways.

  7. Good article as always, Tony.

    Regarding evangelistic events, almost everyone I can think of who has become a Christian at my church in the last 5 years has done so at an event, or as a result of an event (usually Introducing God, which we run 1 or 2 times year). I can’t think of anyone who has become a Christian as a result of primarily one on one. It takes a village.

    Regarding “personal evangelism”, I’d like to tell a story. After I finished school I spent a brief amount of time selling house alarms door to door, to raise some money before university. We were trained in a tract to go through (somewhat like two ways to live, but for alarm installations) and off we went. I very, very quickly realised that the problem wasn’t making the final sale with the tract, the problem was getting past the front door. No-one had an easy answer for how to do that.

    I think this is where our personal evangelism training (such as 2WTL) has a big hole in it. It tells you how to “make the final sale”, but has little to tell you about how to get to the point where you can make your pitch. Unfortunately, this latter part of the process is by far the most difficult.

  8. Sandy and Craig, I think you both make good points.

    I get very discouraged about evangelism. It’s hard to remember even once when I’ve been able to move a non-Christian rightwards. I think there are two factors which make evangelism very difficult in Australia today:

    1. We live in a post-community society. I doubt there are many suburbs in our cities which are actually communities.
    2. Apatheism is by far the biggest religion of Australia, and it is so very hard to even start a conversation with an apatheist about Jesus.

  9. This is a really great article and lots of food for thought so thank you.

    I think one thing that we shouldn’t forget is that evangelism doesn’t just entail explaining two ways to live to a non-christian or holding the best guest event and perfectly articulating the gospel to someone.

    Every christian is an evangelist because their lives- the decisions they make, the way they speak, their mood/temperament- are evangelising to the world. It is only upon reflecting on the life and character of a christian that a non-christian person would be willing to listen to the beautiful treasure found in the gospel.

  10. Tangentially related, I thought Randy Newman also had a point over at TGC when he warned against reducing personal evangelism to ‘sharing your testimony’, which is such a popular starting point these days.

  11. Dear all,
    Whatever one thinks of the results of that ‘debate’ I was involved with, my own view, for what it’s worth, is that the demise in personal evangelism in our circles is partly the result of people continuing, despite my best efforts, to bang on about every Christian being an evangelist. This effort collapsed under its own weight. By placing too much on the average Christian, it paralysed Christians. It gave so much force to ‘personal evangelism’ that believers ran a mile from it.
    Frankly, I believe wider acceptance of a more biblical approach to this question – emphasising good deeds, prayer, financial support of evangelism, defending and answering for the faith when opportunity invites, and the specialised role of the evangelists – would have kept personal involvement in gospel work far more on the agenda.
    So, how about we give these ideas a good go for the next 15 years and see what happens :-)
    Blessings,
    John

    • I think there’s something to what you’re saying, but I can’t help thinking that running away from evangelism shows such a distinct lack of faith in God and his word that I have to ask whether such a person is in fact saved — if you want to run away from telling people about your God then has the Spirit transformed you even in the slightest way?

    • Hi John

      Thanks for the response, but (as the article makes pretty clear) I’m not really interested in re-starting the former debate, which I think wasn’t well framed. Nor do I think there is any value in arguing over what factors caused what — as I said in the article, it’s just too difficult to tell. (Your version of the history seems a bit fanciful to me — who are all these people who have been banging on about every Christian being an evangelist over the past 10 years?! — but you are entitled to your view. I just don’t see how there is much to be gained by debating it.)

      My article is a proposal to move beyond the former categories and debates, and to ask some new and (I argue) more useful and biblically coherent questions — about the whole nature of our speech as Spirit-filled people.

      I’d be more interested in your thoughts about the actual substance and argument of the article.

      Best wishes

      Tony

      • Tony, I don’t think that’s fair to John. You criticise his work as contributing to the problem, and then deny him the opportunity to defend his position.

        Plus, I can’t see anything substantially different from your perspective above about moving people to the right and the points he makes in “Promoting the Gospel”. From my reading of his book and your post, the “new, more useful and biblically coherent” questions you raise are substantially the same as the ones he raised and addressed in his book a number of years ago, and so I think it’s fair for him to take issue with your criticism, and to challenge the way in which you have might have misunderstood the substance of his position.

