Evangelism, the Church, and the Holy Spirit (Newbigin)

Here’s a great section from a great book: A Word in Season by Lesslie Newbigin.

“We have good news to tell.  Before we begin to think about how it is communicated, it is well that we begin with a negative point.  It is not communicated if the question uppermost in our minds is about the survival of the church in the inner city.  Because our society is a pagan society, and because Christians have – in general – failed to realize how radical the contradiction is between the Christian vision of what is real and the assumptions that we breathe in from every part of our shared existence, we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking of the church as one of the many ‘good causes’ that need our support and that will collapse if they are not adequately supported.  If our ‘evangelism’ is at bottom an effort to shore up the tottering edifice of the church (and it sometimes looks like that), then it will not be heard as good news.  The church is in God’s keeping.  We do not have the right to be anxious about it.  We have our Lord’s word that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  The crux of the matter is that we have been chosen to be the bearers of good news for the whole world, and the question is simply whether we are faithful in communicating it.”

“Evangelism is not some kind of technique we use to persuade people to change their minds and think like us.  Evangelism is the telling of good news, but what changes people’s minds and converts their wills is always a mysterious work of the sovereign Holy Spirit, and we are not permitted to know more than a little of his secret working.  But – and this is the point – the Holy Spirit is present in the believing congregation gathered for praise and the offering up of spiritual sacrifice, scattered throughout the community to bear the love of God into every secular happening and meeting.  It is they who scatter the seeds of hope around, and even if the greater part falls on barren ground, there will be a few that begin to germinate, to create at least a questioning and a seeking, and perhaps to lead someone to inquire about where these germs of hope came from.  Although it may seem simplistic, I most deeply believe it is fundamental to recognize that what brings men and women and children to know Jesus as Lord and Savior is always the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, always beyond our understanding or control, always the result of a presence, a reality that both draws and challenges – the reality who is in fact the living God himself.  And his presence is promised and granted in the midst of the believing, worshiping, celebrating, caring congregations.  There is no hermeneutic for the gospel but that” (p. 41-42).

Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season.

shane lems

One Reply to “Evangelism, the Church, and the Holy Spirit (Newbigin)”

  1. We are studying through the book of Acts right now (still in chapter two), and this has been the main thrust of the book so far – the Spirit-empowered witness of the church to the ends of the earth.

    Our job is to be faithful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus will add to His church.


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