Evangelism, but not as we know it.

Theologian Peter Rollins recommends you try the 'Evangelism Project'. Instead of seeking to evangelise other people, he recommends that our churches should invite other communities to evangelise us. This is his idea of the 'Great Commission'.

Evangelism, but not as we know it.

The Evangelism Project is one of a number of what I call ‘de-centering practices’. And they’re de-centering practices because they’re designed to get us to open up to other ideas, other perspectives; to enter into self-critique.

In this one, we go out to be evangelised by other communities. The idea is that we let them speak on what they believe, tell us what they do, and we witness it. But the evangelism doesn’t happen at that point. The evangelism happens when we say to the other, ‘What do I look like to you?’ The idea is that we need the other person in order to see ourselves. We’re like a factory that creates products, and we don’t realise that we’re creating pollution, but we are! And we need someone else who’s being damaged by that pollution to say, ‘Listen, this is what you’re doing,’ so that we can quickly change our practices. So the Evangelism Project is about us being evangelised, us needing the Good News. The idea is not that I’ve got some Good News to share but, rather, you might be the instrument of my salvation. I see this as central to Christianity. In the conversion of Paul, which is the paradigm conversion, he realises that the group he’s persecuting is the site of salvation, the site of God. As he’s then able to embrace the persecuted group, he’s transformed. This is what we need to continually be doing. The Evangelism Project, for me, is the great commission.

This blog is part of an interview with Peter Rollins that first appeared in SCM’s Movement magazine. Peter is leading a residential conference organised by PCN Britain and SCM at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick Derbyshire this November. (14th - 16th). He will be supported by two leading postmodern thinkers in the UK, Katharine Sarah Moody and George Elerick. The conference called Godly Mayhem, will include workshops, discussions and panels as well as plenary talks.

Peter Rollins founded the Ikon community in Belfast. He describes himself as part of the Emergent Church dialogue.


1 On 15/09/2014 edward wrote:

I wonder if it is not more honest to see Paul as having transformed the group that he was persecuting; to have exchanged the sword of demolition for the pen of reformation.
Did he not take the simplistic faith of the peasantry and use his training to turn it into, to initiate, the theological conglomerate that we now call Christianity?
Maybe, then, a truer conclusion, from this example, is that we need to take on board, actualise and reflect back the ideas of others after having given their ideas a bit of a polish.
We all carry baggage which constrain our mobility.  It is through processing the ideas of others that we find the chinks in our own armour which allow us to escape to a wider reality,
  However we also need to realise that evangelism is definitively about our effect on others, not their’s on us, though the latter may well be a derivative.
Perhaps a fresh title might clarify the mists.

2 On 29/01/2015 jays wrote:

This is a really fresh approach to the notion of evangelism - a perspectives that evangelism happens when we say to the other, ‘What do I look like to you?’ This view seems to be focusing on Otherness, rather than on Self-centeredness which has been conventional way of evangelism. I like this reversed approach. We are not living in the society anymore where any religious institution can simply recruit people and indoctrinate and convert them. I agree that churches should invite other communities - but not sure if they could evangelise us on the site where being invited. Genuine relationship matters. I think it is not the conversion but the genuine conversation that can create genuine relationship. Humbleness and respectfulness are therefore always good things.

3 On 21/04/2015 David Griffiths wrote:

In keeping with Peter Rollins way of approaching Evangelism, how open would members of PCN be to inviting theologians who occupy a very different part of the Church’s theological sprectrum to ‘evangelise’ them? Does not this also fall within the scope Peter Rollins’ comment, “This is what we continually need to be doing”?

4 On 21/04/2015 Andrew Vivian wrote:

I like the point you are making.  I think we progressives should invite that kind of observation.  Brian McLaren had an interesting observation to make about progressives in a blog for this website a while back.  Do you know of a friendly conservative evangelical speaker who might be willing to engage with a PCN meeting, or this website?

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