Friday, 26 September 2008

Sur le Seuil ~ on the threshold of a new evangelism by Laurent Schlumberger

One of the problems wth theology written in languages other than English is that it can remain almost invisible to the world of the modern day language of Babel.
I am sometimes more than a little frustrated at the ignorant arrogance of some anglophones who express opinions like "literature in English is so rich we don't really need to translate much." If that held true for Protestant theology that would mean no Barth, Bonhoeffer or Moltmann ... no Calvin or Luther. Don't get me wrong I love my mother tongue, its poetry and fluidity and simplicity. So often we tend to think that communication is all about "getting our message out there" rather than also listening to what is going on - perhaps in another language or another culture.
All this as an introduction to Laurent Schlumberger's exceelnt essay on evangelism which I've mentioned before. When I first read Sur le Seuil it was such a relief to find someone putting into words so much of what I was thinking and feeling - in a much more coherent way. Schlumberger was a regional president in on the the French Reformed Church and recently returned to a community work and evangelism position in a local community of the Misioin Populaire.
In Sur le seuil - which means on the threshold - he argues that for French Protestantism there are two models of evangelism which are no longer adapted to present day society - what he calls l'estrade et l'enfouissement : l'estrade could be described as the pulpit, concentrating on the message and leading rather too easily to pride or intolerance; l'enfouissement is more complicated, perhaps it's about getting alongside people and going deeply into the Bible, about activism. Schlumberger says this method risks ending in theological silence. He also adds that in a European society which has beocme more or less ignorant of Christianity and focused on clichés these models of evangelism really don't work.
What Schlumberger proposes is a model of evangelism around encounter, to renew Christian witness . This he claims links belief and acion - it also calls liberal Christains out of their comfort zone to dare to bear witness to their faith in a personal way. This is a huge challenge to French mainstream Protestantism but Schlumberger also very humbly invites local churches to dare to do this, making mistakes along the way.
Something like this book needs to be written and put into practice in many local and national situations throughout the world.