Sunday, July 3, 2011

What is God’s Chosen Method For Evangelism?

When faced with the question of what God’s chosen method of evangelism is, some of my missionary friends might be inclined to say that God revealed Himself progressively throughout history, and that therefore we should evangelize chronologically, telling the story of God’s progressive revelation leading up to the good news about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. One problem with this theory is that God’s progressive revelation contains the whole of scripture, not just a few highlights from it, so unless we are prepared to teach someone verse by verse through the whole Old Testament before introducing the truths of the New Testament, we can’t really say we are modeling our evangelism after God’s progressive revelation. The other problem is that there is no biblical example of either the Lord Jesus or the apostles sharing the message of eternal life through chronological teaching. The Lord Jesus did teach through the high points of what the Old Testament says about Him to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, but it is significant that this whole teaching session took place in the time that it took to walk the seven miles or less (Luke 24:13) that Jesus walked with them (no more than three hours at a slow walking pace), and that the two were already disciples and probably already believers since they said that they had “hoped” (i.e. been confident) that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21).

I have heard other people say that we have to at least teach the Old Testament law so that people will be adequately aware of their sin before we try to present good news to them. There is some logic in this, since the scriptures do say that the law is intended to bring people to Christ (Gal. 3:24), but there is certainly no biblical pattern in the teaching of the Lord and the apostles of always expounding the Ten Commandments first, and only afterward sharing the good news of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

The gospel of John was the one book of the Bible which was specifically written to lead people to faith in Jesus as the Christ (John 20:31), so it is certainly appropriate to use it as a basis for evangelism, but it struck me recently that just like the Lord Jesus and the apostles didn’t teach chronologically and didn’t always talk about the Law, neither did they present an overview of everything in the gospel of John to every person they evangelized. Sometimes the Lord Jesus used an Old Testament example like the serpent on a pole (John 3:14), and sometimes He simply spoke of a free gift of living water (John 4:10). Sometimes the apostle Paul began with a historical sketch before he presented justification by faith in Jesus (Acts 13:16-41), and sometimes he told people right up front “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) and then later gave them more information about the Lord Jesus and what He had done.

So, as you can probably tell by now, the point of what I am writing is that I don’t believe there is one particular method of sharing the good news which God has ordained. Teaching chronologically may work well for some people, while studying through the book of John may be better for others. For others, a brief message which makes clear what the gift is that is offered, Who the Giver is, and on what basis it is offered will be enough to bring them to faith. Sometimes we will be able to spend a lot of time with a person on a continual basis, but sometimes we will only have a few minutes to converse with someone and may never see them again. And, of course, different people will need different amounts of information to come to the point where they believe that Jesus will indeed give them eternal life. I believe that we should be open to trying different approaches and tailoring our message according to who we are talking to and what opportunities we have. The main thing is that we do make an effort to share the good news with those around us and that we keep the core elements of the message clear.


  1. Good article Ken. All of your posts have been very helpful. Every blessing in Christ to you and yours.


  2. Thanks Gary. I'm glad the things I've written have been a help to you and blessing back at ya.