Saturday, June 03, 2006

ancient-future evangelism by robert webber

Ancient-future Evangelism Cover

Robert Webber teaches at Northern Seminary in Chicago, and has explored the relationship between the church's evangelical mission in a postmodern world and the deep tradition that is our inheritance. Reading the above work led me to a number of observations, gleaned from his insights. Again, I am attempting to look at a number of books over the summer that reflect on related disciplines of leadership, evangelism, postmodernism and essence, on the present situation in which a (our) local church finds itself.

1. Evangelism has often produced converts rather than disciples, resulting in "growth without depth".

2. The church's compartmentalization of ministry---into age levels, worship, evangelism, assimilation--is a modernist construction that ignores the holistic process of discipleship.

3. Discipleship can be defined as "a process that takes place over time for the purpose of bringing believers to spiritual maturity in Christ" (13).

4. Conversion in the early church involved changes in belief, belonging and behavior.

5. Medieval Christianity assumed that persons (apart from Jews and some pagans) were Christians, but it lacked an process of catechesis (learning about the faith). The reformers retained infant baptism and joined it to confirmation/catechism.

6. Pietism arose in contrast to the enlightenment's elevation of reason and the mind. The Wesleyan revival may be understood as one of the movements within pietism.

7. The four formative stages in discipleship are inquiry, catechumenate, purification and enlightenment, and mystagogue. These steps correspond to seeking and following, instruction and learning, Lenten self-examination and participation in the Easter celebration of the resurrection, and post-Easter reflection on baptism, communion and service to the poor, ending on the Day of Pentecost. These stages can be likened to evangelism discipleship, spiritual formation and assimilation.

8. Discipleship is a matter of the heart, the mind and the will.

9. The church reaches a secular world through hospitable social networks. These sometimes have the feel of house churches.

10. The major obstacles to community in western culture are individualism, isolation and consumerism.

11. Postmodern evangelism is not so much an argument (rational apologetic) as a display of a reality.

12. Christian spirituality is forming people to live in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus--to live and claim their baptisms. Prominent in the act of living and claiming our baptisms is the renunciation of evil. The great weapons in this resistance of evil are memorization of the Apostles' Creed and The Lord's Prayer.

Next week I will be reading United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center by Scott Jones. I reviewed this book about three and a half years ago [for Circuit Rider Book Reviews], but it merits another reading. I will also be involved in the gathering of the Western North Carolina Conference at Lake Junaluska, so something related to Methodism seems appropriate.

Blessings tomorrow, on the Day of Pentecost!


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