Aiming at the Wrong Target


Many Christians memorize different evangelistic methods. Some are better than others. Some are more text-based. Some are more illustration-based. Some are more logic-based, or focused on propositions. But each one is designed for a target audience.  Over-reliance on a method means that one’s message will “miss the mark” with broad segments of society.  Consider two examples:nude-evangelism

I.  ROMAN’S ROAD.  This was the first one that I learned.  There are slight variations on the method, but it generally starts with finding out if the person wants to learn what God has to tell them about Himself and how they can be saved. Then one goes through a series of verses: Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10, and Romans 10:13 (some add other verses). Then the sharer asks if the hearer believes and wants to receive. If the response is positive, then one leads them in what is known as the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

Some may complain that the Roman’s Road “cherry picks” verses to create its own propositional narrative. While this may be technically true, the Book of Romans does lead logically through a process of unbelief to faith to Christian growth. Therefore, the cherry picked verses are still generally consistent with the broader text.

Others may complain that Romans is really more about the Community of Faith, rather than about Individual Salvation. This is a quite valid point, but the one doesn’t (or shouldn’t) really discount the other.

The biggest challenge to the method is “Who is likely to respond to this method?” This and other concerns are here:

  • Respondents would be those who already believe in the authority of the Holy Bible. If one doesn’t see the Holy Bible as being a reliable source of salvific truth, it is hard to see one responding. If one doesn’t identify the authority of Al Quran, the Guru Granth, or the Code of Handsome Lake, it certainly seems unlikely that one would respond with changes to one’s life’s priorities and allegiances.
  • The method is propositional and logical. This appeals to some, but not to most.  Many respond and understand better in terms of narrative, experience, and metaphor. Many won’t respond to a list of facts, even if they appear to be logically connected.
  • The proper response to the message of the Roman’s Road is a holistic transformation, giving one’s will/life over to God in faith. It is certainly not to say a prayer expressing cognitive agreement. As others have noted, facts lead to conclusions, while feelings lead to actions. We may be saved by faith, but real faith does demonstrate itself most definitively in actions.

II.  Dunamis.  The Dunamis Method is similar to Romans Road in that it is text-based. However, it connects more on a relational level. The hearer is asked about his faith in God and in Jesus. If the person says that he believes in Jesus and in doing what Jesus says, the individual is asked to read John 3:3. This is where Jesus says that one must be born again (or from above). The hearer is asked whether he has done this. If the person says “No” or “I don’t know,” the hearer is further asked whether he believes he should do what Jesus says. If the answer is Yes, then the hearer is led through the Sinner’s Prayer.

The problems with this method are quite similar to the Roman’s Road. However, it adds two additional issues.

  • It does not really inform. The Romans Road at least gives facts about God and Man. This provides nothing except that one must be “Born Again.” Within the context of John 3, it seems as if Jesus used this metaphor purposefully to throw Nicodemus, a scholar of Jewish Law, off-balance. In other words, the term was used to confuse, and only with further guidance was it to be instructive. In the Dunamis method, not only does one not get follow-on guidance, the implication is that being “born again” is saying the Sinner’s Prayer.
  • It really only works with people who are already Christians. The target population already believes in the authority of the Bible, believes in Jesus as informed by the Bible, and believes that one must obey Jesus. It is entirely likely that this person is already a Christian— perhaps one from a faith tradition that does not utilize the lingo of the Revivalist traditions— a Christian in faith and in practice. On the other hand, supposing the individual does believe the Bible, believe in Jesus, and in the need to obey Jesus but still is not converted? The method only gets them to say a prayer that states what they already generally believed. Since a person is saved by faith, not a prayer, what has changed? This method seems to be little more than a way to lure people from non-revivalist traditions in Christianity by casting doubt on their relationship with Christ.

Most all methods have a target population. Pascal’s Wager only makes sense with those embedded in a Christian worldview. The Camel Method is useful for Muslims who take the Quran text seriously, while still not deeply indoctrinated in that particular faith.

No method saves, but some (all) are set to miss the target of the random recipient. Some methods appear not even to be methods for evangelization (bring the lost to Christ) but are simply trying to move people between denominations. Evangelical Christianity is presently growing about about twice the rate of Islam (according to one recent study, if such studies can be believed). Based on that, Evangelical Christianity would surpass Islam around 2080. While that is certainly possible (CBN loves to use doubtful statistics in such a pollyanna fashion), such a scenario is unlikely. The problem with that is that Evangelical Christianity has been putting most of its efforts from drawing from other Christian groups rather than those who are not identified as Christians. That means that as Evangelical Christianity increases, other Christian groups would decrease, reducing the pool from which Evangelicals feel comfortable to draw from.

This would also reduce the effectiveness of these other groups to bring people to Christ. That is quite a concern since many people seek to know God through means such as asceticism, ritual/tradition, nature, social activism, and solitude— ways that Evangelicals are particularly poor at (and often, strangely, seek to undermine).

So I would suggest three things for consideration:

  1.  Focus more effort on people who are clearly not followers of Christ, rather than those who you tend to have doubts of because you don’t really like their denomination.
  2. Focus more on methods that are more universal— one’s that are more flexible and can work with a broader range of people. This includes:  Personal Testimony, (Evangelistic) Bible Studies, and Inter-religious Dialogue.
  3. Spend less time getting to know a method, and more time on getting to know individual people, and groups of people.

 

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