Original Research

Evangelism as an invitation to missional discipleship in the kingdom of God

Frederik R. Coetzee, Malan Nel, Johannes J. Knoetze
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2708 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2708 | © 2023 Frederik R.L. Coetzee, Malan Nel, Johannes J. Knoetze | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 August 2022 | Published: 27 February 2023

About the author(s)

Frederik R. Coetzee, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Malan Nel, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Johannes J. Knoetze, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Evangelism, for various reasons, is once again back on the agenda of the church and theology. As a result of negative experiences and practices of evangelism in the past, it is now necessary to rediscover evangelism in a post-Christendom context to enable the theological recovery of evangelism. This new understanding of evangelism can then contribute to the recovery of authentic practices in spreading the good news. To achieve this, evangelism must be rediscovered as essential to mission (participation in the missio Dei). Further to this, evangelism is rediscovered as an invitation to missional discipleship in the coming of the kingdom of God (missional discipleship as participation in the coming of the kingdom). This research was based on the starting point that evangelism takes place through an integrated missional congregation as the evangelist. This implies that evangelism is not an additional extra practice by a few members but an integral part of congregational ministry. Evangelism is then understood and integrated holistically as martyria by the entire faith community. The gospel of the kingdom is then embodied in their faithful presence (being), loving service (deeds) and words of hope at appropriate times (speaking). This holistic approach will free evangelism from reductionisms and dichotomies that have added to the fact that evangelism has fallen out of favour. These practices of evangelism are determined by the theology (content) and serviceable style of Jesus and contextually discerned in faith as participating in God’s mission. The empirical research was based on 49 questionnaires received from 43 Dutch Reformed (DR) congregations from the Northern Synods and 6 other churches. The qualitative research comprised structured interviews with 10 pastors from participating DR congregations. Simple random sampling was used to select the participants of the study.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This research was conducted from the perspectives of practical theology and missiology. However, it also leaned into systematic theology (dogmatics) about missional ecclesiology and the identity of the church. The understanding of the integrated missional congregation (faith community) made use of systems theory, which is an interdisciplinary approach. The ethics of the practices of evangelism have points of contact with ethics.


Keywords

Evangelism; discipleship; missional (mission of God); kingdom; integrated congregation (faith community); holistic evangelism; invitation.

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