Jen Wilkin says evangelism needs ‘thinking,’ can’t be based only on ‘feelings’

Jen Wilkin, an author and Bible teacher, speaks during an episode of the Dallas Theological Seminary podcast 'The Table' that was uploaded to YouTube in December 2023.
Jen Wilkin, an author and Bible teacher, speaks during an episode of the Dallas Theological Seminary podcast "The Table" that was uploaded to YouTube in December 2023. | Screengrab: YouTube/Dallas Theological Seminary

Effective evangelism must involve thinking and Bible study and not be based solely on feelings, according to Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin.

Wilkin was interviewed on an episode of the Dallas Theological Seminary podcast "The Table" on the issue of Bible literacy, which was uploaded to YouTube in December and then to the DTS's website Tuesday.

When asked about the relationship between Bible literacy and evangelism, Wilkin says the Bible's Great Commission says, "Go and make disciples," not "Go and make converts."

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"If you want to have people who are eager to evangelize, then they need to know the beautiful story, and they need to know it deep in their bones," said Wilkin.

"The more people are taught the beauty of the beautiful story, the more likely it is that it will be on their lips at the opportunity that's presented to them to evangelize."

Wilkin finds it "frustrating" that "feelings have been pitted against thinking" in "recent iterations of church discipleship," contending the idea is "patently false."

She noted that "our love for something grows as we learn more about it."

"We have to rely on the knowledge that we have faithfully deposited into what I've referred to as a savings account in the day of crisis to carry us through," she continued.

"Right thinking fuels right feeling, but I would also say deep thinking fuels deep feeling. So, when we feel like we don't feel enough, we can't simply feel to feel. We have to think to feel."

Wilkin referred to the "virtuous circle" of having "deep feeling" that "spurs us on to want to think even more deeply" about matters of faith.

She touched on the issue of deconstruction in light of the recent examples of high-profile Christian celebrities saying that they were "deconstructing" their faith and sometimes leaving Christianity soon after.

Wilkin believes "a lot of the deconstruction that we're seeing" is due to the widespread assumption that "we were supposed to construct our faith" in a "heavily individualized" manner.

"When we understand that our faith is constructed in community and not just in community with our local church, but in community with the Church universal, so the Church across cultures and the Church across time, then when you encounter a doubt, you're far less likely to think, 'Am I the only person who sees this or am I the first person who sees this?'" said Wilkin.

"You may hear how other people have wrestled with those questions and answered them, and you may still say, 'I reject that,' but I think that nine times out of 10, it will cause you to think differently or harder about that doubt, and if nothing else, you'll feel the assurance of, 'Oh, doubt is something that we all go through.'"

The author added, "We don't know ourselves as well as we think we do," and so, as a result, "we need that shared identity of the Church to help us along."

Last September, The Gospel Coalition announced the creation of The Carson Center for Theological Renewal, which seeks to fight biblical illiteracy and unbiblical teachings.

"Around the world today, biblical illiteracy inhibits spiritual depth — not just in the shrinking church of the West but even in the growing churches of the South and East. But there's no spiritual renewal without returning to Scripture," said TGC Editor-in-chief Collin Hansen in a statement last year.

"And while the internet offers unprecedented access to the Bible, many of the most widely used resources for studying God's Word are unhelpful at best or heretical at worst. … The Carson Center prepares the soil of theological renewal by planting resources that help Bible teachers and students grow into maturity."

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