"Sir, we would see Jesus" - Jn 12:21

The May WELS Connection (above) did not sit right with me. This idea of "pre-evangelism" - the Church not sharing the Gospel directly, rather, doing things to earn trust then sharing the Gospel - seems like a stumbling block to sharing the Gospel. Dale Carnegie would teach you how to win friends and influence people; Jesus left us the great commission to go preach, baptize... we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles.

At best this is a confusion between the work of the Church and the work of the Priesthood of all Believers. The Augsburg Confession, Article VII (AC VII), clearly defines the Church as "the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered." The work of the Church is to preach the Gospel, in season and out of season, and administer the Sacraments. Word and Sacrament are the only tools we are given, and are the only tools we need! The saints - members of the priesthood of all believers - entrust the pastor with the role of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments (AC V). The priesthood of all believers on the other hand is commended to "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" in 1 Peter 3:15, as we act in our various vocations, which may include engendering friendship or camaraderie on the jobsite which leads to a discussion that avails us the opportunity to share our faith. This is not "pre-evangelism", this is living the sanctified life. And this is not the work of the church, this is the work of the individual. 

At worst we are trying to cozy up to the world. Synod President Rev. Schroeder says this almost explicitly - "Years ago Christian congregations automatically had a good reputation in their community. Today we have to earn it." James has something different to say: "whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4)

This presents a false understanding of election. Christ said "no one will snatch them out of my hand." We cannot, by our action or inaction, save or damn anyone. Christ's elect are His elect. This is not cause to rest on our laurels but motivation that we can't screw it up! Instead of preaching boldly - "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." we try to distract them with trinkets and baubles and line them up so Jesus can backstab them with the Gospel. We try an raise our social credit score so we have the cachet to be heard. But regardless of trinkets, baubles or cachet, the elect will hear their Shepard's voice. Why hide it behind a "pre-evangelism" procedure?

Ultimately you are setting aside the Means of Grace - Word and Sacrament - in favor of "something else" - something you are implicitly declaring to be more effective than the only place God promises to work (!)

I commend to you Rev. H. R. Curtis' Freed from the Shopkeepers Prison which identifies this attitude as a form of functional Arminianism. His encouragement this this:

"God will save his elect, with or without you. If you do not a damn thing none of His elect will be damned. If you do everything, their number will not increase. This is the doctrine of grace alone. This is the doctrine of election. You are nothing. God is everything. It depends not on man's will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy"

Synod President Rev. Schroeder had a very different message in his June 2010 Report to the Twelve Districts (emphasis mine):

"With the world we live in changing so rapidly, there will be the temptation to alter our understanding of the very nature of the church and to adjust its message in order to be more ‘relevant.’ In the face of that temptation, we will need to articulate our conviction that law and gospel are always relevant to the lives of people, whether they are inside or outside of the church. We will need to emphasize that even though we live in a culture that does appear to be changing, the message of the Scriptures does not change in its ability to bring sinners to repentance and assure repentant sinners of their full forgiveness in Christ. In the face of trends in the Christian church today to adopt a theology of glory, we will need to maintain our commitment to a theology and practice that is centered on Christ crucified—the theology of the cross. We will continue to strive for a unified understanding of and approach to matters of Christian freedom and to develop a common understanding of how practices in the realm of freedom can and should be addressed…"

"pre-evangelism" is an alteration of church as defined in our confessions, setting aside law and gospel for trinkets and baubles, deferring Christ Crucified to a more convenient time. My brothers, this should not be!

Finally, I commend to you the closing verse of Dear Christians One and All Rejoice (LSB 556):

"What I on earth have done and taught

Guide all your life and teaching;

So shall the kingdom's work be wrought

And honored in your preaching.

But watch lest foes with base alloy

The heav'nly treasure should destroy

This final word I leave you."

What Christ on earth has done and taught should be the source of our evangelism, and how we execute the word of the Kingdom. Let not the base alloy of "pre-evangelism" obscure the clear preaching of law and gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments!

Additional Reading:

Life flows from the Lords' Table.

What do you mean by "evangelism"?