The responsibility to bear witness to the gracious presence of God in Jesus Christ "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" has been the perennial task of the Christian community from the beginning. But the style and form of evangelism has varied according to time and place. There is no one way of evangelism, as the history of Christians witnessing and confessing their faith makes very clear. The life of the Christian community has been and is enriched by a variety of evangelistic styles and by multiple theological confessions. There is, however, a limit to possible Christian theologies, and the preeminent theological task of the church is to test its proclamation by the word of God in Jesus Christ, as attested in scripture, to see that it is within the boundary. There is also a limit to the legitimate styles of evangelism. Some styles of evangelism corrupt and others strengthen the witness, but more significantly, style always betrays the real content. "There is an intimate but seldom seen connection between a person's thought and his style, which Alfred North Whitehead defined precisely as the 'ultimate morality of mind.'" The purpose of this paper is to relate Reformed theology to the form and style of evangelism. The paper presupposes that evangelism as shaped by Reformed theology is a valid and effective form of evangelism, but it does not presuppose that such form of evangelism is the only form that has validity or effectiveness. It is hoped that the proposal will be the occasion for self-criticism in the work of evangelism and for renewal of theological and ecclesiastical life in the Reformed tradition.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"John Leith's Reformed Theology and the Style of Evangelism brings to bear on the issue of evangelism the keen insights of a theologian, churchman, and teacher of an entire generation of Presbyterian ministers. If the Presbyterian Church (USA) wants to avoid the board path of membership loss and self-destruction on which it is now headed, it would do well to heed the message of this important book." --William P. Wood Senior Minister First Presbyterian Church Charlotte, North Carolina
"This provocative work by John Leith should be required reading for all church officers, including pastors, and made available to all church members. God was gracious in strengthening the congregations he served as pastor. And God was gracious in strengthening many of the congregations served by the students he taught over the course of over four decades. Though this paper was written in 1973, it has timeless significance for those seeking to serve God and build up the Church of Jesus Christ." --Jim White Retired Presbyterian pastor Oak Island, North Carolina
John H. Leith James C. Goodloe IV
John H. Leith (1919-2002) was the Mary Elizabeth Pemberton Professor of Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, where he served the church as a theologian and teacher from 1959 until his retirement in 1990. Of his many books are Assembly at Westminster: Reformed Theology in the Making, An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition: A Way of Being the Christian Community, and John Calvin's Doctrine of the Christian Life.