Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fifties Evangelism Today

Our recent team discussions about the ineffectiveness of our modern approach has been hard. We are having to admit that sharing the Four Laws like we did in the fifties is not working as well.

Bill Bright got it right back then for his generation. It was incredible. Contextualized and spot on. Things have changed and if Dr. Bright were alive now I think he would in his modern pragmatic view cheer us on to recontextualize again to our current culture.

We took a straw poll on our team and the majority of our conversions in the recent past have been predominantly Catholic. They have the Judeo-Christian world view still intact to work from - similar to the college student of the fifties.

The obvious nut to crack here is how to communicate the Gospel in our postmodern setting. As a general rule our students are great at sharing the "laws", but as products of their postmodern world, parental upbringing, church background are horrible at making friends and initiating in everyday encounters with non-believers.

We are actually thinking of teaching our students on basic social skills. "How to make friends" When our student leaders saw this they laughed. But then said they would come because they wanted to see what the staff would actually teach. If we adopt some new postmodern method to communicate (contextualize) the Gospel, there is still the awkward step of faith to say something about God much less Jesus, particularly when no one is watching.

I think sharing Christ a heart issue. Sharing about Jesus must come from a full heart centered on the cross and its implications. Out of a full heart of Jesus flows a desire to share.

Moderns are asking now: How do you get people to live this way much less measure it. Or is this just another Modern way of thinking? Is tracking effectiveness and taking statistics a Modern way of doing things? Scripture is full of number keeping. Singularly to give God the glory.

What do you guys think? I can't wait to talk more on Friday in our field staff meeting to figure this out.


Blogger RevyRev said...

This is strange because what I have been learning for missions in terms of relating the Gospel by the Bible's narrative pattern is now what the people are saying we must now do among young people steeped in pluralism and postmodernism.

Looking back i see couple of barriers that might separate the usual Cru person from engaging others with the gospel.

1) We do not build relationships with lost people. Jim already stated that.

2) We feel like we have to think/feel/prove we are moral superiors instead of bad guys being changed by Jesus, the only good King, Savior, and God. I know i tend to make this mistake. Therefore we feel we cannot divulge our issues and be real with people. Therefore they can't see that we trust Jesus to change us.

3) With christian/non-christian friends we believe "salvation by acceptance" and in ministry we believe "salvation by approval". This is a subtle idolatry not often addressed. But when we are convinced that only Jesus can save and restore than we want Him to be part of our friends lives.

3) We learn from others by our relationships, stories, anecdotes etc. But the old-school gospel presentations teach by definitional/systematic presentations. Instead, we should be making a transition to a relational/experiential/narrative base explanation of the whole gospel from Scripture. The systematic forms define God, sin, Christ, faith are not worldview forming. It might be misunderstanding or legalism that makes us think that the only worthy gospel presentation is definitional with systematic categories.

4) we tend not to think that we can ask friends for a couple minutes to explaining the gospel. Instead we will not share the gospel because we don't see "open doors" or we will force it into a conversation in a way that degrades the gospel message.

To answer Jim's question how can we measure it? One idea, on the relational-evangelism level to get people in your Bible study to focus on non-Christian friends, pray for them, and ask them for 20 minutes to talk about how there life fits into God's big picture.

If your friend want the short version or says, "can you just tell me now?", you can explain a little bit but still insist for 20 minutes because it is very important. Don't give a tract or literature unless it is a last resort.

Pray, an prepare, and go-for-it. You can be trained to use a tract. You can use an outline you made. You should talk to Bible Study or discipler for last minute encouragement and training.

Go though the narrative pattern of the gospel in the Bible: Creation, fall, redemption, restoration and be sure that redemption is about the story of Jesus and his substitutionary death and resurrection. Then talk about how by God's gift to us (grace) is to restore a relationship and the life he intended. We get to start living that now... and perfectly forever when Jesus comes back. Then explain that all starts by trusting Jesus' work on the Cross, following Jesus as King, and worshiping (living for) Jesus as God.

Plug-in your life and/or your friends life into the gospel narrative and discuss it. Defer detracting questions to after you get get through the gospel narrative. End with applying God's grace. Let them know God will help change them. Let them know there are no strings attached, rather you simply are invited to trust, follow, and worship Jesus. And people who trust-follow-worship Jesus are transformed and enabled to experience God's redemption and restoration.

