The Western Story & Evangelism

Thoughts from Living at the Crossroads: Church & Mission with Michael W. Goheen. 

"One of the reasons we have to create evangelism programs is that no one is asking us questions such as, "What is the reason for the hope within you", "Why do you live so differently" or "Why do you love the poor, provide service widows and care for prisoners?" Our churches are so rooted in the Western story that would our neighbors think if we had Jesus removed from our life that our treasure would be removed? Or would they think it would be a small loss in relation to how we live seeking to pursue the American dream along with the rest of our unbelieving neighbors?  In Acts and the early church evangelism was built on questions because of the radical alternative way Christians lived."

  • Joe Miller

    April 28, 2008, 7:57 pm

    Where is the place in the NT that shows people asking the Apostles about Jesus because they saw the church caring for the poor? I see lots of examples of caring for the poor that were among the church, but please help me find the examples that this was evangelistic.

    The assertion is, “In Acts and the early church evangelism was built on questions because of the radical alternative way Christians lived.” I see lots of evangelism by Paul going out and sharing the Gospel in Synagogues and in Roman cities. Can you help me find the passages that affirm this idea?

    I am trying to get a better picture of what kind of radical lifestyle things he is seeing in the NT.


  • D. Goodmanson

    April 29, 2008, 10:45 pm

    Good question. I can’t speak Goheen’s mind but I imagine the emphasis is primarily on the early church as they formed a new way of living around the gospel. Certainly Paul and others responded to questions based on their actions, teachings & healings. Let me see what I can find on this.

  • Abraham

    April 30, 2008, 3:06 pm

    Acts 3 is a good example of Christ at work in the church that caused people to “be filled with amazement” which then prompted Peter to respond with a reason for the hope that was in him.

  • Jimbo

    May 6, 2008, 1:07 pm

    I recently read Newbigin addressing this very issue. The following is from chapter 10 of The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It may be helpful:
    “The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his readers that they ought to be active in mission. For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (I Cor. 9:16)….It is a striking fact, moreover, that almost all the proclamations of the gospel which are described in Acts are in response to questions asked by those outside the Church. This is so in the case of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, of the testimonies given by the apostles and by Stephen under interrogation, of the encounter of Philip with the Ethiopian, of Peter’s meeting with the household of Cornelius, and of the preaching of Paul in the synagogue at Antiock of Pisidia. In every case there is something present, a new reality, which calls for explanation and so prompts the question to which the preaching of the gospel is the answer….When the apostles are asked to explain the new reality, the new power to find joy in tribulation, healing in sickness, freedom in bondage, life in death, this is the explanation they give.”