13. To distinguish between evangelism and membership recruitment is not to suggest, though, that they are disconnected.
In this point Bosch is balancing out his last point- that evangelism is not church extension. There, he was reacting against the Church Growth movement and the seeker-sensitive church approach which pander to the surrounding culture in view of large numerical growth. Bosch says conversion had become a “numerical affair” (p. 415).
This is the long shadow of Constantine. After his conversion to Christianity in 312 AD, he offered inducements to encourage people to embrace the new state religion. Converts were offered a white garment and twenty pieces of gold each. Obviously this isn’t the exact same thing that the seeker-sensitive approach does, but the end product may be similar- a whole lot of people enter the doors of the church for the wrong reasons.
In the church we need numeric increase (of people) and intrinsic increase (of Christ). Without the second, we will have assemblies of emptiness. We will have a lot of earthen vessels, but not much treasure within (2 Cor. 4:7).
In this post, Bosch is recognizing that evangelism and the numeric growth of the church are organically connected. The gospel isn’t aiming for millions of Christians per se (as individuals). The gospel doesn’t produce butterflies, but bees- people who are group-conscious and hive-centered. Just like a bee was made for a hive, a Christian was saved for the church. In fact, a Christian is a member of the Body of Christ. If he is not attached and functioning properly, he contradicts his own identity. Thus, successful evangelism should always increase the actual gathering of the local church.
Thus Bosch could say:
It is the heart of the Christian mission to foster the multiplication of local congregations in every human situation.
This is the heart of Christian mission because of the venue and opportunity it gives for the universal Body of Christ to be expressed and built up practically.
- Evangelism and Mission (lifeandbuilding.com)
“Any missionary enthusiasm must be tempered with the realization that mission in Christ´s way
is the way of the cross, the way of costly servanthood toward others. Anything less was simply religious
propaganda to ideological manipulation.” David J.Bosch “Jesus – The Suffering Messiah” and:
“The mission of Jesus can be understood only in terms of the suffering servant of the Lord, who like a grain
of wheat must die in order to bear fruit.” Compare to the experience of the Apostles and the early Church.
Another great Bosch quote. Thanks for sharing that Harald. Many good ideas and zealous agendas need to be tempered by the cross. The cross always checks even the best of our intentions. The Lord’s public ministry began with baptism, which signified that He would reject His natural self (though perfect) and be constrained by the Father’s will. Watchman Nee has two incredible messages along these lines. Check out Volume 46 in his Collected Works, ch. 187 & 188.