For a while now I have desired to start posting more on some of Harvie Conn’s writings. Sadly most of my books and articles by Harvie are in a box five hours away from me, until September. Today, however, my copy of Harvie’s Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace was returned to me by a deacon who had borrowed it and I thought, for now, I would post several of my favorite passages/quotes from the book.
This book had a radical and profound impact on me when I read it about five years ago. In the near future I plan to work through it in some fashion on this blog. But, for now, a few of my favorite quotes from the book. These provide some excellent snapshots of Conn’s heart and what he desired to see our Reformed churches live out.
For too long evangelical white Christian communities in the United States have had a “come” structure, a parochialism that identifies with saints. One cannot be a missionary church and continue insisting that the world must come to the church on the church’s terms. It must become a “go” structure. And it can do that only when its concerns are directed outside itself toward the poor, the abused, and the oppressed. The church must recapture its identity as the only organization in the world that exists for the sake of its nonmembers (23).
The gospel that ignores the sinned-against may work among the middle class, but it cannot possibly work among the overwhelming majority in Asia or the United States—publican peasants and workers. It conveys too much superiority, condescension, yes even pity, to be credible. What is missing is compassion. Compassion becomes possible when we perceive people as the sinned-against, as well as the sinning (47).
Let people know that by giving their allegiance to Christ they will be embarking on a great campaign to banish war and poverty and injustice, to set up a life where love and service and justice have taken the place of selfishness and power. Let people know that the church that sends out this manifesto plans to be an advance copy of the new world order it preaches (56).
Do these quotes inspire any of you? When you read these is there something inside you saying “that’s just…right”? I recall the Lord kindling in me, through this book, a greater passion and drive to personal and communal holiness, prayer, and serving the Kingdom. Most challengingly, it did so by exciting me and encountering me with the rich social, communal, and “missional,” aspects of holiness, prayer, and serving the kingdom.
Rather than going on and on about these quotes, the numerous ways they challenged and impacted me, etc., I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and responses.