In my recent post about Rev. Curtis’ papers bringing election into the evangelism discussion there were many lively comments. I also noticed in Rev. Rossow’s recent post that some accusations were being thrown around that his congregation wasn’t doing enough outside of its own walls. This has only given a good example of what happens when evangelism is based upon the Law, many people seek to justify themselves (and their congregations) by what I would call “missional righteousness” or proof that they are doing outreach, getting out there and giving their all (in order to appease the evangelism god which demands action).
This false righteousness is exactly what happens when sinners are commanded to do something by the Law. If grace and the Gospel are not the motivation, then a false righteousness will result (a righteousness that is not based upon Gospel, but one based upon works). According the Law-based evangelism efforts consciences are burdened heavily, and they need to be appeased by their intentions or efforts. That is why the introduction of election was so important to the evangelism discussion. It sets evangelism in the light of and motivated by the Gospel (Christians just simply are, it is a part of who they are in Christ, evangelism is not something they do).
Now, the problem with this is that those who previously have comforted themselves with “missional righteousness” will be upset that others can find comfort in something other than outreach efforts. This upset-ness reveals itself in outright condemnation of the new Gospel based evangelism (liberated from Law by emphasis on grace and election), or fears that such freedom will be abused (as election may be used by the lazy). Yes, sinners will abuse this freedom and that is sinful, but that doesn’t make the law-based evangelism efforts any more holy (as the law doesn’t produce holiness). Also, the offense of the grace/Gospel/election based evangelism cuts right to the heart of our worship debate as well, since it places Divine Service rightly as something for the elect, not the unbeliever. This really lays low the efforts of those who advocate law-based evangelism who also advocate Church Growth or Seeker Friendly principles to form their view and planning of Divine Services. Who is Divine Service for? The elect, who God Himself gathers together on Sunday (this includes all members and visitors, not just visitors with the members being second class citizens).
Again I can only say thank you to Rev. Curtis, and all those before him who helped bring our evangelism discussions into the light of the Gospel, liberating us to simply live out the lives of faith that Christ has given us, being Christians in the places where God puts us.
In studying Acts 2 it is remarkable how this all unfolds. God causes people to gather where they could hear the Word preached. The Apostles simply are giving testimony. Peter preaches as he was given to do (and asked to do by the crowd) almost like 1 Pet 3:15. The Church is then increased by the Lord. The Church then takes care of the baptized (Acts 2:42-47) and just lives out their churchly life together. Nowhere do we see the Church living under law and doing evangelism by compulsion. Nowhere is anyone but the Lord given credit for adding to their number. This is far cry from law-based evangelism.