Evangelism from a Bowen
Murray Bowen meets Jesus
That if the Church is to take seriously
its task of Evangelism, then it needs to
take into account not just the biblical,
ethical and theological context, but
also the context of human relationships
in which it takes place. This means
that Evangelism must be rooted not
just in sound theology, but also in a
credible understanding of human
Given these assumptions,
What is Evangelism?
Given then this particular definition of
Evangelism, what then is needed in the
training process to implement it?
Theology needs to be relational rather
– The power of relationships
– As Institution and as
– The Kingdom of God
ASSUMPTIONS FROM BOWEN
THE EIGHT CONCEPTS OF BOWEN
Differentiation of self
Nuclear Family Emotional Process
Family Projection Process
Multigenerational Transmission Process
Societal Emotional Process
TOGETHERNESS - INDIVIDUALITY
Individuality is a biologically rooted life force
(more basic than being just a function of the brain)
that propels an organism to follow its own
directives, to be an independent and distinct entity.
Togetherness is a biologically rooted life force
(more basic than being just a function of the brain)
that propels an organism to follow the directives
of others, to be a dependent, connected, and
The togetherness forces are derived from
the universal need for “love,” approval,
emotional closeness, and agreement. Bowen p.277
The individuality force is derived from the
drive to be a productive, autonomous
individual, as defined by self rather than
the dictates of the group. Bowen p.277
There is never a threat of too much
individuality. Bowen p.279
QUESTIONS FOR EVANGELISM
Can Evangelism at times be a process that
pushes for togetherness at the expense of
Do evangelism programmes imply a
togetherness of thinking and acting with little
tolerance for self definition or individuality?
What is the goal of evangelism?
How does Jesus function in relationships?
Does the relationship with Jesus enhance
individuality? Togetherness? Or both?
Does salvation enhance or restrict
Two Key Variables:
Differentiation of Self
Since the response to the perception of a
threat is anxiety, the more easily people
are threatened, the more anxiety they
experience. Since anxiety undermines
a feeling of emotional well-being,
people automatically act in ways
designed to reduce anxiety. Kerr p74
The greater the emotional
interdependence of a relationship,
therefore, the more easily people are
threatened, the more anxiety they
experience, and the more energy is
invested in actions aimed at reducing
that anxiety. The more actions people
feel compelled to take to reduce anxiety
and to avoid triggering anxiety, the less
the flexibility of a relationship.
Anxiety is an organism’s
response to a threat real or
How does the Church’s anxiety about itself
affect its outreach?
How does anxiety affect the Church’s
perception of those outside of the church?
Can evangelism be subverted into a
programme to manage the anxiety of the
Differentiation of Self?
This difference between people in the
proportion of life energy prone to be
invested and bound in relationship is
described by the concept of
differentiation of self.
The “I position” defines principle and
action in terms of , “This is what I think, or
believe” and, “This is what I will do or will
not do,” without impinging one’s own
values or beliefs on others. It is the
“responsible I” which assumes
responsibility for one’s own happiness and
comfort, and it avoids thinking that tends to
blame and hold others responsible for one’
own unhappiness or failures. Bowen p495
The “responsible I” avoids the
“irresponsible I” which makes demands on
others with, “I want, or I deserve, or this is
my right, or my privilege.” A reasonably
differentiated person capable of genuine
concern for others without expecting
something in return, but the togetherness
forces treat differentiation as selfish and
hostile. Bowen p495
Differentiation has two dimensions:
– Focus on self
– And is undertaken in relationships,
especially with those who are
emotionally significant to one.
The togetherness needs of a very poorly
differentiated person, which are overriding
in their influence, are felt as deep yearnings
to be loved, accepted and guided through
life. As differentiation increases,
individuality is better developed,
togetherness needs are less intense, and
emotional reactiveness is better modulated.
Autonomy does not mean selfishly
following one’s own directives it
mean the ability to be self-
could result in the choice to be
guided by the best interests of the
Being self-focused but not selfish.
Being other focused without the
loss of self.
How will you know if Evangelism is a
process of self differentiation i.e. a process
that arises out of a more thoughtful and
calmer place in self or when it is an emotional
process that reflects the anxiety of the
What is the relationship between autonomy
Can evangelism be an invitation to fuse i.e.
give up self to the church?
What would evangelism look like when it is
an expression of the church’s differentiation?
How can we know if the witness of the
Christian is an expression of the solid
Can evangelism be understood as the
Christian’s “I” statement?
The basic building block of any emotional
system is the “triangle.” When emotional
tension in a two-person system exceeds a
certain level, it “triangles” a third person,
permitting the tension to shift about within
the triangle. … The emotional system is
composed of a series of interlocking
The theory considers the triangle – a
three-person system – as the molecule of
any emotional system, whether it exists in
a family or in a social system. … The
triangle is the smallest stable relationship
system. A two-person system is an
unstable system that immediately forms a
series of interlocking triangles. The
triangle has definite relationship patterns
that predictable repeat in periods of stress
and calm. Bowen p198-199
Can evangelism programmes be a
triangling process in which Christians
project and bind their anxiety about their
own future onto non-Christians?
What can the church expect from
evangelism programmes when the driving
force for its action is anxiety?
