In his book More Ready Than you Realize – Evangelism as Dance in the Postmodern Matrix (2002), Brian McLaren gives 8 factors that he sees as summarising post-modern evangelism:-
1. The Relational Factor – count conversations not conversions.
2. The Narrative Factor – listen to their story, share your story and share God’s story, not just propositions or formulas.
3. The Communal Factor – expect conversion to normally occur in the context of authentic Christian community, not just in the context of information.
4. The Journey Factor = disciple-making as a holistic process and unending journey, not just as a conversion event.
5. The Holy Spirit Factor – believe that God is at work “out there” in everyone … not just “in here” in the church.
6. The Learning Factor = evangelism as part of your own discipleship – not just the other person’s!
7. The Missional Factor = evangelism as recruiting people for God’s mission on earth, not just people for heaven.
8. The Service Factor = evangelism as one facet of our identity as servants to all.
Obviously, there is food for thought here. As with many of McLaren’s pronouncements, this is enlightening and infuriating in roughly equal measures. Enlightening in what it affirms, and infuriating in what it denies. It is good to be reminded of the importance of approaching evangelism humbly, and engaging in it relationally and communally. In these ways McLaren is correctly identifying aspects that are too often missed in conventional evangelical approaches.
However, I can’t help thinking that the ‘not justs’ (‘not just propositions’, ‘not just information’, ‘not just heaven’, and so on) set up false dichotomies, and neglect some important biblical emphases. More importantly, what I miss here is any clear sense of what the content of the gospel message (the ‘evangel’) is. Post-modern evangelism runs into the same kind of danger as some other forms of evangelism – of having method but no message. But in virtually denying any place for conversions, for information, for proclamation, and so on, Maclaren seriously (fatally?) undermines the biblical gospel and its communicaton.
But then again, is not ‘thou shalt be subversive’ the first commandment of post-modernism?