Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Evangelism from the Margins: Experiences of the Ironic in Evangelism in Cardiff, UK

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Evangelism from the Margins: Experiences of the Ironic in Evangelism in Cardiff, UK

Article excerpt


This article arises from a presentation to the CWM/WCC Consultation, Explorations in Evangelism which took place in Sydney from 5 to 13 September 2015. There I shared the street art evangelism of my own congregation. However, in this article / want to explore how this street art evangelism is pointing us to the need for an appreciation of the ironic nature of evangelism, and consider evangelism from the margins. I explore this here as an aspect of the liberation missiology of the WCC's new ecumenical affirmation of mission: Together towards Life. But also show how it describes the historical roots of evangelism in the early church and captures the possibilities of evangelism now in a post-Christian context like the UK The article explores ideas and artwork as they invite an ironic appreciation of the counter cultural nature of Christ's call to life, a call that questions the empires of Caesar and the church.


Charles Spurgeon (1834--1892) once said that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread. It is a rather sweet image that belies the controversy and contest of evangelism in a divided and exploited world, where beggary is an intentional part of an unjust economic system. Its naivety obscures a power relationship which in practice perpetuates patterns of dominance that objectify those "beggars" who (from one angle) have neither bread nor Christ. Spurgeon romantically suggests a commonality and camaraderie between the evangelist and evangelized, which in practice is lost in the zeal for empire building of aggressive churches or in the mourning of Christendom of declining churches. Critically neither beggar in this model of evangelism is asking why they have to beg. Nor are they asking why many do not. Many Christian movements are seeking to gather together prophetic word and witness (evangelism and mission) to show that a life-affirming evangelism performs the transformation of life and structure that warrants the term "Good News." In this way evangelism is one beggar telling a banker where to get life. This is evangelism from the margins, where power is subverted and the location of God's promise is witnessed in life-transforming ways and the irony of calling a beggarly Jesus a king.

Evangelism: A Consensus and a Common Commission

The World Council of Churches new ecumenical affirmation on mission, Together towards Life, states:

Witness (martyria) takes concrete form in evangelism--the communication of the whole gospel to the whole of humanity in the whole world. Its goal is the salvation of the world and the glory of the Triune God. Evangelism is mission activity which makes explicit and unambiguous the centrality of the incarnation, suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ without setting limits to the saving grace of God. It seeks to share this good news with all who have not yet heard it and invites them to an experience of life in Christ.

"Evangelism is the outflow of hearts that are filled with the love of God for those who do not yet know him." At Pentecost, the disciples could not but declare the mighty works of God (Acts 2:4; 4:20). Evangelism, while not excluding the different dimensions of mission, focuses on explicit and intentional articulation of the gospel, including "the invitation to personal conversion to a new life in Christ and to discipleship." (2) While the Holy Spirit calls some to be evangelists (Ephesians 4:11), we all are called to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Not only individuals but also the whole church together is called to evangelize (Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 2:9). (3)

The Lausanne Covenant says this:

4. The Nature of Evangelism-. To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. …

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