Part One: Does This Sound Like Good Evangelism?
Many Christians consider sharing their faith as going something like this: First, give your personal testimony; second, share the plan of salvation, such as the “Four Spiritual Law” or the “Roman Road to Salvation;” and third—if the unbeliever doesn’t respond to the Gospel—threaten him or her with eternal damnation! Once this formula has been executed, these Christians feel they’ve done their duty in evangelism.
Now, I’m not actually criticizing this approach, it has its merits. Although I do caution you to use step three only when appropriate. In a later article I’ll explain when “threatening with damnation” is acceptable and how to apply it as an apologetic strategy. For now, however, I want to make two additional points relevant to it this formula.
First, when it comes to evangelism, many Christians have tunnel vision. They assume that almost all unbelievers reject Christianity for the same reason—moral reasons. In other words, they imagine that unbelievers reject Christianity because they are unwilling to make the lifestyle changes they assume they will have to make if they become Christians. The second assumption is that this same three-step evangelistic approach can be applied to every unbeliever and under any circumstance. Although the first assumption is true in many instances (but certainly not always), the second, as often as not, will get you nowhere and likely shut the door to further dialogue.
In terms of apologetics, some apologists believe that every unbeliever harbors intellectual obstacles to Christianity, which must be overcome before they’ll consider the Gospel. Thus, they sometimes create issues themselves by starting witnessing encounters with an apologetic approach (e.g. to a biology teacher: “I bet you reject Christianity because you think Christians are anti-science! Well, let me explain to you . . . .”
Seasoned apologists know that in most cases we let the unbeliever raise the issues—we don’t create them. The fact is unbelievers can have a variety of reasons for rejecting Jesus Christ. It may well be for intellectual or moral reasons, but it can also be for emotional, experiential, spiritual (they are entrenched in another religion), or some other reason. Bottom line, apologetics is not for everyone, and it’s essential that we know when to use it and when to avoid it—and what kind of people best respond to apologetics. To answer this question, in a later article I’ll borrow a teaching from Dr. John Warwick Montgomery (who wrote the preface to my book on which this series is based).
So, in the follow five or six (or ?) blog articles in this new series, I will explore the four major approaches to evangelism. Altogether, they provide a witnessing strategy for every unbeliever you will encounter—regardless of their beliefs or reasons for rejecting Christianity. These four approaches are: Lifestyle, proclamation, Law, and apologetics.
I hope you’ll share this series with people who struggle with sharing their faith.
* This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, personal email list, or Facebook friends and groups. I explore the topic of this series of articles more fully in my book Engaging the Closed Minded; Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever (Kregel Publications).