Thursday, April 01, 2004

Evangelism and Baptism

"E-question: when we use the word 'evangelism' are we thinking about bringing people to Christ? or about bringing them into our own congregation, our own denomination? ...But...isn't it truly the way we live our faith (and talk about our faith) that communicates our walk with our Crucified and Risen Lord?"

Asking about brand names, as in [the proprietary sense of] "my" denomination and "my" congregation, brings us back to the twinnish games of survival and numbers. The word evangelism and particularly the act of evangelism (=living evangelically) means demonstrating the story (incarnation), telling the words (proclamation), and bringing the stranger into Christian community (incorporation), the stranger who then in response assumes the incarnation | proclamation | incorporation cycle to others and for others who aren't yet conscious of belonging to and within the drama of salvation-history.

Our own denomination and congregation? In many ways I'm not very open to expressions of the church outside of our mainline-type sistern and brethren and formally-covenanted-with ecumenical partners. I truly and firmly believe the proclamation in many "Christian" quarters is anything but biblical and sometimes even anti-biblical in its exclusive particularism and I confess, I do believe I'm baptized into those who are the theologically like-me BUT with a strong qualification saying I'm also baptized into the unfamiliar person at my door, the outlandish one on my streets, the homeless guy on the next corner, the alien among us (esp here in Promised Land Southern California) as well as into the prisoner, the rejected, the unknown and unknowable, because in those folks I most clearly meet the Christ into Whom I've been baptized. But then again I trust the reconciling Christ Event is so drastic, so overwhelming and so totally inclusive all creation everywhere is born, lives, dies and rises in Christ, so I cannot exclude any creature or anything created. Since we're sent into the world and called to preach Christ Crucified for the life of the world, so in the end I'd hope we wouldn't insist on any particular label or engage in behavior of any kind that would give us a sectarian feel..

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