Assuming Too Much in Personal Evangelism
Today, I’d like to share a few thoughts on personal evangelism, particularly the tools being developed to assist Christians in this task.
The Problem with Traditional Evangelistic Tools
In previous generations, tools like the Four Spiritual Laws and Evangelism Explosion dominated the field of personal evangelism. These tools have been effective for many people, and we can be grateful that the Lord continues to use these methods. But now that our society has moved in a direction that is increasingly post-Christian, these methods have begun to show their age.
Traditional evangelistic strategies are not necessarily deficient in what they say, but in what they assume. These methods assume that the lost person already has a basic amount of Bible knowledge. The presentation makes little sense unless presented within a religious framework in which the character of God is largely understood, the nature of sin is acknowledged, and the need for forgiveness is felt.
Unfortunately, we no longer live in a world in which people understand these truths.
The Romans Road
Take the Romans Road for example. As good as the Romans Road is (I’ve used it on many occasions, and it is Scripture after all!), the presentation usually begins with Romans 3:23 (All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), before moving on to sin’s penalty (6:23), God’s intervention (5:8), and our response (10:9-10, 13). Surely one can’t argue against the Bible as a gospel presentation.
But the problem with the Romans Road is that even Romans doesn’t begin with Romans 3:23. In Romans 1, Paul speaks of the character of God and the devastation of human rebellion. Romans 2 indicts all of us – Jew and Gentile alike. Romans 3 underscores the depravity of human nature.
In other words, even the Romans Road (at least as it is popularly used) makes sense only within an overarching narrative that is Scriptural. The presentation assumes that people know who God is, what God demands, who we are, what our problem is, and how God has acted in history to bring restoration.
The deficiency of the Romans Road is not the verses of Scripture, but the disappearance of the framework in which these verses make sense. When the people around us no longer hold to a biblical framework from which to make sense of these truths, the Romans Road turns into a series of cobbled-together propositions that are disconnected from the Story of Scripture.
Evangelists today are looking for ways to hold together the propositional truth claims of Scripture and the Grand Narrative within which these claims find their meaning. Tomorrow, I’ll review three of these presentations, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each.