Lastly, i think you can use a narrative based model in initiative evangelism. It may catch people off guard in a good way because you want to hear their story so you can plug it into the narrative of the goseple.

Just thoughts... I haven't converted any post moderns yet so what do i know?

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Caleb B. said...

I think there is a lot of good advice here Rev, thanks for taking the time to share it with everyone. I just had a couple thoughts to add.

When sharing the gospel with friends in this way, don't always try to tell the whole story at one time. If you can, great, but it will take a considerable amount of time to express the narrative Scripture in a way that can develop a worldview. And you shouldn't worry about expressing it all at one time, you are going to see this person later on this week or next week, right? But yes, we need to take the initiative to bring up these conversations because usually you don't have people asking you to explain everything to you (although that does happen sometimes).

Another thought I had was that I wanted to balance something I'm sure Rev didn't mean to be imabalanced. I agree that we should share the gospel along the narrative lines of Scripture as opposed to God-Sin-Christ-Faith (systematically) with postmoderns...but I think that as we are explaining the "story of the Bible" we need to be systematically explaining who God is and who man is, etc. I think that this can be integrated into our personal stories of how we came to know the Lord and and other stories of how we have experienced God in our lives. I think that we should share systematically who God is and who man is, etc. while we are sharing the story of the Bible and this will look different than how we would do it if we were sharing the Four Laws, but it needs to be done for someone to have an accurate view of Jesus. (Jesus revealed much about himself through propositions, we shouldn't be afraid of expressing those thoughts) ...I hope this paragraph is intelligible.

Lastly I wanted to share a resource with everyone. In our culture there are a lot of beliefs that people have that prevent them from believing the gospel. It's a situation like: if this particular belief is true, then the gospel cannot be true. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhatten, has called these beliefs "defeater beliefs". I wanted to share a short article he wrote called Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs where he explains a few of the defeater beliefs in our culture and he attempts to show a way that we can dismantle those beliefs. Check it out, it is here:


my weblog:

11:33 AM  
Blogger RevyRev said...

Hey Caleb! What's up bro?

Thanks for your response. I agree with most of what you said. But there is one part i don't.

I think narrative does necessarily trump propositional truth. Propositional truth is not only expressed in systematic categories but in narrative as well. If it wasn't then what is the point of reading the 60% of Scripture that is in story form? So i don't think it is a balance issue. RATHER It is a CONTENT issue.

You can deliver all of the doctrine you would want using mostly narrative. the only thing that migh not be narrative is the personal application in explaining grace, faith, and encouraging them to come to Jesus. But for everything else you can do it through narrative.

Here is a example of a narrative sermon i was preparing for preaching class. Let me know if there is any propositional truth missing. There is a lot of important doctrine squeezed in here.

The story starts off before anything else exists and it was just God. God has always had perfect community and fellowship with himself as Father Son and Holy Spirit. This is what Christians call the Trinity. Between the Father Son and Spirit there is difference and deference but also oneness, like-mindedness perfection and love.

God then created the heavens and the earth. He also created the first of us in the image of God. And in fact God created us both as male and female because since God is in fellowship in Himself, so we are created like God in that we are created to have relationship and fellowship each other and with God. And at this time everything was perfect, glorious and good.

But then the first of us were given the opportunity by Satan to sin against God. To in effect become their own god by deciding for themselves what is right and wrong and who or what they should live for. This was rebellion against God.

Every one of us are born into this situation. We all take our cues to how and why we live from anyone but God. And we live lives centered around other things except the good God who created us.

As a result the first of us experienced shame. They hid from each other, and they hid from God. They hid because they began to feel guilt and shame as a result of their sin. This has continued until today. that is why we live in a world full of people who do not tell the truth and live in broken shallow relationships. More than that, as a result of rebellion we experience rage towards God and rage towards each other. That is why there are wars, holocausts, murder, violence etc.

God responded to them by kicking them out of His presence and fellowhsip. And God has done the same with us. God is the perfect creator and has a right to keepout people who rage against God and each other. The place God promises to send people is hell. Hell is a place where God's anger and judgment is given to us and it will last forever.

But the story doesn't end there. God is not content to only be just. God also wishes to show mercy. So 2000 years ago God sent God the Son as a human being. His named is Jesus. Jesus experienced the pain, suffering, sorrow and temptation like any other man in broken sinful world yet he did not sin because he is God. Jesus did good in healing the sick and teaching people about God.