        • Hi Chris

          Just quickly:

          1. I’m not denying John any opportunity to respond or defend himself. He has offered his own take on the history, and what led to what—which he is quite free to do (and to keep doing if he wants). I am only making the request that at some point we discuss the actual substance of my article rather than focusing on a passing comment in a scene-setting introduction; that we talk about the theology rather than the personalities and the history.

          2. My approach in this article was to re-frame the issue as part of the larger question of how the Spirit liberates Christians to speak the truth in love, whether to one another or to the world. Now this approach may be inadequate or unconvincing or brilliant – that’s what I’d actually like to see some discussion about! — but it is certainly quite different from John’s angle and argument in Promoting the Gospel.

          Hope that helps.

          Tony

          • Tony, I think you should probably consider talking to John about this one. From my POV, it looks like he is a might disappointed that he was referenced in this article – clearly you’ve hit a nerve.

            If you do insist on using the names of others in your articles, you really must consider that they may take what is written to heart and therefore comment on what has been said.

            It’s irrelevant as to whether you used him as part of a “scene setting introduction”, the fact remains that it appears John believes you are saying that he was a large contributor to the death of “personal evangelism”.

            I’d urge you to talk to John personally – this doesn’t look great to a lot of folks who read both John and your own material. I happen to be one of them.

          • Hi Tony, thanks for the article. I enjoyed hearing you on this at AFES Staff Conference too.

            I’m with Chris Jones on this one. I think the terminology is different but your ‘moving to the right’ and John’s ‘promoting the gospel’ really end up in the same place as far as I can see.

    • John, you write:

      “By placing too much on the average Christian, it paralysed Christians. It gave so much force to ‘personal evangelism’ that believers ran a mile from it.”

      This to me epitomizes the underlying problem of much that is said in opposition to the idea that every Christian is an evangelist. Basically, it’s an argument that lets pragmatics take priority over scripture. It may well be the case that in our affluent, lukewarm culture that the push for evangelism has made people run a mile, but that’s our problem. I pray that God, by his Spirit, would make us people who consider it a great joy and privilege to be counted worthy to suffer for speaking in the name of Jesus. If God wills to even give us another 15 years before it’s too late, then maybe we should pray like mad that we get over the idolatry of the all mighty comfort zone, and get on with the joyful work of suffering for the Name.

      • That’s a bit unfair, John. Both sides of these discussions argue pragmatically as a part of their larger case.

        For the ‘everyone an evangelist’ it’s the pragmatic argument about ‘letting people off the hook’ of evangelism. For the ‘not everyone an evangelist’ it’s ‘guilt tripping people’.

        Pragmatic arguments have their place. They don’t necessarily undermine Scripture. Even your analysis that lukewarmness and affluence is the problem is really a pragmatic argument.

        • Hey Mikey – a fair point if you are correct. But I disagree with you. As so often is the case, this is an argument about Scripture. I certainly see 1 Corinthians 11:1 as a command (among other verses). So ‘letting people of the hook’ is disobedience to Scripture, not pragmatism.

        • Hi Mikey,

          2 quick things.

          1. My name is Ben.

          2. I said that the ‘epitome’ of the argument, in my opinion, relies on pragmatic considerations. This is different from saying that pragmatic considerations have no place in the argument.

          • 1. Sorry, Ben! :-)

            2. I think that’s hard to establish.

            3. I wasn’t referring to ‘letting off the hook’ in objective terms (ie ‘Is there an objective command that puts people on the hook?’)

            Rather, I was referring to the pastoral argument that evangelism is so hard that if we don’t tell everyone they have to do it, they just won’t. There was something of this in Tony’s original post.

          • Mikey – I almost feel like apologising that you have to deal with two Pakulas (we don’t normally do this)! Just want to go on record to say that I don’t see obedience to God’s word as (merely) pragmatic!

  12. The role of an evangelist is set by God given giftedness. God has gifted people to be evangelists. Others he has gifted to be administraters, teachers etc. This role of evangelism is not everyones role. We are however, required to give a defence for the hope we have in Christ, to build relationships with those who dont know him, to invite them to things where the gospel is preached, to introduce Jesus to them through how we live and speak. This is different to being an evangelist.

    • There is clearly a special role of an Evangelist, but I’m not convinced that our traditional understanding of that role is correct. I asked above, and am still interested in answers, if there are passages that explain what the Evangelist is? Many passages are like Ephesians 4:11 — they use the word but don’t explain it.

