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Evangelizing with Cameron
— by Karen Soole Karen Soole
David Cameron created a twitter storm with his speech at his Easter reception at Downing Street.[1] I found some it encouraging - I am pleased that he is keen to raise the profile of persecuted Christians and pray that he will support the UN Human Rights Council calls for Security Council action against North Korea.[2] Other Christians I know find his welfare policy abhorrent and have begun to view him as they did Margaret Thatcher – such was her notoriety that a student who wasn’t even born during Thatcher’s government felt that it was a Christian act downloading ‘Ding dong the witch is dead’ when Margaret Thatcher died. I don’t know if he will be able to win them round. As well as that Cameron hasn’t won many friends in the Church with his implementation of gay marriage. The speech was probably a shrewd political move to try and get ‘the Conservative party at prayer’ back on board but it might backfire because the secular lobby are furious as seen in the letter to the Telegraph signed by among others, Philip Pulman, Tim Minchin, Peter Tatchell and Polly Toynbee: ‘…we object to his characterisation of Britain as a “Christian country” and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders.’[3]

None of the signatories are surprising. But there was one notable absence – Matthew Paris. I learnt last week that Matthew Paris has huge warmth towards Christian evangelism despite his atheism. He wrote in an article in 2009:

‘Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.’ [4]

He goes on to say that he used to think that missionaries only provided social benefits to a community but now he observed something else:

‘Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.’

The gospel had brought transformation to peoples hearts. The gospel does not bring negative consequences for society or politics but the reverse! David Cameron wants the Church to evangelize but what he is really asking for is partnership in welfare projects with the Church – he wants to change the country and the world but he doesn’t want to do it with doctrine: ‘I am not one for doctrinal purity, and I don't believe it is essential for evangelism about the Church's role in our society or its importance.’[5]

But evangelism cannot be separated from doctrine; it’s about sharing good news, the good news about Jesus. It is about bringing people to a life changing relationship with Jesus and doctrine is essential. The rest follows on in changed lives. Whatever Christians think about politics we must agree on one thing – Christ is central to our evangelism. What does that mean? I think the apostle Paul summed it up very well: ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

So lets heed the Prime minister’s call to evangelise:

‘Whereas actually, what we both need more of is evangelism. More belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that.’

Matthew Paris observed evangelism in Africa that changed people’s hearts, evangelism that involved not just aid but a message. We don’t have to write off the Prime minister’s challenge. We should be unashamed in getting out there but lets make sure we remember what this really means! ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of salvation for all who believe’ Romans 1:16