Journal of Christian Ministry | Not Ashamed of the Gospel
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Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Enduring Shame as a Baseline for Conversion (JCM, Vol. 5 – 2013)
Mark R. Teasdale
E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Abstract

This paper argues that conversion is best construed as the willingness of a convert to endure shame for the sake of identifying publicly with Jesus Christ. The paper will demonstrate that this view of conversion is supported by biblical, psychological, anthropological, and missiological scholarship, and that this view of conversion has substantial implications for both the teaching and practice of evangelism.

A Proliferation of Theories

In teaching evangelism, it is not infrequent that I hear some variant of the question, “How do we know if we have done enough?”

Given the admittedly inscrutable situation evangelism presents insofar as it deals with the intangibles of human life, students often wonder how they can determine if they have been successful in their evangelistic efforts.

 This question is complicated by whether evangelism can ever be properly termed “successful” insofar as the biblical witness suggests that evangelism does not require an external response to the faithful sharing of the gospel to measure its effectiveness.

Even in light of the biblical text, it might fairly be asked what the desired result of evangelistic activity is. To this latter question there are a large variety of answers provided in an equally large variety of texts on the topic of evangelism. Each of these resources explains evangelism in its own way, deploying its own set of metrics to determine whether the desired result has occurred within that specific view of evangelism.

At the risk of making a generalization, the desired result of evangelism in all cases is some form of transformation involving Jesus Christ. What this transformation entails varies significantly from one explanation of evangelism to the next, but all explanations desire that evangelism will bring about a transformation in the person being evangelized.

In this paper, I will describe this transformation in terms of conversion.2 Even this narrowing, however, does little to resolve the matter, since conversion itself is variously described. A quick review of some of the ideas surrounding conversion in my own Methodist tradition demonstrates this. William Abraham suggests that conversion is a dramatic experience of the grace of God that must be accompanied by significant catechesis in order to initiate someone fully into the Kingdom of God.

Walter Klaiber contends that conversion is close to an ontological change wrought in the convert by the grace of God. Scott Jones points to conversion as an ongoing process of turning away from selfish and sinful habits to holiness. Bryan Stone argues that conversion takes place when a person adopts new convictions that undergird how that person lives and acts in the world, bringing the person into line with God’s shalom as embodied by the community of faith.