In his monograph, Mission-Commitment in Ancient Judaism and in the Pauline Communities, John Dickson challenges the prevailing evangelical view that every Christian should be an evangelist. Instead, he argues from Judaism and from the Pauline letters that Paul viewed the church, not as a band of evangelists, but as a partner in mission. More specifically, that churches “be actively involved in local outreach via authorized heralds (e.g., evangelists) and in the larger mission of the gospel via partnership with Paul.” (Review: Kent Yinger). So, Dickson redefines evangelism within the larger mission of the gospel and its expression within the church of Christ.

Yinger notes: “He discounts popular proof-texts traditionally taken to reflect an expectation that Paul’s churches (= every believer) would actively engage in local and regional mission (so O’Brien; cf. 1 Thess. 1.8; Phil. 1.27; 2.15-16; Eph. 6.15, 17). This sets the stage for a ‘two dimensional view of mission’ (p. 177): apostolic heralds proclaimed, congregations partnered with them in a variety of ways (i.e., promoted mission).”

Dickson redefines the role of the church in evangelism as supporting apostles, prophets and evangelists and by participating in the larger activities of mission. In the Pauline epistles, such ways include:

  • financial help
  • prayer
  • commending the gospel by mixing in society
  • adorning the gospel with honorable behavior
  • showing and telling the truth
  • in public worship
  • ad hoc conversations with outsiders

In summary, Dickson claims that Paul expected his converts to work not only for the success of Paul’s mission but also for the salvation of those within their local sphere of influence, but through less than conventional means.

Dickson will be speaking at the Promoting the Gospel conference.

Read the Introduction and first chapter.

A Review: in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27.1 (2004)