Stone's Compassionate Evangelism
"Let me put it bluntly - Christian evangelism,
as it is commonly understood and practices in North America today,
neither lends itself to compassionate ministry nor, if it is
consistent with itself, even coexists with compassionate ministry.
... we need to clarify the fundamental features of the prevailing
The pedestal upon which the predominant evangelism
consensus stands is a fundamental dualism between an immortal soul
and a perishable body that houses this soul during its relatively
short journey on earth. ...while this dualistic starting point has
held tremendous sway in the history of Christian thought over the
last twenty centuries, there is nothing especially biblical about
it. Its origins lie in classical Greek philosophy and in a religious
system know as 'gnosticism' that grew out of it and thrived during
the first centuries of Christianity. ...
With the advent of Christianity and its claim that
God became incarnate in Jesus Christ, the conflict between Hebrew
and Greek modes of thought became even further intensified. Here was
the ultimate insult to a philosophical worldview that firmly
believed the divine and the physical do not mix and that salvation
consists of escape from the this world rather than its redemption.
... The natural by-product of this dualism is an understanding of
the kingdom of God as essentially, private, other-worldly and
The second point of consensus in evangelism today
is its clear preference for personal salvation over corporate
salvation. Communities don't get saved; only individuals do - at
least in the only sense of the word 'saved' that finally matters.
This view is, in many ways , a natural result of dualism, but it is
also the by-product of an entrenched individualism that saturate
North American culture. Salvation, in this view, is strictly a
matter between the individual and God. ...
A third feature of the prevailing consensus of
evangelism is its view of human existence as a test rather than a
constructive project. This feature builds on the prior two
characteristics: dualism and individualism. ... Evangelism, in this
view, is envisioned and carried out as an effort to get people to
pass the test, enter the lifeboat, get their ticket, or the like.
The fourth point of consensus of contemporary
evangelism is its predominantly (if not exclusively) other-worldly
or next-worldly understanding of salvation. ... Salvation is the
guarantee of one's future; it is the determination here and now of
where one's soul will spend eternity. Salvation is the avoidance of
hell and the insurance of heaven. Again, this life is but a test to
see where one will end up. ...
Contemporary evangelism consensus hinges on the
first four points and is an emphasis on the quantitative rather than
the qualitative salvation of our individual souls. Then mass
evangelism is our greatest priority, changing the quality of
physical, social, and political life of relatively little
Compassionate evangelism is corporate as well as
personal. It aims not only at the transformation of the individual,
but also of that individual's community and world. ... It calls for
repentance and conversion to a particular set of values,
commitments, and allegiances re-presented in Jesus of Nazareth,
rather than some private and personal salvation experience that
requires no change in loyalties and can be obtained in a matter of
seconds or minutes.
Compassionate Ministry by Bryan P.
Stone, Orbis, 1996, p. 143-6, 150-1. Stone is Associal Professor of
Religion at Azusa Pacific University.