Some thoughts on evangelism as the result of reading a quotation by Paul Ricoeur (cited below).
1) We in the West live in a consumerist society.
2) A consumerist society is one in which everything is potentially for sale.
3) Because we live in a consumerist society, we are used to being constantly bombarded with sales pitches in various forms.
4) Because of this bombardment, we’ve become very cynical – we know there is always fine print in every sales agreement.
5) Christian evangelism often operates along consumerist lines. The Church tries to “sell” salvation (not via indulgences, mind you. We’ve already tried that with some, well, mixed success). There are a range of sales strategies employed – from the creative, to the outlandish, to the absurd.
6) The fine print of Christianity, at least as typically conceived by the most ardent of consumer-style evangelists, is that refusal to buy-into salvation is a rejection of God that results in “eternal conscious torment” in the fires of hell. (In this regard, I have to give credit to those evangelists who put hell-fire front and center – unlike those who quietly subscribe to doctrines like double predestination, this sort is willing to make the fine print bold. It’s still a base form of fear-based manipulation, but at least its honest about what it holds to be true). In this mode of evangelism, Christianity is essentially a doctrine of hell-avoidance.
7) Evangelism in a consumerist mode in a consumerist society is bound to fail due to the cynical ethos of our culture and because what is being sold is a false bill of goods.
8) Enter Paul Ricoeur: “Christianity is a life-giving and life-transforming story before and after it is a doctrinal system.” If evangelism is the telling of God’s story, the story of God’s reconciliation of/with the cosmos through Jesus Christ, then there is no fine print (afterall, when God says ‘all’ and ‘everything’, that is precisely what God means.
9) Therefore evangelism is also the telling of our own personal (and ongoing) stories of transformation. It is a witness to what God is up to in/through our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit.
10) Evangelism is an invitation to transformation and to participation in God’s kingdom of shalom on earth as it is in heaven.
Yes? No? Maybe so?