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Introduction

Evangelism involves sharing gospels with non-Christians in order to introduce them to Jesus and Christianity. Evangelism can take many shapes and forms, but are all girded by gospel.  Like other many other Biblical concepts, there is no unambiguous definition of what gospel is.  The most prevalently accepted definition is that gospels are shareable pieces of information pertaining to Christ’s life and contains some elements of story-telling.  Evangelism is a viable method whereby the gospels regarding Jesus can be disseminated with a view of encouraging more people to convert to Christianity. No matter how important evangelism is, there are a number of issues that can undermine the effectiveness of evangelism, and these issues tend to derive from cultural and historical perspectives.  Diversity is just one example. There are pronounced changes occurring within the Australian demographics, as the share of immigrants in Australia is increasing year-on-year. These and other changes have been the precursor to the shift from a single-dimensional cultural perspective to a multi-dimensional one where people from numerous backgrounds co-exist.  Therefore, those who intend to engage in evangelism should be amenable to adopt different approaches to evangelism depending on the cultural and historical perspectives of their audience.  This report aims to evaluate the current practices and approaches to evangelism in Australia, and whether or not they can be considered viable from the cultural and historical perspective.

Evangelism practices in Australia tend to base their gospels on conventional categories such as God as king, sin as mutiny, response as remorse. Even though these categories are prudent and biblical at the same, they  are not considered viable in communicating the gospels themselves to the new generation of Christians. This new and seemingly insurmountable problem was the focal point Sam Chan’s (2018) seminal book. Sam (2018) has considered how the presentation (i.e. communication) of gospels need to be overhauled to better reach the Generation Z. Sam (2018) also asserted that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to communicating gospels, and that it was incumbent upon evangelists to recalibrate how they tell gospels by understanding the cultural worldview of the audience, and make some changes to make the gospels and how they are communicated tailor-made to the audience. Regarding the most prevalent evangelism practices, they are considered banal and not viable as evangelists were not amenable to learning more about their audience and changing their gospels and how they present their gospels.

Churches are at the center of evangelism (Barna, 1985). Churches’ role in ensuring the infrastructure of evangelism is indispensable. Nevertheless, many churches do not devote funds for evangelism practices not just in Australia, but also in some other countries. Green (1990) has considered the role of Church in evangelism, and how it was taking a back-seat to a more engaging evangelism practices which organize groups such as missionary and discover groups. Green (1990) bases his arguments on how God had envisioned church as the cornerstone of evangelism, and how churches need to play a bigger role. Therefore, churches all across Australia need to ensure that they follow Green’s (1990) advice and allocate more funds to evangelism.

Creativity is not central to the current evangelism practices, as can be corroborated form the most prevalent practices in Australia. Callaway (2018) has concentrated on evangelism and concluded that communicating gospels to strangers needed to be creative. Creativity needs to play a bigger role, as people seem to be spiritually lost in a hyper-connected lifestyle. Therefore, the current evangelism practices in Australia need to be reworked in a way to ensure that the creativity element is embedded in evangelism, as creativity is one of the essential aspects of new viable evangelism practices.

The target audience of evangelism needs to be reworked also in terms of Australia. Hanford (2010) has provided the case of evangelism practice at Northern Colorado University, and how they have stopped organizing campus-wide evangelism events, as they have concentrated on more segmentation of the audience. Instead, the evangelists at the Northern Colorado University organize events within smaller groups such as drama club, reading club, and etc.  Hanford (2010) cites that for evangelism to be viable in the 21st century, there has to be more target segmentation. Therefore, churches in Australia need to reconsider how they divide the target audience, and learn more about them. By applying the target segmentation, pastors can ensure one-on-one evangelism, and ensure the effectiveness of evangelism. Therefore, churches in Australia are advised to emulate the Hanford’s (2000) model of target segmentation and target the audience with more personality.

Carson (2000) has considered the role of evangelism during post-modernism, and has cited a number of issues relating to evangelism in the era of post-modernism. Pujic (2013) had concurred that evangelists needed to be flexible with how they communicate gospel, and base their gospels on emotion and intuition, while retaining the substance of the gospels and scriptures.  Emotion and intuition are the two most important elements present during post-modernism. Evangelism practices currently in use in Australia have been cited as ossified and stagnated in a sense that they do not reflect the recent cultural differences. Therefore, to enhance the effectiveness of evangelism, the evangelists need to pay attention to the post-modernism environment and change how they present the gospel with a view of ensuring the evangelism is viable. Dawson and Palau (2008) have underlined the importance of how evangelism needed to be in alignment with the cultural perspectives of the audience. On the other hand, McGravan (1988) asserts the opposite. Substance (i.e. truth) of gospels cannot take a back seat to ensuring that the communication of gospels is relevant to the audience, which indicates that there should be a balance between the two variables (McGaravan, 1988).