      Could Eph 4:11 be talking about the gospel writers? Could it be talking about those who publicly preach? Could it be talking about those who teach the gospel in particular? I don’t know. Any ideas?

  13. Is John Dickson perhaps suggesting that forced evangelism doesn’t in fact work and it not only drives non Christians away from the Christian church it also drives many to not want to try a faux or forced witness under the pressure they should be some fantastic evangelist. Better to share with others the call of God than the push and shove approach …….perhaps?

  14. Hi Tony – thanks for the thoughtful article on a vital eternal topic
    Quick thoughts.
    You would need some evidence rather than evidence-free conjecture that the view JD argued is the cause for an apparent lack of personal evangelism. You might be right that there is less of it going on, i don’t know. I fear it is a deeper issue than that.
    I found a real reluctance in my heart to get involved in this discussion for i fear being given another bad mark against my name. I was in some fine circles of Christian leaders then and i heard a number of gently put, but quite naughty slanderous accusations whispered against John – so i wrote my first ever letter to Souther Cross saying that even if JD is wrong – he is simply asking us to be genuinely Protestant – like the Bereans.
    In the end i found his arguments much closer to the NT argument. I slowly and reluctantly was moved.
    I used to teach with great passion the view you are defending and that David M well defended all those years ago. But when i was working with Chappo ad teaching courses in personal evangelism (which i still do often) i wanted to argue from a couple of clear scripture.
    I was frustrated that they were just not, to my knowledge, clear self-evident commands – to get out and seek ops to talk about our beloved Saviour. Some excellent ones about being ready to answer and how we are to support the gospel etc. Tony the verses you have marshalled still fail to say clearly even once what you are pushing for (though much of the basic scriptural work was very strong and nourishing). We argue it logically, serious “big people” have said to me “but Ian it is just so obvious – it didn’t need to be said” Ahh here the cat is really out of the bag and he has no clothes on. You’d think, given the nature of God as seen in the Cross etc that we would never ever need to be told to love our neighbours …. but Paul and John and Peter etc never ever think – No thats so obvious. They bang on and on and on abotu the screamingly obvious. But not once – a clear command. Fianlly i had to face the fact I can’t lay on God’s children, no matter how good my intent, what God does not – MTC, DB Knox taught me that was the road to well intentioned damage.
    So often good Christians, having been told again and again to do it – muscle up the nerve at work – do it badly, often lacking any relational warmth – it goes badly and they retreat and learn to live with a bit of guilt. They have told me. But they aren’t doing that again. Preach people happy in Jesus, urge them to love their neighbours, to spend time with their unsaved friends, to be prepared (1Peter3) and generally God and Jesus stuff will come up. The way of God’s word is the only way – and it works.

    • Hi Ian

      See my reply to John’s response (above).

      I’m not sure whether you’ve carefully read the article, because it is certainly not another salvo in the old debate (as to whether there is a clear command in Scripture etc etc.).

      I’m proposing a re-framing of the discussion around some better questions that the Bible actually does have some clear answers to.

      Warm regards (and no black marks from me!)

      Tony

  15. “Over the past couple of decades, various evangelicals have contested the idea that every Christian should be taught and equipped to understand the gospel, and to be able to share the gospel personally with others.”

    I do find it extraordinary that John Dickson should be characterised as a leading exponent of the ‘no’ case for this. For me as a youngster who came under his influence at St Clement’s Mosman; it was his ‘gospel bites’ instruction and his encouragement to adorn the gospel with matching actions (love the people you tell about God’s love; be generous to those you tell about God’s generosity, etc.) that opened up personal evangelism as something I could do. And the release he gave from that terrible motivator, guilt, to simply do this as a natural part of life; and the need to get ‘the whole story’ (2WTL) out every time, meant I started enjoying it – letting my speech be seasoned rather than programmed.

    On the other hand, the training I received around 2WTL on mission crushed me with guilt and inadequacy; and demonstrated a ‘sales’ approach to evangelism that even then as a young man struck me as incredibly un-gospel-like. It was so uninvested in people – they were treated as such disposable prospects – that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at all after the missions were done. And when I thought that was personal evangelism – drawing six boxes and making them listen to the whole pitch – I didn’t do it at all for ages until John suggested a more commendable way.

