Saturday, April 4, 2009

Which Method Is Best?

While I believe there exist "best practices" in all kinds of endeavors, and I believe there is such a thing as poor methodology in ministry ventures of all kinds, I also think many Christians are a little too preoccupied with strategies and methods.

A good example is the approach to evangelism. Much ink has been spilled in the Evangelical world over which method is best, what is relevant to a given culture, and even whether there should even be methods. While some of these discussions certainly have merit, I am learning something. I have spent the last four months of my life teaching the book of Romans to a group of amazing college students and other young adults. We start chapter 4 tomorrow.

Yes, it's in depth.

I'm learning that the bigger issue is being intimately familiar with the Gospel itself. Not simply, "Jesus loves you and died for you", but rather the WHOLE gospel, articulated biblically. The more one is intimate with the biblical gospel, the better one is equipped to communicate it in a variety of settings using a variety of methods. I think we should be debating less about methodology and spending that time at the feet of Jesus drinking deep from books like Romans and Galatians and John until we are so familiar with the Good News that it simply pours out of us.

What I find fascinating is that the Bible portrays many methods of communicating the Good News. If you are intimate with the Gospel, chances are that you will be more skillful at knowing which method to use in which setting. It's true that different personalities lend themselves more naturally to different approaches, and that's fine. The body analogy exists for a reason. But I thought these examples from Scripture would be thought provoking:

6 Basic Approaches to Evangelism

1. Confrontational Evangelism
Definition - a bold, “in your face” straightforward communication of the gospel message.
Examples: Peter in Acts 2

2. Intellectual Evangelism
Definition - Using a logic & reason building a case for Christ to the hearer.
Examples: Paul in Acts 17

3. Testimonial Evangelism
Definition - using your unique story of what God has done in your life to introduce people to the gospel message.
Example: The man born blind in John 9

4. Interpersonal Evangelism
Definition - using creative strategies to help lost people develop relationships with soul winning Christians.
Examples: Matthew in Matthew 9

5. Invitational Evangelism
Definition - Actively inviting others to events where the gospel will be proclaimed.
Examples: The woman at the well inviting her neighbors to meet Jesus in John 4

6. Servant Evangelism
Definition - Intentionally doing good deeds, especially to the most needy, with the purpose of pointing them to Christ in the encounter
Examples: Tabitha in Acts 9

At the end of the day, the best method is the one applied well in the appropriate situation in the power of the Holy Spirit by a person who understands the Good News they bear.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Ike said...

Gospel 101 - Parts 1 & 2 of 9 - A Gospel To Be Preached
A Gospel For All

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
I Corinthians 15:1-4

A writer or preacher would be hard pressed to produce a better introduction to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than that which is given here by the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. In these few lines, he gives us enough truth to live on for a lifetime and to bring us home to glory. Only the Holy Spirit could enable a man to write so much, so clearly, and in so little space.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel… I Corinthians 15:1

In this simple phrase, we find a truth that must be rediscovered by all of us. The Gospel is not merely an introductory message to Christianity. It is “the” message of Christianity, and it is not only the means of salvation, but also the means of continued sanctification in the life of the most mature believer.

The Apostle had already preached the Gospel to these people! He was their father in the faith! Yet he sees the greatest need to continue teaching the Gospel to them, not only to remind them of its essential ingredients, but also to expand their knowledge of it. At their conversion, they merely began a journey of discovery that would encompass their entire life and carry on through the endless ages of eternity – the discovery of the glories of God revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we look through the annals of Christian history, we see men and women of unusual passion for God and His kingdom. We long to be like them, and we wonder how they came to have such enduring fire. I have studied the lives of quite a few of them, and I find one common denominator among them. They all seem to have caught a glimpse of the glory of the Gospel, and its beauty kindled their passion and drove them on. Genuine and enduring passion comes from an ever-increasing, ever-deepening understanding of what God has done for His people in the person and work of Jesus Christ!

Today, there are so many conferences and such, especially for our youth, which are designed to excite the believer’s passion through fellowship, music, eloquent speakers, emotional stories, and impassioned pleas. Yet, often whatever excitement they create quickly vanishes. In the end, little fires have been built in little hearts that burn out in a few days. We have forgotten that genuine, enduring passion is born out of one’s knowledge of the truth, and specifically the truth of the Gospel. The more one comprehends its beauty, the more one will be apprehended by its power. One glance of the Gospel will move the truly regenerate heart to follow. Every greater glimpse will quicken its pace until it is running recklessly toward the prize. Such beauty, the truly Christian heart cannot resist. This is the great need of the day! It is what we have lost—the preaching of the Gospel.