But then Jesus was brutally murdered on the cross though he didn't deserve it. But this was God's plan. On the cross a great exchange happened. While Jesus was on the cross he took my sin and suffered for the punishment i deserve. He took God's anger and Wrath for me on himself. Jesus died my death so I could live a new life. Though Jesus died, also he rose again, defeating Satan sin and death. In doing so he proved that he was in fact God. Jesus then ascended into heaven as Lord and King.

One day Jesus promises he will return. When he does he will destroy sin and sinners and send them to hell just as God promised. But he will save and raise to life all who trust, follow, and worship Jesus. Jesus will restore life and relationship with God and each other like in the beginning.

Then you go on to explain grace through faith as the only way you can have Jesus take your sins, and forgive you once and for all. And Jesus will empower you by the Holy Spirit to live a changed life in anticipation for his Restoration. Then tell them God wants them to repent and trust Jesus.

So what propositional truth is missing from that presentation?

That is what i meant by a more narrative presentation. It follows the pattern of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Resoration.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Caleb B said...

...and I agree with that thought.

I just wanted to balance a tendency that some people have of ignoring or minimizing or downplaying propositions and propositional truth. I agree that it isn't a "balance issue", it's not an issue of balancing between narrative and propositional truth...I was merely trying to give propositional truth its proper place (as you pointed out, much of the 40% of the Scriptures that isn't narrative is made of propositonal statements). So to make it clear, I don't disagree with you.

I was wondering if you could make something more clear for me. Could you explain how, in your words, "narrative does necessarily trump propositional truth"?

-I love you man, and I hope that you are growing while you are in school. We should hang out sometime soon. Grow in grace, brother!

4:11 PM  
Blogger DJ said...

You guys are smart.

9:32 PM  
Blogger RevyRev said...

I was wondering if you could make something more clear for me. Could you explain how, in your words, "narrative does necessarily trump propositional truth"?

Narrative contains propositional truth. You can say "God knows your thoughts". or you will reach the same conclusion when you read in Genesis in the account of Babel that God was greived that the "thoughts of man were only evil continually". Proposition is embeded in narrative.

Plus i don't see how a narrative about our unchanging God is contains less propositions than epistles that were written to a particular church at a percular time in a particular situation. Both require interpretation and application. And both contain propositions that can be seen at directly applying to us.

And such narrative was used to teach to younger generation of Israel the ways of the Lord.

Check out Psalm 78. It starts with instuction for teaching the younger generation and then it does so by telling the story from Jacob to the Davinic covenant.

Also see Pslam 105 & 106 as another example that a song narrative was used to teach people truth about God and his character.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Caleb B. said...

I agree with everything you say here, but I don't think you answered the question. I don't think you have backed up your statement, which is what I was hoping you would do. But either way...

Hey, did you get my e-mail...write me back so I can mail it to you. Love you man.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Kristie said...

Rev, thanks for clarifying. Several years ago there was a popular trend to "tell stories." This was more of way of sharing "testimonies" to replace the Gospel IMHO. it was too easy to go narrative and leave out propositional truth.

3:52 PM  
Blogger RevyRev said...


I would add that I don't believe we should share our "testamony" the same way as (or along with) the Bible's story. Testamony is based on your experience. The story of the Bible is meta-narrative and it is authorative and FACT... not a personal experience.


I guess i missunderstand your missunderstanding.

If i tell the history of redemption in the Bible i am telling it as history. When I said "...God created the heavens and the earth" i am telling propositional truth.

Historic facts of narrative event are are popositional statement. I don't see how they are not.

They are told as concrete events rather than abstract principles.

That is the difference between a narrative presentation and a systematic theology presentation.

The question we must ask is this. Are the people around learn from concrete-relational or abstract-conceptual information.

A concrete-relational learner would do better learning the events of the historic redemption promise of the Bible.

A conceptual learner would rather learn by concepts, definitions and abstract principles.

4:51 PM  
Blogger RevyRev said...

Caleb noted that i said

"think narrative does necessarily trump propositional truth"

Was a typo... my bad. i meant to say:

"think narrative doesn't necessarily trump propositional truth"

Which is also kind of confusing. My point here was that it is not either narrative or propositional. They do not cancel eachother out..

Sorry if i don't double check my wording. i can be confusing enough in person.

5:12 PM  

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