    In short, it was John who taught and equipped me to understand the gospel, and to share the gospel personally with others. He makes a pretty poor example of a ‘no’ case. He simply combined this training with a liberating (and accurate) reading of the New Testament which showed that such evangelism was a joyful possibility rather than a crushing obligation.

    • Hi Matthew

      I notice on Facebook that John is encouraging everyone to post over here in his defence. It is loyal and good of you to do so, but I don’t think he has anything to feel defensive about. I certainly don’t hold him personally responsible for a decline in evangelism (!), and my brief mention of him and David Mansfield in the introduction was merely to set the scene for the substance of the article — which is a plea to move on from the former debates and to ask some different (and I suggest better) questions.

      I can’t quite bring myself to respond point-by-point to your caricatures about 2 ways to live, except to say that you must have been taught it very poorly by someone who didn’t read the leaders’ manual!

      With warm regards

      Tony

      • At the risk of sounding more ‘defensive’, Tony, I certainly was not “encouraging everyone to post over here in his/my defence”. I simply told two of the folk who posted great responses on my page to go and say it where it counted, at the bottom of your piece, which they did.
        Cheers,
        John

        • Hi John. Fair enough, and sorry about that. I was feeling a bit irritated about the direction the comment thread was heading, and fell into exaggeration. That will never, ever, ever happen again!

          Mind you, did you think your line about people continuing ‘to bang on about every Christian being an evangelist’ might have had a similar feel to it … ?

          Warm regards

          TP

  16. I don’t think the debate caused personal evangelism to lose steam. I think the “personal evangelism” (PE) idea quietly died as people found it next to impossible in practice. From observation, I’d say most people rationalised away their lack of evangelistic practice, while still listening and nodding to sermons on the subject.

    If the PE idea worked, we’d all be doing it. But success is elusive or non-existent for most people in this field. Most people can only tolerate so much failure and rejection. PE never dealt with this in a compassionate way.

    My church sees 3 or 4 people a year become Christians (which I’m told is actually quite rare). Every conversion I can recall has been through Introducing God (which is based on TWTL). The laity have contributed to this via inviting friends and family to the course.

    Perhaps both John and Tony would see this pattern as endorsement of their theory. If so, there is more overlap in ideas than is being acknowledged – if not in theory, at least then in practice.

    blessings,
    Craig

    • Hi Craig

      Ditto with my comment to John and others — it’s really hard to say what has caused what. For example, did the boom in courses (like Alpha and Introducing God) come as a result of a decline in personal witnessing, or was it one of the causes?

      I really don’t know how you would find the data to answer a question like that. And (can I say once again) it’s not really the point or substance of the article.

      Warm regards

      Tony

  17. Sorry – didn’t sign with my full name!

    Something else occurred to me – the focus in the diocese over the last 10 years has been on planting churches as a means of growth. I remember six years ago that Andrew Katay got up in Synod and said that it’s all very well planting churches, but no-one seemed to know how to *grow* a church.

    Perhaps this focus has also led to a decline in PE.

    blessings,
    Craig Schwarze

  18. Hi Tony – Hope i wasn’t too harsh back there.
    Another quite different thought if i got your drift “back when i came to Sydney it was all gung ho and now – not so much” It may be that it seemed that way – a young man has little view of the Sydney wide church – rightly he has (you had) his head thoroughly in the church or group where he is at. Only as we get old do we begin to think about, worry about the broader church.
    If you were at UNSW and Matthias under Philip’s leadership it would have been the hottest evangelistic zone – i imagine at that time that many churches were as asleep as now – perhaps.
    There is something to be reflected in the above idea that banging on about church planting for 10 years (though much was also said abotu PE) may have had the unintended consequence of moving PE to a back seat.
    All the churches i have been involved in (mostly not on staff) over oast decades have been thoroughly on about evangelisation. Sometimes i feel in a way that is sadly been counter productive.
    But i think there is a real maliase across our churches, and minsters and those who lead us must own up to being part of the problem – like Robbie Deans must with the Wallabies.
    God knows how on earth we can go forward but it is a far deeper problem than a debate about how we seek to save the lost – i think

  19. To comment on Tony’s “re-framing”, I have to honestly say that it doesn’t seem very different to Personal Evangelism of the old days. I know that’s not what you want to hear, and you might just skip over this comment, but I fear it is true.