Based on the conceptualization of Aldrich (1981), lifestyle evangelism involves imparting the gospel (i.e. Good News of Jesus) to people in a passive manner and hope they notice the good in someone’s life, and try to emulate them and learn more about Christianity.  Even though lifestyle evangelism is a highly passive approach and is not Biblical evangelism, it is considered viable as it can be substantiated by a number of studies.  Therefore, lifestyle evangelism needs to be incorporated into the overall evangelism strategies within the current evangelism practices in Australia as it is considered less aggressive than other methods of evangelism.

Pulpit evangelism as a method of evangelism is prevalent in Australia, with the current evangelism practices adopting pulpit evangelism with a view of reaching to a broader audience. Thus, pulpit evangelism does not involve personal contact between the pastor and the audience, diluting its effectiveness. Personal contact is considered a key element of viable and effective evangelism (Pujic, 2013). Pulpit evangelism occurs in Australia in forms of large-scale events organized by churches and other ministries (Green, 1990).  Given the robust support for how pulpit evangelism can be counterproductive in the new era of globalization and post-modernism, evangelists need to recalibrate their strategies and phase out pulpit evangelism in Australia.

Contextualization involves an attempt to present the Gospel in culturally relevant ways (Stetzer,2014). There is an increased interest in the role of contextualization within evangelism, and how it is incumbent on those who evangelize to keep tabs on the new developments in cultural perspectives within their local areas, and proactively respond to these changes. Contextualization is not an aspect which receives a lot of attention from evangelists in Australia. Churches have been the least amenable to considering the role of contextualization. On the other hand, the grassroots evangelism practices are considered more viable as they are amenable to more contextualization in terms of how they select and communicate the gospels.

Diversity in Australia is a new concept, with most of the immigrants coming to Australia during the last two decades, making Australia the ‘melting pot’ of Asia.  This new diversity in terms of demographics translates into new challenges for evangelism. World Council of Churches (2014) suggest that this new diversity implies that no one-size-fits-all evangelism is viable. To ensure that the current evangelism practices in use are not counterproductive, both pastors and the audience needs to rid themselves of the so-called cultural baggage.

Mark Dever, the pastor of the historic Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C, noted that Christians are growing more and more disinclined to evangelize in both USA and Australia and that some evangelism practices currently in use are not evangelism in substance. The evangelism practices and model need to reworked in a way that meets the new challenges, and the role of evangelism should not be downplayed, argued Dever (2007). Therefore, those practicing evangelism in Australia need to revisit the substance of what evangelism is, and ensure that the way they evangelize is valid within the evangelism practices.

Conclusion

Based on the above analysis of viable evangelism practices, and the most popular evangelism practices in Australia, it is conspicuous that there have been pronounced developments in terms of cultural and historical perspectives in Australia. These new developments coupled with post-modernism have rendered the current evangelism practices irrelevant and not viable. Therefore, new evangelism practices within Australia need to be overhauled for them to be viable in discharging evangelism’s main role- communicating the gospels of Jesus. 

Reference

  • William J. Abraham, 1989 Logic of Evangelism, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 171-172.
  • Barna, G.  1995.  Evangelism that Works Ventura,  CA:  Regal.
  • Dever, M. 2007. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Crossway
  • Stetzer, E. 2014. What is Contextualization? Presenting the Gospel in Culturally Relevant Ways, Chritinatiy Today, accessed 10 April 2018 <https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/october/what-is-contextualization.html?
  • McGavran, D.  1988.  Effective Evangelism. Phillipsburg, PA:  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing.
  • Pujic, M. 2013. Re-imagining evangelism in a postmodern culture, Ministry Interenational Journal for Pastors
  • Green, M.  1990.  Evangelism through the Local Church Sevenoaks, Kent:  Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Aldrich, J. 1981. Lifestyle Evangelism: Learning to Open Your Life to Those Around You, Penguin Random House
  • Shaw, R. 1990. Culture and Evangelism: A Model for Missiological Strategy. Missiology: An International Review
  • Sam, Ch. 2018. Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable, Zondervan
  • Carson, D.  A.  (ed.)  2000.  Telling the Truth:  Evangelizing Postmoderns.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.
  • Dawson, S. and Palau, L. 2008. The Complete Evangelism Guidebook: Expert Advice on Reaching Others for Christ, Baker Books
  • Hanford, J. 2010. Creative Evangelism Ideas. CRU Press Green
  • World Council of Churches. 2014. Evangelism Today: New Ways for Authentic Discipleship, International Review of Mission

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