Friday, May 19, 2006

Evangelism

I've been teaching a class on evangelism using the book by Randy Newman (no, not THAT Randy Newman) called Questioning Evangelism. It's very good. It has challenged my laziness in sharing my faith, and caused me to question the way I learned to do evangelism. I learned the Evangelism Explosion method back in the '80s, and was an E.E. teacher-trainer and even a clinic leader at a few churches I've served. I still use the outline, or parts of it, whenever I can. But Newman's book has encouraged me to think more relationally about evangelism, using questions to guide conversations toward Christ and really listening to people.

Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller, has a whole chapter called "The Gospel of Jesus," and it's even more challenging about the way most of us do evangelism. He says that we typically present unbelievers with a list of propositions, ask them to agree with those propositions, and give them the impression that if they will agree with our "points," they will become Christians. He says that evangelism ought to be an invitation to a relationship, rather than just the presentation of ideas. Or, to use Miller's words, "Becoming a Christian might look more like falling in love than baking cookies" (pg. 155).

In a direct slam at E.E. (although without naming it) Miller scolds us for even thinking that trusting Christ can be compared to deciding to sit in a chair (pg. 157). The Bible does not picture Jesus as a chair. He's our good Shepherd, our Bridegroom, our Suffering Servant . . . but not a chair. So trusting Christ ought to be described in relational terms, as if we were telling someone about a friend, a lover, a father, or a spouse.

Here's how one might share the gospel, according to Miller:

"You are the bride to the Bridegroom, and the Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. You must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood to know Him, and your union with Him will make you one, and your oneness with Him will allow you to be identified with Him, His purity allowing God to interact with you, and because of this you will be with Him in eternity, sitting at His side and enjoying His companionship, which will be more fulfilling than an earthly husband or an earthly bride. All you must do to engage God is be willing to leave everything behind, be willing to walk away from your identity, and embrace joyfully the trials and tribulations, the torture and perhaps martyrdom that will come upon you for being a child of God in a broken world working out its own redemption in empty pursuits." (pg. 162)

Well, I don't know how well that would go over with the average non-Christian. But Miller has a point. In making conversion out to be the result of a decision one makes after one hears a series of propositions, we do leave out some of the key elements of the gospel, and we ignore some of the things Jesus said when He preached the gospel. Evangelism is an invitation to "leave our nets" and follow Jesus. It's a call to get to know a Person who gave everything He had to know us and be known by us. It's an invitation to sacrifice and die to oneself and face an uncertain but safe future.

What do you think? Have we missed the boat by summing up the gospel as a series of steps and ideas instead of an invitation to a relationship?

2 comments:

Paul said...

I don't know if Miller is onto anything there, though I see the point. From my perspective, it sounds a bit preachy and churchy. I do prefer it over asking two questions, even though that is my fall back, admittedly.

I going to read Miller's book soon and I'll see if it engages me seeing the whole picture of what he is saying.

catbird said...

I say, "YES!" We HAVE missed the boat in some ways...if there are a prescribed series of "steps" then it's not a big jump (mentally) to think to oneself, "All I have to do is follow the rules/do right/perform well to please God."
Any of us that are married will tell you that following the "rules" does not equal a fulfilling relationship!