    In your diagram, you use “spirit-inspired speech” to move someone from far-away, to contact, to talking, to the gospel. And you say this is our intention with everyone.

    This seems to me to be Personal Evangelism 101 – no different to what you read in the 2WTL training manual. I think you’ve given a different label to pretty much the same thing.

    Would it be right to say that your position hasn’t changed – you just want to get rid of some baggage-ridden terminology?

    blessings,
    Craig

  20. Not interested in the debates at the moment. (Getting old.) Just say this: everyone read each other as generously as possible, and well done to many who have tried.

    Still personally loving this paragraph of Tony’s article.

    Christ-centred, Christ-exalting, Christ-filled speech is simply an exercise of the freedom of the Christian. It will be variegated—as variegated as we are in our linguistic abilities, our education, our background, our circumstances, our opportunities—but it will also be a universal consequence of being filled by the Spirit.

    Variegation and freedom. I like it. Both certainly of the Spirit. So too Christ-exalting… Good to apply to our speaking. Thanks.

    • Loving that paragraph too Sandy… A great pick out of the article. It would have been great to see it be the “flavour” of the whole thing.

    • I appreciated that paragraph too, Sandy.

      In the end it may be pretty close to something John Dickson said in his book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission (p. 148): “Each of us should speak of Jesus as our personalities, abilities and opportunities allow, confident that, as we do, God’s Spirit will work through us.”

      Just coming back to Tony’s article, I wonder if then, all Christians should be continually equipped to speak of Jesus, but that all Christians should not be trained or expected to engage with the world in the same way.

      It will be interesting to see where Tony goes with it.

    • Yes, me too. I quoted that paragraph last night at a one-to-one bible reading training event.

      David Swan

  21. Where is the love in all of this? Where is the body with many parts? Where is the depth of understanding that comes with experience?

    From what I have experienced the priorities taught to young Sydney christians revolve around telling other people they have gone astray – with the excuse of “speaking the truth in love”. They often have an all-knowing confidence that they understand the answers to the big questions in life – while at the same time having very little exposure to or understanding of the every day struggles of real people. How can encouraging these people to go and “speak about Jesus” to anyone and everyone be anything other than a recipe for disaster?

    I’m sure some young people are good at it, but most have so much to learn if they are to be able to speak to others in an understanding and loving way (especially if bible study and youth group are about as far as their life-experience goes).

    While I agree that “Christ-centred, Christ-exalting, Christ-filled speech is simply an exercise of the freedom of the Christian.” .. I hate to think that so many young people are out there thinking that what they say is always “Christ-filled” just because they believe in God. So many things I have heard from people who think that have been judgemental, and shown up their own basic lack of life experience.

    • “Where is the love in all this?”

      Surely it’s in sharing the gospel of grace with people who need to hear it, even if they are temporarily offended by the idea that they are in need of saving.

      Yes, we all have a lot to learn when it comes to Christ-centred, Christ-exalting, Christ-filled speech. But I’m afraid I’m far more optimistic than you seem to be about the ability of young people to get this right – especially when taught/mentored well.

      By the way, commenting policy is that you use your full name.

      • Hi Ian,

        Thanks for your reply and the heads-up on the commenting policy – perhaps it needs to be near the name field when leaving a comment?

        I wonder if it is necessarily true that the act of “sharing the gospel” is always loving? On the surface it seems crazy to think otherwise. But in reality, some of us are good at sharing it, some OK .. and some are probably better doing other things. If, as Christians, the focus is only on sharing the gospel at all costs then I think we are missing a very large part of the message itself.

        Given a short interaction with someone, I can barely imagine anyone who would respond well to a message that “they are in need of saving”. Temporarily offended would be one of the better outcomes. Do we have such little respect for the value of the lives of non-christians that that’s all we see them as? The “un-saved”? What about a message that “they are loved”?

        Personally I have found few opportunities to “share the gospel” with others in a literal way, but boundless opportunities to share God’s love. Can we not encourage fellow Christians to help others know God’s love, through charity, understanding and personal relationships? God works through all these things.

        He even works through the humble people who prepare morning tea at Church for example. Are we right to look down on them if they do not mention the Gospel as they pour each and every coffee? Perhaps a focus more on humility and service would go a long way to forming relationships, and as a result provide deeper and deeper opportunities to show God’s love, and hence His grace.

