Acts 29 just published my new article on Conversion and Contextualization: Re-examining our Expectations of Gospel Change
Reflecting on the nature of faith in a recent sermon, I pointed out that believing that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead is not sufficient for saving faith. Too many people in America believe that they are Christians, that they are “going to heaven” simply because they believe the facts of the gospel. That is not saving faith. Faith is requires more than agreement with the facts of the gospel; it actually treasures a Person, Jesus Christ. Because faith is the result of a process of hearing the gospel, seeing the gospel, and embracing the gospel over time, our evangelism needs to accommodate this reality, as well as nurture true faith, not just mental assent. I was recently asked what I think about Evangelism Explosion (EE) as an evangelistic tool. Although it provides a clear explanation of gospel basics and is very good at training people to parrot biblical answers, it does not do the hard work of contextualizing the gospel. Moreover, I have a few other concerns about EE and evangelism programs in general. In short, our evangelism methods must change if we are to see true, saving, perservering faith emerge. Many evangelism programs are deficient on these counts:
- Deficient view of Heaven. Many evangelism programs are focused on “getting people to heaven” not treasuring Christ or living out his mission. Ultimately, we don’t GO to heaven; heaven comes to earth through the already/not fully lordship of Christ. Moreover, going to heaven is not the goal of biblical discipleship. Treasuring, obeying, and sharing Christ is.
- Tend toward a mental assent view of Faith. Although many cover some of the gospel basics, they lend themselves to a mental assent understanding of faith. I realize there is a statement in the EE process that denies this. However, the 7, 8 or 9 steps are typically information-centered and mechanically driven. Less open to process evangelism. The Kennedy Questions operate on the assumption that “knowing the right answer” is central, answers that have been conditioned through modern lenses, answers that many Christians can provide without truly “believing.”
- They aren’t in the vernacular of most Americans. Most Americans are inoculated to the EE way of “sharing the gospel.” –“If you died tonight and stood before God and he said: “Why should I let you into My Heaven?” what would you say? — Most Americans can answer that question, and many believe it, without a modicum of desire for Jesus. We need a new language for evangelism that is biblically faithful and culturally relevant.
Most other programs of evangelism are “crisis” oriented, usually bringing the person to a decision very quickly through the signing of cards and through the praying of a sinner’s prayer. Research shows that the more varied ways a person hears the gospel, and the more often a person hears the gospel before making a commitment, the better the comprehension, the less likely of “reversion” to the world. ~ Redeemer Church Planting Manual