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During a PC(USA) webinar, Bible scholars reimagine evangelism as equity, inclusion and flourishing

‘Evangelism must be redefined’ says Dr. Donghyun Jeong of Austin Seminary

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

Dr. William Brown

DECATUR, Georgia —  “Evangelism means sharing the good news in relationally flourishing ways,” said Dr. William P. Brown, Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia on Tuesday.

In the Scattered Church webinar sponsored by Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry area of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Brown admitted that he was challenged by the invitation to speak about evangelism within the Hebrew Bible, particularly the psalms. However, once he looked at the texts from this angle, he was inspired by the holistic way that “good news” is both given and received and tied to the concept of shalom. “Shalom is not just peace but also justice,” said Brown, who pointed to Isaiah 52:7-8, where God’s messenger brings the good news of shalom to the impoverished, the captives, the impaired and the oppressed. The good news is, “they shall be free.”

“The result of justice is praise,” Brown said as he cited Psalms 82, 98, 146, and 148 as evangelism-defining texts of the Hebrew Bible before crossing over to the New Testament to support this fuller picture of evangelism with Colossians 1:21-23. “Evangelism is for all of Creation,” said Brown, who did not bow to stereotypes of converting nonbelievers and saving souls but instead described how the sharing of good news is done “on behalf of Creation and for those who are hungry.”

Dr. Donghyun Jeong

“Evangelism must be redefined” agreed Dr. Donghyun Jeong, assistant professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Jeong shared a slide from the 8 Habits of Evangelism produced under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III, Director of Theology, Formation and Evangelism, and quoted its opening line: “Evangelism is not a tool to gain new members for our churches … nor an instrument to help people gain access to heaven.”

Through close readings of Galatians 2 and James 2, Jeong revealed how evangelism is about the cyclical relationship among us, God and others. Jeong’s reading of Galatians 2 focused on how the good news manifests itself through inclusion and equity. Evangelism in the book of James comes in the form of action. Faith is not inward facing but declared outwardly. Jeong challenged traditional assumptions about the role of faith and works in Christian faith and practice by parsing out an analogy James employs: “Works animate faith like the spirit animates the body.”

Webinar attendees commented on the theme of integration and inclusion that ran throughout. The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in TFE, thanked Jeong for reconciling Paul and James, two biblical writers who are more often contrasted than compared. Brown thanked Jeong for illustrating how “inclusion is a sign of embodiment of the gospel” and drew parallels to the fullness of evangelism aimed at the flourishing of all Creation, remarking, “Good news is embodied by the community.”

The Scattered Church Evangelism series runs from October to November and includes five webinars sponsored by five areas within Theology, Formation and Evangelism. Recordings are available in English, Spanish and Korean (Oct. 11 and 18 only). Recordings will be available by Nov. 30 here.

The final Scattered Church webinar will focus on evangelism for youth and young adults and feature storyteller, author and activist Mark Yaconelli and Associate for Presbyterian Youth and Triennium, Gina Yeager-Buckley.

To learn more about the next Scattered Church webinar set for 5 p.m. through 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, check out the PC(USA) Facebook page here. To view past Scattered Church webinars, go here.

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