        • Hi Stuart

          I think you are setting up something of a “straw man” or “straw gospel-sharer” – one who focuses “only on sharing the gospel at all costs” and whose message is “they are in need of saving” without ever mentioning God’s amazing grace and love. (The two must and will always go together when rightly understood: God’s righteousness and his love.)

          The Apostle Paul does seem to be saying something quite close to your binary view of only seeing people as “un-saved” in 2 Cor 5 (esp v16). But I don’t think he would say that is “_all_ he sees them as”. He is the same Apostle who wrote 1 Cor 13 after all.

          And your straw man never seems to show any kindness or compassion – just speaks a harsh message of condemnation. Again, evangelism and care and concern go together – as has often been argued in The Briefing (here for example). But a message needs to be communicated: “how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14)

          God does indeed work through acts of compassion – which we must encourage, not “look down upon”, because they are wonderful fruits of the gospel. But in the end, my act of kindness to my neighbour is such a pale reflection of God’s mercy to me, that at some point for my neighbour to grasp God’s love for them I need to explain what Christ has done and why.

          I’ve never met a Christian yet who isn’t capable of speaking in some small way to help people improve slightly in their understanding of God’s love in Christ, even if our abilities and opportunities vary in this area. Which brings us nicely back to the point of Tony’s article.

        • Stuart, I’m sorry if your own experience of people sharing the gospel has been somewhat negative. It’s certainly true that some preach Christ with wrong motives (Phil 1:15-18) and in ungodly ways (1 Pet 3:15-16). I’ve been guilty of it too.

          But I hope we can find a way not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

          • Hi again Ian, I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but it’s true that I have had some negative experiences with people sharing the gospel. In fact I should have said “the epistles” as the focus I have seen is very much on Paul’s teachings, not Jesus’. (While not a scientific or fair statistic, a quick search of this page reveals the following biblical reference count results: Matthew-1, Mark-0, Luke-1, John-0, Romans-7,Acts-6,Collosians-4,Ephesians-4,Numbers-2,Corinthians-6..!!).

            Following Jesus’ example of true/equal loving and serving of others, in the face of opposition seems to me to be a far more important goal than learning to preach to others. As you say, we all have varying abilities in this area but it does seem to be esteemed (in some places) as the main priority that young Christians should aspire to – preaching/sharing. As a result I have seen not only difficult/personal conversations that should have been left to someone else, but preaching at Church by too many who’s calling was clearly not preaching!!

  22. Hi Tony,
    Thank for your article. It is obviously quite thought provoking. We have been looking at “The Course of Your Life” in our bible study group. (Not the new term I know but more honest when I tell other mums at school drop off where I’m off to next and why I can’t meet with them for coffee).

    I can see this article as being somewhat linked to the very expanded ideas in the course. My group also found the idea of breaking down the categories of saved/nonsaved people into smaller brackets and the idea of moving them to the right really helpful.

    The arguments you make for Christ-centered, Christ-exhalting, Christ-filled speech are compelling and encouraging as noted by many others here. They are not necessarily a new idea but in this article well articulated and I thank you for challenging us to be more godly in this area of our lives

    What I have noticed in the article and in particular the comment thread no reference to prayer and the role it plays in the evangelism debate. (It is of course part of your quote from Acts 4:31 but you don’t seem to pick it up as part of the reason that allows them to speak with boldness.)

    The other comment I will make is while I don’t understand the history behind arguments in this comment thread, they seem to rest on themes to do with relationship. I would definitely like to see evangelism training which address this better. As good as TWTL is ( or even such passages as Rom 5:5-6 or Col 2:11-15) the forced-ness of being so well “prepared” means that you would need to be quite confident of the relationship you had with the “listener” of these very useful pearls if you were hoping to be able to follow up with them later. I’m pretty sure relationship and context matters in evangelism particularly if you feel it might not be your area of giftedness.

    I look forward to your next article on the subject and to finishing off “The Course of Your Life” this term and will pray we are able to keep serving and loving each other in what we do and in what we say.

    • Lauren, what a lovely way of commenting yourself, offering your thoughts and critique. A good model for us all.

      Your comments about prayer immediately made me think of 2 Thess 3:1 and also Col 4:2-4 as well.