We have come to use the term emotional
cut-off or simply cut-off to refer to
emotional distancing, whether the cut-off
is achieved by internal mechanisms or
physical distance.Bowen p535
The one who runs away does have a
different life course. He needs emotional
closeness but is allergic to it. He runs
away kidding himself that he is achieving
“independence.” The more intense the cut-
off with his parents the more he is
vulnerable to repeating the same pattern in
future relationships.Bowen p.535
The person who runs away from his family
or origin is as emotionally dependent as the
one who never leaves home. They both
need emotional closeness but are allergic to
Is emotional cut-off from families a
characteristic of people living on the West
coast of the USA?
If those who cut-off from their families are
allergic to too much togetherness, how can
Christians witness to them without triggering
their reactivity and distancing?
If they are distancing from their families how
can the Church minister to them without
GIVEN THESE THEOLOGICAL
BOWEN THEORY ASSUMPTIONS,
WHAT THEN IS EVANGELISM?
EVANGELISM IS THE PROCESS OF
DEFINING ONESELF AS A
CHRISTIAN TO THE WORLD
A Systems View of the Evangelism
Evangelism is relational. It concerns God’s
relationship with humankind and nature
and our relationship with God, others and
nature. Evangelism therefore needs to be
rooted in a relational theology that provides
a broad relational understanding of life.
Evangelism focuses on the relational
processes of God’s activity and uses a
number of scriptural images such as:
Love, justification, healing, liberation,
separation, peace, celebration, teaching,
listening, breaking of bonds, conversion,
caring, restoration, salvaging etc,
Evangelism is the witness to the presence of
God in the world, others, nature and self.
Evangelism is grounded in the Gospel of
Jesus the Christ.
Evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism is about the Kingdom of God.
Evangelism is a process of defining a self.
It focuses on self rather than on the other.
It is the “I” statement of Christians. This
is not a selfish focus on self, but the taking
of personal responsibility for self in
Evangelism is about Christian self-
definition, and not about defining or
attempting to change others. Changing
others is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism relates to the “thoughtful” aspects
of life rather than to the emotional.
Evangelism as a thoughtful process of self-
definition, and is an essential and integral
aspect of the Christian life. As such it is an
expression of the “solid self” of the Christian.
Evangelism is a thoughtful response of the
Christian to the call in 1 Peter 3:15
Always be prepared to make a defense to
any one who calls you to account for the
hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness
Evangelism is always undertaken in the
context of anxiety both in the “evangelist”
and in the one to whom he or she relates.
This means that evangelism requires a high
degree of self-management by the Christian.
Evangelism affirms that God is involved in
the lives of all people – both believers and
Evangelism is not judgmental.
Evangelism is a process and not an event
or a programme that one takes, studies or
Evangelism honours the differences
between people and does not seek
togetherness as sameness of thinking,
feeling or behaviour.
Evangelism finds it source of strength in the
Evangelism is not to be equated with “church
growth.” Evangelism may or may not lead to
an increase in church membership.
Assumptions Underlying A Systems
Perspective of the Evangelism Process
That Christians are often not familiar, or
comfortable with telling their own, or their
family’s faith story.
That awareness of their own faith story as
well as that of their family, is normative for
evangelism since this is the only authentic
story for each Christian.
What process needs to be provided in
order to assist Christians to define
Goals of the Evangelism Process
To provide Christians with the opportunity
to reflect on the presence of God in their
own and their family’s life.
To provide an opportunity for Christians to
tell their own and their family’s faith story
so that they can give “an account of the
hope that is within them.”
To assist Christians in a process towards
To provide Christians with the theological
and theoretical resources that inform this
To offer opportunities for biblical
Nel Family Tree
The evaluations bore out the
appropriateness of this process.
The following comments were
made about the shift in Thinking
as a result of the process :
Telling my own story strengthened my
A sense of gratitude for my family
Less anxious about evangelism and
where I belong
I no longer focus on others
I tell my own story
Comments about Self:
Sense of joy in own uniqueness and
what that brings to the Christian
Deeper and broader sense of God’s
Can be my own person and be a
More responsible for self
Always felt God’s presence but now see
how God was present
More tolerant of other people at work even
those who don’t believe since I know that
God is at work. Can’t wait for an
appropriate time to tell my story.
Comments about God:
By going back to the family tree I
realized that God was working there
already. God is so much bigger and more
The visualization of the family in the
family diagram aided in seeing God
through he generations. Seeing was
The sense of evangelism as managing
ourselves rather than others,
understanding our own stories so that we
can share them with others.
The restoration of relationships with God,
self and others. Managing oneself etc
The idea of seeing the family tree as a
process of God working in the family
The following quotation is attributed to Albert Einstein
and is taken out of his context, theoretical physics:
"The significant problems we face cannot be
solved at the same level of thinking we were at
when we created them. Like the military that is
always prepared to fight the last war, most of us
gear our lives to handle in the future the problems
we have encountered in the past. Like the military
the problems of the present tend to be linked to
those past solutions and catch us unprepared. We
then tend to employ measures we have used in the
past and, in unstable and stressful conditions, those
measures have a likelihood of making the current
problems worse.” Papero "Stress, Society, and the Individual"
“Return to your home, and
declare how much God has
done for you.”
Share with those around you
“How much God has done for you”
this past week.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
“Go in peace and witness to the hope
that is within you.”