Too long we have tried to answer the wrong questions when it comes to evangelism. People have tried to come up with a system of questions that will result in the logical conclusion that Jesus is Lord. I have seen many different versions of the old circle yes or no on the following statements (with verses next to each one in parenthesis). When you get to the end you either have to say Jesus is Lord or contradict your earlier selections. I think that is a trap rather than a fair and appropriate conversation. Evangelism has often become a diatribe rather than a dialogue. We aren’t trying to trick people into Christianity. We are trying to get people to give their lives to God. Instead of asking, “How do I get someone to say yes to Christ?” I think we need to be asking “What does it mean to be lost,” What does it mean to be saved?” and “How do I communicate that effectively to non-Christians?”
I am going to devote a couple of posts to the questions that have been left unasked in our evangelism classes with the hope that once we get it, we will want to share it.
I also want to point out a post by Tim Archer where he asks some important questions about our weekly assemblies.
Matt, I think you’ve hit upon the change in our culture’s mind set and worldview which means that our approach to evangelism needs to change. The old “circle yes or no” approach did have a legitimate way of helping people see clearly into the Scriptures. Of course this appeals to the modern mind that has a clear belief in universal or absolute truth. They see belief as hinging on a clear grasp of truth and propositions. Helping them to be consistent through the answering of these questions was a fairly good approach to evangelism.
Today I think that we have turned a corner in our culture and while the old approach will work with some it will not work with everyone. It is not a “one-size-fits-all” society. D. A. Carson is editor of a book (Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns) that tries to give a more rounded approach to evangelism in today’s society. I think it’s worth the read.
I’m looking forward to what you have to say on this vital subject.
I have seen the old yes/no method work for some people. I just don’t think it is the most fair presentation of the Gospel. I think if we can get people understanding the story and what salvation is about we won’t have any trouble talking about our faith to others. How many times have people said, I am afraid to talk to someone because they may ask a tough question so we just hand them a tract or one of those yes/no sheets and send them off to evangelize. I think if we spent more time sitting down with Christians and helping them understand their own faith we wouldn’t need a cookie cutter approach. Because of that I don’t see evangelism as one size fits all. I think it takes a personal touch that cannot be programized into a wrote script/magic formula for someone to recite and blamo – new Christian. It is so much richer than that! I would love to hear your thoughts as well, Bob.
Good observation! I’ve been thinking a lot about that stuff lately. There’s a guy I’m supposed to meet with tomorrow night who is currently seeking. My plan is to invite him to do a study of Luke with me. If he’s up for it, I’m going to try and approach it from the angle that to be a Christian is to be like Jesus. The best way to know if you want to be a Christian is to see what Jesus teaches that a Christian should be.
I’ve tried the high pressure approach and it definitely was counter-productive for the person I was studying with. Thanks be to God that my own bad technique and lack of experience didn’t keep them from seeing the true light found in Scripture. They were definitely converted in spite of me.
I always enjoy your blog! This summer has been hectic, but in the upcoming months I hope to be a more frequent visitor/commenter again.
Glad you stopped by and I am excited to hear that you will get to talk with someone today about Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that! Like you said, if you show them Jesus Christ you can’t go wrong. You are in my prayers today.
Matt, I’ve never used the “circle yes/no” methodology. It didn’t feel right to me. I’ve known some folks who have used it “religiously” for years and taught a lot of people. I prefer the “story line” method. I find a lot of people that don’t really know that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises that God made in the OT. So I start in Genesis and try to show them how God was faithful to us by bringing Jesus into the world to save us from our rebellion against him. I think that Paul was doing that in Acts 13 and 17 with two very different groups of people. With the Jewish synagogue he showed Jesus as the messiah and fulfillment of the promises made to David. He showed Jesus as the fulfillment of the story of David. He quoted OT Scripture in order to prove his point. To the Gentiles in Athens, Paul’s approach was different in that he didn’t quote Scripture but he still showed that there is a God in control and this God had a plan. That plan is the story of the world and it was fulfilled when the one this God sent was raised from the dead to prove that God was in control of this story. I do think we need to go back to the drawing board for some different thinking on how to get people into Christ today. We need to stop looking like a sales force and look like disciples.