As I write this, my friend Jeremy Marshall is getting on with trying to tell me why yesterday’s post about evangelism is definitely wrong. You can read that here and judge for yourself. I don’t know whether my post will land before his (at the time of writing, his isn’t out yet). So, I am yet to find out why he thinks I am essentially wrong.
Jeremy stated his main objection on Facebook this way:
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment “have a go” But logically then if the article is true why train anyone in doing anything? If we don’t need training and encouragement in evangelism why do we need it in say preaching? Is evangelism uniquely so easy? I think not. I shall write a reply Stephen Kneale is always delightfully provocative
That was in response to my basic argument that evangelism really isn’t that complicated and we don’t need more courses. If we know the gospel, have the Holy Spirit, a mouth and someone to tell, then we have everything we need to just get on and share the gospel.
My initial response to Jeremy was this:
So are you saying being able, and knowing how to, understand and apply across scripture [that is, preaching] is the same as knowing and explaining the gospel? You don’t think one of those you might understand as soon as you become a believer whilst being able to preach credibly… Maybe less so.
But yes, I do reckon evangelism is uniquely quite easy. Look at the early church. They got about evangelism well quick, they took a while to appoint elders. Why do you reckon that was?
Now, of course, I could spend all day defending that. I could write up some extra arguments. But I think it’s much more fun to take Jeremy’s own words from one of his recent blog posts to make my case against him in his own words.
Jeremy argued recently that biblical literacy really isn’t our biggest problem in the church. You can read that full article here. In a recent poll, it was said that the biggest problem facing the church is a lack of biblical literacy. Jeremy went on to dispute this. Here is what he said in particular:
I suggest that in evangelical churches this issue is not the first issue. I suggest that the key issue is not primarily one of the head but of the heart. It’s not that we don’t know what the Bible tells us but that we (and I absolutely include myself) know what it tells us but don’t do it. It’s not knowledge but rather discipleship (by which I include evangelism which I regard as an essential part and proof of discipleship) which is the issue.
So, it would seem, Jeremy is arguing that we don’t need more knowledge and training – we have plenty of that already and know what the Bible says – we just need to get on with doing it. That sounds like a very familiar argument to me.
But don’t worry, he goes on to clarify exactly what he means:
Never in my view anyway has there been such a huge outpouring of biblical teaching and preaching as in the last 60 years. We have in my lifetime gone from having hardly any evangelical commentaries to having vast shelves groaning under their weight. We have gone from having very few means of training preachers and teachers about how to do exegesis to having huge organisations and conferences devoted exclusively to that task. I dare say there has certainly since 1900 never been in the U.K. so many good sermons explaining faithfully what the Bible teaches. Can more be done to teach the Bible? Of course, but is the fundamental problem for evangelicals “we don’t know what the Bible tells us to do?” No, it is (again not least for myself) that “we do know what it says but we don’t do it. “
And so, says Jeremy, we know full well what the Bible says, but we just don’t do it. Rather like knowing the gospel, really, but somehow not ever getting around to sharing it because we feel we need endless amounts of training. We know it, we even know what the Bible says to do with it, but we won’t until we are ‘trained’. But Jeremy insists, ‘we do know what it says but we don’t do it’.
He goes on again:
If we compare the level of spirituality and commitment to discipleship of the average church member 60 years ago to now it’s much lower. So all the excellent biblical input inputted into our churches has not led to holier Christians I suggest. It’s led to much better informed Christians but that’s not the same.
Once again, we have put much time into informing people – dare we say, into training them – but it has neither increased our holiness nor led to our doing anything. Again, ‘we know what it says but we don’t do it.’
So, I return to my post from yesterday. There I argued that we don’t need more training in evangelism, or lots of new courses, we simply need to go and share the gospel that we all already know. Indeed, Jeremy goes further and says – thanks to excellent Bible teaching in our churches – not only do we know the gospel, but we also know what the Bible says we must do with it. The problem is that we don’t do it. Which rather suggests our clamour for more training before we’ll do it is not so much to equip us for evangelism but a further means of, as Jeremy rightly points out, knowing ‘what [the gospel is and the Bible] says but we don’t do it’.
If you have come to believe the gospel, then you know it. If your church teaches the Bible, then you will know what it says about sharing it. If you have that knowledge and a mouth with which to speak, then you are effectively equipped – knowing the Holy Spirit is with you – to get about going out and sharing it.
Thankfully, regardless of what he has actually written this morning, we can all see that Jeremy actually agrees. Which is nice.