I received an email asking if I had developed any more my idea of the Evangelism Cube— a fairly simple idea I had written up back in 2010. My answer was essentially, “NO.” However, I had actually written a bit more about this topic in my book, “Ministry in Diversity,” which I put together for my Cultural Anthropology students. However, since I no longer have it available for purchase on the Internet (I feel I have to fix too many things in it), it is not all that available right now.
Because of that, I am cutting and pasting the section of the book on the topic of the Evangelism Cube here.
The term “evangelism” (“euangelizo”) has gone through many stages in understanding its meaning. The Greek root of this term seems to limits it to “proclamation” or the sharing of good news. Within the Christian context, it would cover sharing the good news of Christ to people. We could call this “zero-dimensional evangelism” since it is simply a point in time and space. It is simply a call to allegiance to Christ, which is then either accepted or rejected. Many limit their use of the term “evangelism” to this sense.
In its usage in the Bible and in the early church, the term is applied more broadly, and commonly includes discipleship, not limiting itself to the conversion experience in the hearer.7 Evangelism has been extended from a point (zero-dimension) back to a line (one-dimension) by James Engel who created what is now known as the Engel’s Scale.8 (See Figure 28.) Evangelism is cognitive work that moves the listener from a state of rejection towards belief and discipleship. Therefore, helping someone go from complete ignorance of God to understanding who God is in relationship to herself is part of evangelism. Anything that cognitively assists the hearer to move up the scale then can be identified as evangelism.
Figure 28. Engel’s Scale
Figure 29. Gray’s Matrix
Two-Dimensional Evangelism is found in the Gray Matrix (See Figure 29) developed by Frank Gray. He noted that evangelism should not be thought of as simply a cognitive process. There is also an affective (emotions/values) component. This means that helping someone move from being hostile to God and the gospel to having a favorable opinion is also part of evangelism. Moving anyone from the lower left towards the upper right in the 2-D matrix is evangelism.9
But this begs the question of a third dimension. In education, one can speak of training students cognitively (knowledge and understanding), affectively (feelings, values, and identity), and behaviorally (skills, competencies, and habits). Engel’s Scale is cognitive (1-dimensional). Gray’s Matrix is cognitive and affective (2-dimensional). But could evangelism be thought of as 3-Dimensional… or an Evangelism Cube? Could one add a behavioral component. One could argue that salvation does not have a behavioral component since salvation is a matter of faith not works. Yet the same argument might be made regarding the other two dimensions. If it is about faith, it is not about correct thinking or correct feelings. But since part of our role as Christians is to be conformed behaviorally to Christ and to guide others in the same direction, then behavior certainly is a component in effective evangelism.
Why does this matter… or does it matter? How we picture things guides how we do things. Some see evangelism as a dot. Get people to say the sinner’s prayer and that is good enough. I have seen all sorts of methods used to try to get a person to say (or parrot) the sinner’s prayer. Some are little more than trickery, or simply stating what they have long had in faith, but expressed in a slightly different way. When the person has done this, the “witness” feels that he has done the work of an evangelist. But has he? Consider the experience of a missionary friend of mine. Back before he had yet gained competency in Arabic, some Muslim neighbors tried to trick him into saying the Shahada (Islamic statement of faith) three times. Why? Because they believed that the act of saying it three times would make him a Muslim. (This is not an orthodox Islamic belief.) While we may find that humorous, as these Muslim neighbors did, those who believe that saying the sinner’s prayer makes one a Christian (regardless of intent, heart, or faith) are guilty of the same confusion. Clearly, Evangelism has greater depth than getting people to say words. There is an associated change of heart, mind, and behavior as well.
Those that see evangelism as a line work with people through the cognitive challenges of faith and continue after a conversion experience towards becoming a faithful servant of God. Those that see evangelism as two-dimensional are concerned with values and emotions. They are concerned with “decorating the gospel” (Titus 2:10) to not only make it intellectually palatable but desirable to the heart. They share not only what is true, but do it in a way that is respectful and helpful (I Peter 3:15).
Three-dimensional evangelism is concerned not only with the cognitive side and the affective side, but the behavioral side as well— helping them conform themselves to Christ. Since many behaviors can be destructive and a hindrance, behavioral guidance may begin even before conversion and continue long past. See Figure 30.
Figure 30. The Evangelism Cube
In sharing the gospel in a different, and potentially hostile culture, it is likely that all three dimensions are needed. They need to encounter the truth of the Gospel (some might call this “truth encounter.”) They also need to see that the Gospel is a good or desirable thing. Commonly, but not strictly, this is demonstrated through “love encounter” — divine love demonstrated by the Christians in such a way that unbeliever’s gain a positive view of Christianity and the Christian message. A friend of mine was a Muslim man who lived in a predominantly Muslim country, but worked for a foreigner who was Christian. One day, his boss invited him to a Bible study. My friend gladly accepted, and later became a Christian. However, he told me that he did not join the Bible study because of any interest in Christianity or the Bible. He joined because he had greatly respected his boss, and so was quite open to whatever he valued.
In many (all?) cultures, people respond in faith only after experiencing faith in action. In many shame-based cultures, people become involved in a church, and participating in church life, long before they decide to become a Christian. It also seems to be true that all over the world, people are more prone to “try before you buy.” They want to see both the Christian life lived out in front of them, as well as participate in the Christian life before actually deciding to become a Christian. In such cases, the discipling cycle seems backwards— they participate in the church or study group, learn to obey Christ, and then accept Him and be baptized into the church body.
Care must be made to ensure that God’s Message is not undermined by the other dimensions. Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes. All of this is not to say that God cannot work simply through sharing the gospel. Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the point is that evangelism should be seen as having many dimensions…. it has a cognitive component, an affective component, and a behavioral component. When sharing the gospel in a different culture, extra care must be made to ensure that God’s Message is not undermined by the other dimension.
7David B. Barrett. Evangelism! A Historical Survey of the Concept (New Hope, 1987). This book goes into the Greek word where we get the English term Evangelize and shows that, while its etymology suggests a narrow range of meanings, it is quite broad in its usage. Evangelism may be required to include the proclamation of Christ’s good news, it can also include a lot more things as well.
8James F. Engel, Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979).
9For more information, go to http://www.thegraymatrix.org.