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Letter by Mr. Brian Buiter // Response by Ms. Kelsey Kuiper

I would like to respond to the article “What Does Evangelism Really Look Like?” in the July 2020 issue. I appreciate the enthusiasm for evangelism that Miss Kuiper displayed, particularly on a college campus where the gospel is so despised. It is easy for us to become complacent, since we are so comfortable in our Christian communities of extended family, church, school, and even work that we do not seek opportunities to share the gospel. Therefore, I think that having a conversation about what evangelism actually looks like is very important. However, I do have some concerns that the evangelism portrayed in the article looks more Arminian than Reformed.

First, some of the practices described are typical of contemporary evangelicalism. These include joining a parachurch organization at a university (paragraph 3), where doctrine and theology are minimized to avoid any controversy that might hinder the goal of bringing people to Christ (see Prof. Gritters’ sermon “Christ’s Spirit of Truth,” minute mark 40:40 through 43:28, tinysa.com/sermon/8252039111657), and participating in outdoor worship nights (paragraph 5), which generally focus on testimonials and praise and worship type music rather than the preaching of the word of God.

Second, the goal described fits the Arminian idea of evangelism: that a person makes a decision to follow Jesus (paragraph 5), rather than obtaining a knowledge-based belief in the gospel and joining a true church. (See Rev. D. Kleyn’s article “Reformed versus Arminian Missions” in the May 15, 2020, Standard Bearer for a positive explanation of Reformed goals. We must be concerned not only with the individual’s initial confession of faith but also their continued growth in the covenantal life of the church.)

Third, the article uses the promise of experiencing a fuller Christian life, rather than gratitude for salvation and zeal for God’s truth (Lord’s Day 32, Q&A 86), to motivate us to evangelize. The statement that we “experience…full joy rooted in being a faithful witness of Jesus Christ” (paragraph 10) gives our good works of evangelism a place and function that is out of harmony with the Reformed confessions. My concern is that anyone who seeks for spiritual fulfillment in their own faithfulness will be led to despair and doubt. Our joy is always rooted “upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone” (Belgic Confession Article 23), not in our faithfulness or obedience (see Acts of Synod 2018, Art. 62, 66).

Some of these things could be interpreted in a Reformed way, though not without qualification; for example, the phrase “make a Holy Spirit-empowered decision to follow Jesus” could be interpreted as confessing one’s faith. However, the combined effect of the article is to present an evangelism that looks more like an Arminian altar call than the Reformed presentation of the gospel.

We who hold the office of believer do not officially preach, but we must “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). In Acts 4:20 Peter and John displayed tremendous enthusiasm and zeal for antithetical and doctrinal evangelism. I want to encourage our young people, and indeed all of us, to the same zeal for God’s truth, so that “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”—the things of the glorious gospel of sovereign grace!

In Christ,

Brian Buiter

 

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I would like to respond to Mr. Buiter’s letter to the editor about my article, but I will refrain from a point-by-point answer, as I can understand much of where he is coming from, though I may differ in how I understand or see some of those things. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify a few things.

I can assure the readers of my dedication to growing myself and helping others around me grow in the spiritual calling to evangelism from a Reformed perspective. I have no desire to encourage anyone to disregard Reformed doctrine for the sake of evangelism. I, admittedly, have not done that perfectly. I learned a lot about sharing the gospel in an Arminian-leaning organization, much of which I will continue to use, but I am actively learning and growing in evangelism from a distinctly Reformed perspective. Unfortunately, I think most of us can say that this is an area of weakness in our churches, so most of the practical instruction I have received has come from other sources. I will always be grateful for the training I received and the growth I experienced in my faith during my time with InterVarsity, and I look forward to seeing more help, training, and encouragement in the area of evangelism in the PRC.

Briefly touching on a couple items, I cannot say I completely agree with Mr. Buiter’s generalizations of parachurch organizations and “outdoor worship nights.” The Young Calvinists hosted an event that could be perfectly described as such, and it was not conducted the way described above. Additionally, I appreciate his reference to Rev. D. Kleyn’s article from the Standard Bearer. I found it very helpful in understanding how our understanding of the covenant guides the principles of evangelism and missions in our churches.

What was written in the article were bits and pieces of many stories in which I played various roles. I mentioned that there was more to these stories than was briefly summarized. I will admit that the title could use some improvement; as a computer programmer, naming things well is difficult for me (seriously, this is a real issue in the industry), and I didn’t put much consideration into it. I had no intention of painting the picture of what exactly evangelism always looks like; there is no cookie-cutter way, because each story and opportunity is different. The time I had with different people at college or on airplanes did not always lend itself to being able to draw them into our church fellowship, but I am still thankful to have been able to plant seeds that God will use as he will. I had hoped that sharing various experiences would encourage others to see opportunities around them to play whatever role God gives them to play in others’ lives. Hopefully, there will be more experiences that bring others into our own church fellowships.

I wrote this article as one of many in the issue to help encourage one another to obedience to Christ in the call to go—obedience that must stem from gratitude for salvation and a zeal for God’s truth but is inhibited by our sinful nature. Jesus’ last words to his twelve, those who represented his church, were his instructions to them in response to his resurrection. These instructions were what the mission of the church should be until he returned—go into all the world to bring others, all those whom he has called, into covenant fellowship (and all that comes with that). I want to encourage us all to live with these things as a guiding direction in our lives.

As to joy, I speak from my own experience. Whether I word it in any of the following ways—a greater awareness/realization of my fellowship with God, a deeper relationship with God, growing closer to God, experiencing the joys of salvation more deeply—this has been my reality, a change tied so closely to taking up my work more intentionally as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. I guess I cannot explain it properly, but what I know is that I had no idea how much joy I could have in the Lord until I made Christ’s mission and calling a priority in my life. It takes my eyes off me, it helps guide my decisions for directions I take in my life, and most of all, I joy in knowing I am being obedient to my faithful Father (for his sake, not my own pride or fulfillment) and trying to bring glory to him, as pitiful as my attempts may be. This is the best I can describe my own experience.

I have not qualified everything I said in this response with “only by the grace of God” or “ordained from all eternity,” nor did I in my original article. One-thousand-word articles are not long enough to connect every dot. Every motivation to do something needs not be the most basic, fundamental motivation to compel us. I had faith that the vast majority of the readership of this magazine knows these most basic truths of the Reformed faith and would assume that position of the writer, but I can understand that times are not exactly normal at the moment. I hope this response helps interpreting the article from a Reformed perspective less of a stretch.

However God works the mystery of faith and grace and obedience in sanctification, this is what I want readers to consider and what I want to motivate them:

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18–20).

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:10–11).

In Christ,

Kelsey Kuiper