Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lausanne Covenant 04

Continuing our Evangelical Documents Study Series, let's examine the fourth segment from the Lausanne Covenant, promulgated in 1974 by the first International Congress on World Evangelization. The first portion, remember, discussed the purposes of God; the second portion discussed the authority of Scripture; and the third portion discussed the unique role and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the sole provider of salvation. Now the fourth section will concern the nature of evangelism:

4. The Nature of Evangelism

To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gifts of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus still calls all who would follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with his new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his church and responsible service in the world.

I love how it opens up with a clear, precise statement of what it means to evangelize. Evangelism is sharing the good news. And I love that the Lausanne Covenant is so clear, if brief, as to what the good news is. The good news is that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead and now reigns as the Lord who offers many good gifts - including forgiveness, but not limited to forgiveness - to those who accept it; and this acceptance involves spurning our sins in order to embark on the path of discipleship, which is a path of faith. The Lausanne Covenant is also clear that simply being present - so-called 'lifestyle evangelism' - is important but is not truly evangelism; the same is true of certain forms of interfaith dialogue. The Lausanne Covenant is careful to affirm the importance of those things while also distinguishing them from evangelism, which is a proclamation of Jesus and has a specific purpose, which is to see others become likewise committed to him. Nor is this a commitment to a pseudo-Jesus who never lived; it is a commitment to Jesus as he really lived and as he is described in the Bible. (It must be noted that no statement is here made about precisely how accurate our presentation of Jesus must be in order to qualify as evangelism, nor does it say how far our personal conception of Jesus is permitted to diverge from the truth before we have "another Jesus" in such a way as to exclude us from truly being Christians in a meaningful and substantive sense of the word.) And finally, I love that in this section, the Lausanne Covenant makes so clear that evangelism is a summons to discipleship, and discipleship is a costly venture. We cannot pretend that becoming a Christian is a panacea to all earthly ills; in many cases, it is a headlong dive into danger and difficulty, into trial and tribulation! And the Lausanne Covenant is clear that those who accept Christ as master and become his disciples are to identify themselves with and associate themselves with the community of his disciples.

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