Barb wrote about evangelism yesterday and asked folks to weigh in with their thoughts, so here goes.
I grew up in fundamental Baptist churches, where the point of evangelism was to convince the person of the truth of a set of propositions and bring them to the place where they agreed that they were a sinner and going to hell and that Jesus died for their sins. After this was accomplished the person would then be led in the "sinner's prayer" and ask Jesus to forgive them and come into their heart. After saying this prayer, usually repeated after the person doing the evangelism, they would then be told that they were now going to heaven when they died. They would also be told to remember the date so they could point back to it if any doubts later crept in.
There were various methods used to try and get people to come to the point of making a "decision for Christ." The Four Spiritual Laws, the Romans Road, surveys where you would ask a series of questions designed to lead the person to pray the prayer. All of the methods were designed to convince the prospect of a set of propositions.
I was mainly involved in the survey method, what I call "hit and run evangelism" because these surveys were usually done in shopping malls or at county fairs, where there was little, if any, chance for follow-up or discipling of those who did make a decision. To this day, I have no idea who really came to faith in Jesus.
I find it interesting that Jesus never asked people to say a prayer and ask him into their hearts. he simply called people to turn from their old way of approaching life and follow him in the new way, the Kingdom of God. The disciples were called to follow Jesus as Rabbi and to seek to become what he was and to relate to God in the same way he did. The Apostles' message is one of turning from the old way of life and acknowledging Jesus Christ as the true Lord and King. If the Gospel message would have been just "accept Jesus into your heart and you'll go to heaven when you die" the early Christians would not have suffered persecution. The Romans had no problem with folks adding their religion on top of the Roman religion, as long as they hailed Caesar as lord. The reason the Gospel message was so subversive was that it denied all the other gods and proclaimed another King above Caesar.
The older methods of evangelism may have been effective in their day. Then again, they may be a major factor in the rise of American Christendom. I believe that what followers of Jesus need to do today is go back to proclaiming that Jesus is the true King and Lord over all things and that he calls people to turn their backs on their old way of approaching life and follow him as their Lord and Master. As we proclaim this message we also need to live like we really believe it. As an example, how much would the Gospel message be shown as true if we who call ourselves Christians simply loved each other instead of always fighting and condemning. I'm sure you could think of other examples.
I am encouraged by the rise in the number of people who are realizing that the Gospel is for more than just going to heaven when you die, that it is for all of life. May their tribe increase.
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