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May 17, 2007

Rethinking the Great Commission

Joe Carter posts on his Evangelical Outpost blog this list of ten fixtures of evangelicalism that he believes may sometimes produce the opposite of the intended effect. As someone who would no longer use the term "evangelical" to describe myself, partly because of how some of these fixtures are perceived outside of and used within evangelical circles, I think Joe's comments help remind us that while sometimes our intentions are well-meaning and earnest, we may need to reread Matthew 28:19-20 and grasp the full intent of what Jesus commands us to do. And then reread the Gospels with an eye toward observing how Jesus demonstrated making and teaching disciples!

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Dennis Babish

When I click on the list of ten I get a precondition failed error message.

Gina Dalfonzo

Dennis, thanks for the alert. Try it now -- it should work.


Thanks for sharing this article with us. I have long worried about many of these same things. I am glad to see that there are others equally concerned. Hopefully, I can continue to be the change in my own life.

Jesus was a DOer. Our faith and our beliefs are important, but Jesus did more than just talk about the Kingdom of God, he worked every day to affect the lives of those around him.

I am excited to think about how I can effectively put the great commission into action in my own life today.

Dennis Babish

That worked.


Remembering, as I've long observed, that Joel is an existentialist, not an evangelical;

1) Of course, to make disciples, you have to make converts.
2) The sinner's prayer, of course, is a somewhat (depending on the situation) truncation of exactly what the New Testament -does- call all to do - repent and believe.
3) We need instead of rejecting evangelism, remember why we say personal savior. It isn't like personal computer, but rather, have you, personally, repented of your sins, and committed yourself to Jesus Christ, personally, as your Lord and Savior.
4) While I'm not a dispensationalist, I think that we can distinguish between that theological system and what used to be called "rapture fever". It is certainly a very understandable response in new Christians, the zeal, the strong hope of seeing Jesus face-to-face very soon. That is even commendable. Unfortunately, it gets distorted into an obsession with knowing "the day and the hour". And that can be harmful, especially when predicted dates come and go.
5) that of course comes from the New Testament command to "be ready to give a logical explanation for the hope that is in you" Joel, if you can't speak of how you became aware of your sin and rebellion against God and how you came to understand the Gospel, and convert to Christ, something is wrong. Even if you were regenerated in baptism, you still would have something to say about this.
6) the altar call, contrary to J.I. Packer's Calvinism (quite different from Dr. Schaeffer's and D. .James Kennedy's Calvinism), is found throughout the Bible. From "choose this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" as Joshua told the children of Israel, to Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost. The problem that I see, is that so many pastors and evangelists have robbed the Cross of its power, preaching psychological fulfillment instead of Law and Gospel when they give an altar call. Oh, and most Christians, starting in the first century, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox alike, have believed in what, if one must use Aristotelian terminology, transubstantiation. Read 1 Clement, written while John was still alive. Anyway, the term altar call comes from calling us to place -ourselves- on the altar, giving ourselves fully to God, which is true conversion. Romans 12:1-2, in fact.
7)Seems to be his personal grudge about a particular term. Giving witness to the hope that is in us includes all that he said we should do. I've heard people quote St. Francis to the effect that we rarely if ever need to use words. That isn't true. The Bible teaches us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. There are lots of nice people out there of all religions. Masons do good works too, but they surely don't have the Gospel. Good works tells people that you might be a nice person (or perhaps a holier-than-thou person, you can't tell just by good works). For the Holy Spirit to work faith, there needs to be the communication of the word of God.
8) Joel's complaint on 8, is a snobbish complaint about culture.
9) The Church Growth Movement, in my opinion, has a number of problematic aspects about it. I'm not a fan.
10) I haven't seen a Chick Tract in many a year. And I'm glad. But, Joel, the word euangelion is a technical term. It means the proclamation of a new king, a new emperor. And then we Christians say instead of "kaiseros ho kyrios", "Iaesu ho kyrios" and commit treason against Caesar, and really upset Jim Wallis et alia. Evangelism is the proclamation of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Of His Lordship, of His Crown rights, and that while Caesar might also claim to be Soter, through public works, or bread and circuses (welfare in modern America, not saying there shouldn't be any, but Caesar isn't soter!), Jesus is the real Savior. Saving us from our -sins- not just from poor living conditions and bandits on the roads.

People flocked away from Jesus in John 6. Curious that. From question 6, I wonder if Joel would have, too. And Peter, Joshua, the prophets, ALL called people to make a decision. Not that a decision would atone for sin, but a decision response to God's grace is required, because God chose to make it that way.

Joel may have converted from existentialism to a more van Tilian form of Calvinism, which is still, sadly, post Kierkegaardian.

If we want to renew Evangelicalism, we have to go back to the roots. Ad fontes!

1) We must affirm and hold to the Chicago Declarations on the Bible. If we don't, we will just follow some magisterium or other, and if that is the right thing to do, there are a couple which are several times older than any Evangelical magisterium.

2) We need to affirm and believe the Three Ecumenical Creeds. Even if you don't believe in the concept of a creed. If you can't do that, please find a different term for yourself. 'Christian' is already taken. This would get heretics like "Bishop" Jakes out of the Christian bookstores, and save souls from eternal hell.

3) We need to recover the Cross, and the centrality of the Cross. Too many congregations have removed even the symbol of the Cross from their sanctuaries. You'd think you'd walked into a civic center theater, or maybe a Unitarian church (see T.D. Jakes)

4) That means we need to preach once again on God's Holiness and Justice, and also on His Mercy, and never one at the expense of the other. If you water down the Law, you water down the Gospel. You rob the Cross of it's power. That is inevitable. Without God's holiness and justice, without the doctrine of the Fall, which requires the doctrine of the pristine Creation to be sensible, THERE IS NO GOSPEL.

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