      • Hi Sandy,
        I really appreciate your follow up. I’m no bible wiz, more bible sloth. They are very encouraging verses, even if we don’t feel very comfortable about evangelism we can still be praying for those who are doing it. I often find in my life when I start to pray about things it puts them forward on my ponder list and it makes it more likely I will be noticing opportunities. Doesn’t always translate to action but makes action more conceivable. I guess that is moving to the right even if it is just a baby step!!

  23. Thanks Tony. How anyone, no matter what their credentials, could disagree with this eirenic, carefully explained article is completely beyond me.

    Who cares how we share the gospel? Whether by giving a book, a CD, telling it ourselves, bringing them to a talk, showing an app or website. Anyone can and should do that. Who wouldn’t want to be trained to do it better? How could we possibly argue against sharing the gospel? How could we be so naive about looking for commands in the Bible. Doesn’t the very gospel spur us to share its good news?

    Praise God that in Melbourne where I live, I have not come across supposedly sophisticated theological rationalisations for our sinful avoidance of evangelism.

  24. Pingback: Personal evangelism, oratory, and the fine art of cross-shaped persuasion | St. Eutychus

  25. Hi Martin,

    I reckon we should respect the debate that took place 15 years ago, and acknowledge that really different ideas were put forward. Tony acknowledges that in his comments. Your suggestion risks saying “everyone is right”.

    I know some people want to “move on” from the debate, but I think it is still an important discussion to have. If the debate is ignored, then I think you will find a lot of people left standing on the sidelines.

    In fact, Tony has very properly reignited the debate. Look at the title of his post, the reference to the debate, the naming of names, and his own attempt to “re-frame” the position he has held for many years.

    On consideration, I don’t consider it reasonable to shut down reference to this debate. Tony said he has “re-framed” his ideas to move beyond the debate. But if all you are doing is using different words to mean the same thing, how does that resolve what was being debated?

    For example, a few years ago a group of Catholics began using “Justified by Faith” language to describe their beliefs, in order to bridge the gap with Protestants. But when you looked closer, their beliefs hadn’t changed, just their language. So people rightly said “Sorry, but we still have disagreements here.”

    I suspect the bottom will remain “dropped out” of personal evangelism until these matters are resolved.

  26. Regarding your question “Who wouldn’t want to be trained to do it better?” – the answer is “yes – so long as the training is good and appropriate.” If it leaves people feeling frustrated, helpless and guilty, then I’d say no.

    “I have not come across supposedly sophisticated theological rationalisations for our sinful avoidance of evangelism.”

    Sadly, I’ve often come across the sin of pride in these sorts of discussions. And it’s unsophisticated rationale seems to be “Well, if I think someone is interfering with the proclamation of the gospel, I am exempt from the ordinary Christian virtues of love, gentleness, charity, kindness, goodwill, humility and self-control.”

    I fear I’m often guilty of all these sins myself.

    blessings,
    Craig

  27. I have suffered at the hands of a proud organisation because of their abusive evangelism training course (see “My experience”, Briefing February 18, 1998). Even then however I could rejoice that the gospel was preached. As for the 2WTL course and Sydney Anglican evangelism – it is very far removed from such tactics.

    The beauty of the 2WTL course is that it help nominal Evangelicals (well taught Sydney Anglicans) understand the basics of the gospel clearly, sometimes for the first time. That’s all the motivation needed for evangelism, which of course comes from understanding the gospel clearly.

    As for sophisticated theological rationalisations for our sinful avoidance of evangelism… During my time at Moore I unfortunately heard many. Who would have thought you would need an “evangelism committee” at Moore!

    Being someone once far removed from the church and all things gospel, I praise God for those who ‘got on with it’ despite their fears and shared the gospel with me. Thank you!

  28. Hi Martin, thanks for the gracious response. I actually recall that article quite well, despite the gap of 14 years!

    Regarding “evangelism avoidance”, I would only urge you to remember the story of the widow’s mite. Perhaps those you disapprove of are doing very well, relative to their abilities and personalities. Perhaps some you approve of should actually be doing much more!

    I’ve found 2WTL very helpful over the years, and it has really given me a framework to understand salvation history. As an evangelism training course, it has a big short-coming, IMO – it doesn’t tell you how to get to the position where you can actually share 2WTL with someone.

    That’s the hardest part! Learning a tract is relatively easy by comparison. Yet the advice on these crucial pre-evangelistic steps is pretty much “well, it’s up to you.” Tony re-echoed this sentiment above.

