What I learned about different methods of Missions and Evangelism in the light of Scripture, in response to the required text for Church Planting.
By Michael Ireland, Candidate for MA in Divinity from CLIMB School
In Scripture and Strategy (William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA, © 1994), author David J. Hesselgrave says his underlying thesis is that “Holy Scripture itself must occupy a central place in the future strategy of the churches and their missions.” (emphasis mine).
In order to do this, Hesselgrave looks at the testimony of Scripture Authors, reviews in broad outline some of the ways in which representatives of church and mission have used (and abused) Scripture in modern times, and makes special note of the ministries who demonstrate that, rightly viewed and used, the Bible itself possesses the highest potential for impacting a postmodern world for Christ.(emphasis mine).
The author states categorically, that in spite of past failures in missionary enterprises, “progress seems always to be linked with complete confidence in, and careful examination and utilization of, the revealed Word of God.” (p.11) [my emphasis].
Early in the book, Hesselgrave tackles the question of “by whose authority” (p.17) churches and missions face in seeking to evangelize the modern world for Christ. He then traces the rediscovery of Biblical Authority, how modernists have been rethinking Biblical interpretation, hermeneutical methodologies, including the relationship between “meaning then,” and “meaning now,” addresses the subject of using the Bible “in context,” the place of the Bible in Christian ministry – including a look at ‘Message and Method’ – the process of confirming believers in the Christian faith, and the scope of the Great Commission.
By Chapter Eight of 11 chapters, Hesselgrave comes to what I believe to be the heart of Christian missions and evangelism today, “Counseling Christians Concerning Spiritual Warfare,” (pp.120-135).
In this chapter, Hesselgrave reviews the work of Tim Warner, a Bible College Missions professor and minister in the area of Spiritual Warfare.
Hesselgrave describes an approach used by Warner which missiologists refer to as “power encounter.” Here he describes Warner’s work in the 1980s and 1990s among people in the United States, as well as missionaries and nationals abroad, who faced great spiritual and psychological needs – those who were casualties of the warfare between God and Satan. Many were referred to him by Christian psychologists and counselors in the Chicago area where Warner served at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He since aligned himself with Dr. Neil Anderson’s Freedom in Christ Ministries.
Both as a theorist and practitioner, Warner gained credibility as an authority on spiritual warfare and, in 1991, the results of years of study and involvement were set forth in a book on the subject, Spiritual Warfare: Victory over the Powers of this Dark World, http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Warfare-Victory-Powers-World/dp/0891076077.
Hesselgrave goes on to describe how, in recent years, the primary focus of Warner’s thinking and ministry has gradually shifted from “power encounter” to “truth encounter.” He says of Warner that “he is no less convinced that there are times when believers must confront Satan and demonic spirits directly in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he become increasingly aware of the fact that if God’s people are to avail themselves of their resources in Christ they must first understand and believe what I means to be in Christ.” (my emphasis.)
Hesselgrave says Warner often quotes one of his college professors who used to say, “People may not live what they profess, but they will always live what they believe.”
Hesselgrave continues by saying that only Christians who really understand and believe what the Bible says about those in Christ have a foundation for coping with the world, for victorious living, and for effective ministry. He adds, “By definition, then, the truth encounter precedes the power encounter and constitutes preparation for it.” (my emphasis). The author cites Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 1:17 – 2:7), which Warner refers to over and over again.
In conclusion, from reading this book, I learned that no matter what methods or techniques of missions and evangelism are employed, either at home or overseas, that Christian believers need not only to prepare themselves with Biblical and theological knowledge, but to be trained in how to present the truth of the Gospel to their hearers by means of ‘truth encounter’, but also how to deal with the Enemy of Our Souls in the power of the Resurrected Christ in a ‘power encounter’ so that Christian conversion may be thorough and complete.