Part II: Evangelize the Gemeinde?

In Part I it was argued the gospel is the invitation to the kingdom of God. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as the means to enter said kingdom. The whole context of 1 Corinthians 15 is the kingdom. Jesus preached the kingdom as the gospel. Once they enter the kingdom the emphasis should be edification not telling them to be become members of the kingdom. They are already in so everything after that should be maintaining their place in the kingdom, behaving like they are in the kingdom and telling non-members of the kingdom about the kingdom and inviting them to register.

In this concluding post it will address the second chief reason my interlocutors feel that evangelism should take place in the ‘church’.

The Sermon

One of the reason is that some believe that evangelism occurs in the parameters of the local congregation is that they adhere to the practice of the rhetorical sermon. The rhetorical sermon was not a facet of the apostolic Christian ekklesia. It was introduced by Chrysostom and Augustine, they made “pulpit oratory part and parcel of the Christian faith.”[1] With Chrysostom:

the Greek sermon reached its zenith. The Greek sermon style indulged in rhetorical brilliance, the quoting of poems, and focused on impressing the audience. Chrysostom emphasized that “the preacher must toil long on his sermons in order to gain the power of eloquence.”

In Augustine, the Latin sermon reached its heights. The Latin sermon style was more down to earth than the Greek style. It focused on the “common man” and was directed to a simpler moral point. Zwingli took John Chrysostom as his model in preaching, while Luther took Augustine as his model. Both Latin and Greek styles included a verse-by-verse commentary form as well as a paraphrasing form . . . Chrysostom and Augustine stood in the lineage of the Greek sophists. They gave us polished Christian rhetoric. They gave us the “Christian” sermon: biblical in content, but Greek in style.[2]

Also as mentioned in my chapter of A Living Alternative Protestant and Roman Catholics had gotten to a point where they believed the Great Commission was not a responsibility of the ekklesia but was something specifically belonging to the first century Apostles. Through time that thinking has become the norm thus the majority of those serving churches today believe their evangelistic duties is found in the pulpit and not the world outside of the building they serve in.

Anabaptist Reason II

The primitive Anabaptists met for edification. There was no preaching of salvation or declaring of the gospel because they were all members of the Body present. Furthermore the nature of their meetings did not indicate that they evangelized in that context. In 1527 the Swiss Brethren developed a congregational order generally deemed The Swiss Order because of its origin. In it is the basis for the earliest congregational structure. The initial line of the Order says:

The brothers and sisters should meet at least three or four times a week, to exercise themselves, in the teaching of Christ and His apostles and heartily to exhort one another to remain faithful to the Lord as they have pledged.[3]

According to The Swiss Order the brethren was supposed to meet numerous times weekly and “exercise themselves” that translates into exhortation. According to John Howard Yoder this exercising probably “includes an element of rote learning of gospel narrative and teaching, since literacy and the possession of Bibles was still rare.”[4] No mention of evangelizing among the brethren.Now was there supposed to be a sermon in play? Naturally that would grant them an opportunity to evangelize the congregation during the period reserved for the sermon if they had one. According to the community order:

When the brothers and sisters are together, they shall take up something to read together. The one to whom God has given the best understanding shall explain it, the others should be still and listen, so that there are not two or three carrying on a private conversation, bothering the others. The Psalter shall be read daily at home.[5]

The Swiss Order outlines participatory gatherings.  When the Gemeinde came together they all would contribute to the didactic aspect and not function as passive attendees. This also indicates that the already present believers determined the interpretive meaning of the biblical content that they were covering. Yoder explains another valid point regarding this aspect of the order.

The one to whom God has given the best understanding shall explain it” may mean that, for every particular passage, whoever understands its meaning should speak up. Then we would have a picture of a meeting with no settled leadership, with no controlling role for the “shepherd” who was called for by Schleitheim Article V. Then one might infer, as does Jean Seguy, that this text testifies to a time before the Schleitheim decisions, when congregations functioned without a named leader. It is, however, also possible that “the one to whom God has given the best understanding” may be a circumlocution for a spontaneously recognized leader in the local group.[6]

Consequently if they did not have any official or controlling minister in the manner we see at present then there would be no place for the sermon in order to evangelize the congregation. Finally The Swiss Order of 1527 states:

The Lord’s supper shall be held, as often as the brothers are together, thereby proclaiming the death of the Lord, and thereby warning each one to commemorate, how Christ gave His life for us, and shed His blood for us, that we might also be willing to give our body and life for Christ’s sake, which means for the sake of all the brothers.[7]

As in Article III of the Schleitheim Brotherly Union the breaking of bread was to be solely observed by baptized believers which occurred every time they met. No unbelievers was in their presence to evangelize to and all members were a part of the Kingdom thus no need for the proclaiming of the gospel.

In light of the contents of the first installment and this one I stand by my position that evangelism occurs in the context of nonbelievers, the invitation is given once and it is intrinsically tied to the gospel which is an invitation to the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________

[1] Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Carol Stream, Ill.: BarnaBooks, 2008), 94.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Michael Sattler, The Legacy of Michael Sattler, trans. John Howard Yoder, vol. 1, The Legacy of Michael Sattler, Classics of the Radical Reformation (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973), 44.

[4] Ibid., 54.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Ibid. 54.

[7] Ibid., 45.

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