Monday, July 25, 2011

What I'm Reading #28: Evangelism after Christendom (Bryan Stone)

Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness, by Bryan Stone

I'll tell you up front: this is not a quick or easy read. Evangelism after Christendom (Brazos 2007) is an important but very dense and theologically heady treatment of the question of how to cultivate the practice of Christian witness in a post-Christendom culture. Stone is heavily influenced by the likes of Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder and Reinhard Huetter—all familiar names to this Duke Divinity student.

Perhaps one of the most important insights that Stone offers, influenced heavily by the work of Alastair MacIntyre, is the notion of evangelism as a practice with means and ends internal, not external, to it. Stone wants the church to move away from evangelism that is focused on conversion and numbers, a sentiment echoed by many of the authors I've been reading for my evangelism directed study. The practice of evangelism is about faithfulness to the goals and means internal to it, not about an external product or results.

Stone also talks a great deal about how we live in a post-Christendom culture. This, he says, is not necessarily the threat we tend to see it as. In fact, the church's removal from being the lynchpin of society may open it up more to prophetic witness. "Ironically, it may be that it is precisely from a position of marginality that the church is best able to announce peace and to bear witness to God's peaceable reign in such a way as to invite others to take seriously the subversive implications of that reign." The gospel, Stone claims, is and should be subversive, and when the church is too closely allied with the status quo, it loses that voice.

For Stone, evangelism, and God's work in the world, is thoroughly social and communal. Here's a potentially controversial statement: "One of the enormous challenges of Christian evangelism today is that in order to learn once again to bear faithful and embodied witness to the Spirit's creative 'social work,' it may have to reject as heretical the pervasive characterization of salvation as 'a personal relationship with Jesus.'" Salvation history, he argues, is and always has been about God calling out a people. Yes, that "people" is comprised of individuals, but the good news is about how we live in peace with one another, not about where we're going after we die (an inherently problematic question).

This blog post feels pretty lame to me, but it's hard to boil down the complexity of what Stone has done into 600 words...so I'll leave you with this: this book is great, but I only recommend it if you want something dense and philosophical. :)

1 comments:

Felipe Neumann said...

Something dense and philosophical... that reminds me of the Zohar, the Bible of the Cabala. :)
That's some seriously dense and mythical business!
Loved you last song-related post by the way, nice song.

Shalom!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What I'm Reading #28: Evangelism after Christendom (Bryan Stone)

Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness, by Bryan Stone

I'll tell you up front: this is not a quick or easy read. Evangelism after Christendom (Brazos 2007) is an important but very dense and theologically heady treatment of the question of how to cultivate the practice of Christian witness in a post-Christendom culture. Stone is heavily influenced by the likes of Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder and Reinhard Huetter—all familiar names to this Duke Divinity student.

Perhaps one of the most important insights that Stone offers, influenced heavily by the work of Alastair MacIntyre, is the notion of evangelism as a practice with means and ends internal, not external, to it. Stone wants the church to move away from evangelism that is focused on conversion and numbers, a sentiment echoed by many of the authors I've been reading for my evangelism directed study. The practice of evangelism is about faithfulness to the goals and means internal to it, not about an external product or results.

Stone also talks a great deal about how we live in a post-Christendom culture. This, he says, is not necessarily the threat we tend to see it as. In fact, the church's removal from being the lynchpin of society may open it up more to prophetic witness. "Ironically, it may be that it is precisely from a position of marginality that the church is best able to announce peace and to bear witness to God's peaceable reign in such a way as to invite others to take seriously the subversive implications of that reign." The gospel, Stone claims, is and should be subversive, and when the church is too closely allied with the status quo, it loses that voice.

For Stone, evangelism, and God's work in the world, is thoroughly social and communal. Here's a potentially controversial statement: "One of the enormous challenges of Christian evangelism today is that in order to learn once again to bear faithful and embodied witness to the Spirit's creative 'social work,' it may have to reject as heretical the pervasive characterization of salvation as 'a personal relationship with Jesus.'" Salvation history, he argues, is and always has been about God calling out a people. Yes, that "people" is comprised of individuals, but the good news is about how we live in peace with one another, not about where we're going after we die (an inherently problematic question).

This blog post feels pretty lame to me, but it's hard to boil down the complexity of what Stone has done into 600 words...so I'll leave you with this: this book is great, but I only recommend it if you want something dense and philosophical. :)

1 comments:

Felipe Neumann said...

Something dense and philosophical... that reminds me of the Zohar, the Bible of the Cabala. :)
That's some seriously dense and mythical business!
Loved you last song-related post by the way, nice song.

Shalom!

 

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