    Unfortunately, this leaves most people completely paralysed, and ultimately disengaged. This is another possible reason for the “bottom dropping out” of PE.

    If some folk want to put the personal evangelism burden on peoples backs, they’ll need to do more to help people carry it.

    blessings,
    Craig

    PS – John’s book, by contrast, presented a comprehensive approach that seemed do-able by Joe Average. No wonder it got traction! Furthermore, he tightly argued his case from Scripture and also church history. I know some people dispute his conclusions – I cannot find anyone who has disputed his exegesis.

    • Hi Craig. I’m in basic agreement with you here! 20 years ago, when I first taught the 2WTL training course, I wrote up a sheet of “15 steps”, in evangelism, where sharing 2WTL was step number 14. I was trying to help people see the process involved to get to that point. I think it is important that people use this excellent tool well (along the sort of lines you are suggesting).

      Martin

  29. Hi everyone

    I’ve been off the air doing other things over the past few days; so sorry for not responding to particular questions and comments. A few final thoughts:

    - First, my apologies for the somewhat brusque tone of a couple of my responses above. I confess to being a little frustrated that rather than discussing the merits (or otherwise) of my attempted re-framing of the questions, many of the comments related to personalities and the old debate and the history of the past 15 years—the very things I was hoping we might step lightly past in order to have a new conversation about Christian speech. Perhaps it was a vain hope; or perhaps the fault was mine in the way I introduced the article. Or perhaps that’s just one of the limitations of comment threads. I am certainly aware of my own limitations in trying to interact in this way.

    - Some have suggested that what I am proposing is basically a re-statement of my side of the former debate. Others have suggested the opposite—that my position in this article has now become indistinguishable from the other side of the former debate. So I’m a tad confused about that.

    - All in all, speaking historically, I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the debates of the past 15-20 years or so (including John’s widely read book on the subject) focused largely on the part every Christian should play in God’s mission with respect to the role of ‘evangelist’. The question was framed in terms of seeking to differentiate ‘evangelism’ per se (that is, what an ‘evangelist’ does) from the multi-faceted obligations and contributions of all Christians to the mission of God. My article did not interact with this debate or approach, but sought to address the question from a different angle—from the perspective of the Spirit’s power to transform Christian speech, so that as a matter of Christian love and maturity we seek to speak the truth in love to one another and to our neighbours, according to our opportunities and circumstances (in constant prayerful dependence on God and his Spirit, as Lauren helpfully emphasised). I continue to hope that this will be a more helpful and productive perspective, because it is better anchored biblically and theologically. But I will leave it to readers to make that assessment.

    That’s all from me.

    Warm regards

    TP

    • Thanks again for a useful post. I don’t regret that the conversation went off on a tangent, though I understand it is frustrating. But how marvelous that evangelism evokes strong passions! What would it say if no-one thought your piece worth commenting on?

      For all that, I regret that we didn’t spend more time drilling in on some of the things you said. I would actually be interested in a follow-up series drilling in on the steps on the left hand of your graph. What does it mean to “speak the truth in love” to someone who is “far-away”. Show me some examples – then I think I’ll understand your thesis.

      blessings,
      Craig

    • Tony, although I’m not one of them, I’m encouraged by your graciousness and humility in really wanting to apologise to those who might have been hurt or offended by what you said.

      I must admit to being a tad confused like you. I realise now that I was misunderstanding what you were saying, but with Craig Schwarze, I also thought you were re-presenting the ‘yes case’. At the same time, there was a sentence or two in there that sounded very similar to John Dickson’s conclusion.

      I realise now, you’re wanting to step passed that debate, but I wonder if it would be helpful to clarify your position on it and how that position fits with the Spirit’s power to transform speech. I wonder if that would resolve a lot of the confusion your article seems to have created.

      Or at least, that’s a clarification I was left hoping you would make when I read your 1st suggested question for the next issue.

      If the Spirit transforms my speech, then what does that mean in practise? Do I end up living that out as David Mansfield thinks we should or as John Dickson thinks we should? Or are you thinking we end up living that out in another way?

      Looking forward to reading the next issue.

  30. No, and definitely not for me. What has happened is most got on a sinking postmodern ship.
    How dare one question the valid faith, for the sake of disbelief; having to validate belief to those that refuse it.

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