A Gospel To Be Preached

…which I preached to you, I Corinthians 15:1

It seems that for the most part, impassioned preaching has gone out of style. It has been deemed by many to be lacking the refinement and sophistication that are necessary to be effective in this modern era. The passionate preacher proclaiming truth boldly and unapologetically is now considered an obstacle to the post-modern man who prefers a bit more humility and openness to other points of view. The majority argument is that we simply must change the way we preach because it just looks foolish to the world.

Such an attitude toward preaching is proof that we have lost our bearings in the Evangelical community. It is God who has ordained the “foolishness of preaching” to be the instrument of bringing the saving message of the Gospel to the world. That is not to say that preaching should be foolish, illogical, or outlandish, but the standard by which all preaching should be compared is the Scripture and not the contemporary opinions of a fallen and corrupt culture that is wise in its own eyes.

The theory is often put forth that our present culture cannot tolerate the type of preaching that was so effective during the great awakenings and revivals of the past. The preaching of George Whitefield, John Wesley, and other like-minded preachers would be ridiculed, lampooned and laughed to scorn by modern man. Yet, this theory fails to take into account that these same preachers were ridiculed and lampooned by the men of their own day! True Gospel preaching will always be “foolishness” to every culture. Any attempt to remove the offense and make preaching “appropriate” diminishes the power of the Gospel. It also defeats the purpose for which God chose preaching as the means of saving men – so that men’s hope might not rest in refinement, eloquence, or worldly wisdom, but in the power of God.

We live in a culture that is bound in sin like bands of iron. Moral stories, quaint maxims, and life lessons shared from the heart of a beloved pulpiteer have no real power against such darkness. We need preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who know the Scriptures and are enabled by the grace of God to face any culture and cry out, “Thus saith the Lord!”

- HeartCry Missionary Society, Volume 54

April 5, 2009 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I find it interesting that Heaven never gets over the cross. In Revelation, Jesus is still referred to as the Lamb of God.

We should never get over it either. There are a lot of good things that we must learn and teach and do in the Christian life, but without the Gospel at the center they lose their power.

Good word, Ike!

April 5, 2009 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Jacob Mau said...

Hi Steve. Thanks for dropping by and saying hi on my blog the other day. I don't post as frequently as I'd like. It's a lot of work!

Anyway, I agree about thinking less about methodology when it comes to sharing your faith. The more we put ourselves in close proximity to God through spritual disciplines like Bible study and prayer, the more God will change us. Then you find gospel truth spilling out of your life just like anything else that you care a lot about. You don't have to conjur up the guts recite four spiritual laws to someone; rather, evangelism becomes something that happens when you share your life with people.

April 7, 2009 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger odmorale said...

Steve,

I found your blog and just wanted to mention that the heart of the problem is our ultimate lack of trust in what Romans 1 says about the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation.

God saves and therefore we should never for a minute believe that it was the method, but that God saved with the method or despite the method.

April 7, 2009 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Oh so true Jacob!

April 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Steve Martin said...

I like #5, and I like sharing the gospel with the individual, myself.

Sharing the persons hurts and hopes and pain...and then explaining how I too have the same hurts and pain (or similar) and that Christ has done something about it.

April 8, 2009 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I like to use the word "organic". I know... it's hokey.

But imagine if we were Gospel people (like Paul describes himself at the beginning of Romans). What if we walked with Jesus and talking about Him was normal?

Too much talk about methodology gets us off track pretty quickly, I think (though a little might be appropriate at times). Indeed, the Gospel is the power of GOD for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), so if it is coming out of my mouth naturally, as a reflection of its power in my own life, God uses it to do His thing.

Imagine that.

April 8, 2009 at 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Steve Martin said...

That's a good picture, Steve.

I always figure I'll mess it up, so I always ask the Lord to use my poor words for His purposes.

I figure He can handle the rest.

Thanks, Steve!

A blessed Holy Week and a Joyful Easter to you and your family!

April 9, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Aaron Youngren said...

Wow, just preached on this this week (http://thelinechicago.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/sermon-fullness/). Good post buddy.

May 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

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