Proclaiming Good News in Hard Times: Reflections on Evangelism and the Bible

Chapter in: Prophecy and Passion: Essays in Honour of Athol Gill, edited by David Neville. Adelaide: Australian Theological Forum, pp. 273-299. 18 pp.

I am among the many who are indebted to Athol Gill’s faithful advocacy for the fullness of the biblical good news. I remain deeply grateful for his theological mentoring of the First World radical discipleship movement. Because Athol was passionate about a more radically biblical understanding of the church’s vocation of evangelism, I offer some reflections on that subject below, in the hope that I have reflected some of his central concerns and visions.

The theory and practice of evangelism has been at the center of the great divergence in the 20th century between liberal and conservative Protestants of the First World. At the turning of the millennia it continues to be a field of contention. Conservatives, many of whom underline the split by calling themselves evangelicals, have tended to emphasize “soul-winning” at all costs. Eager for spiritual conversion, they often sacrifice gospel content for outreach technique. There is generally a blissful ignorance of the bloody history of Christian imperialism, while the public relevance of the gospel is traded off in order to concentrate on private religious experience. “Decisionism instead of discipleship,” Athol called this. “The idea of accepting Jesus as savior and later, perhaps, acknowledging him as Lord is totally foreign to the New Testament” (1976:6).

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