Evangelism According to John Howard Yoder

John Howard Yoder says that communal practices like baptism, the eucharist, the opening meeting, and binding and loosing are the Gospel, in that the good news “is by definition always public; it is proclaimed in the open…it cannot be esoteric or private and be news.”  Yoder warns of the influence of market mentality:  The way for these communal practices to be good news is “not to try to please some marketplace or live up to someone else’s prior picture of what is credible.”  These practices “do not make the individual the pivot of change.  No trust is placed in the individual’s changed ‘insights’ or ‘insides’ to change the world.  The fulcrum for change and the forum for discernment is the moral independence of the believing community.”

These practices are not introspective or otherworldly.  They are not only for the individual, and in fact, they do not exist merely for the sake of the church.  Such practices ultimately exist for the world.  They can be “spoken of in social process terms, which can easily be transposed into non-religious equivalent that a sociologist could watch.  People who do not share the faith or join the community can learn from them.”

It imperative to collapse the difference between “means” and “ends,” to eliminate the differentiation between the Church and the message it proclaims.  The Gospel cannot be communicated on its own apart from the community that is the church.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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