Multi-Dimensional Evangelism

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.

Multi-Dimensional Evangelism

Zero-Dimensional Evangelism

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.

One-Dimensional Evangelism

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

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

Three-Dimensional Evangelism

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.

Endnotes

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.

Modified Engel Scale and TGMX

Nice article from the work of Paul and Sue Hazelden. Rather than regurgitating it here, I am hoping you will take the time to click and read their article HERE.

Of course, it must be noted that the Engel Scale is cognitive… so it does not really include the affective aspect. If you want to look at The Gray Matrix Extended, that combines the Modified Engel Scal with the affective axis, Click on this article HERE.

As both would note, these don’t define a methodology. Rather they provides a perspective to understand spiritual transformation. So the role of social ministry, dialogue, and such are not dealt with in detail.

Additionally, as I have also noted before, In This Other Article, one could add an additional axis, to include the role of behavior. While as Evangelicals, we like to emphasize that salvation is by faith, not by works, it is also true that in many cultures people often start by adjusting their behavior to a faith community, before actually responding in faith. Even in more individualistic cultures, often connecting behaviorally with a loving community of believers (whether church, ngo, bible study, or otherwise), brings one close to a position to respond to the message of Christ. Of course, the opposite is true also, interacting with hypocritical or mean-spirited or cold Christians can lead to negative perceptions affectively, and then to cognitive and behavioral.

evangelism-cube

 

 

Critique on Evangelism. Part 2

Continuation…

5.  Evangelism tends to be too focused on “the conversion event”. James Engel developed the Engel Scale to show conversion is part of a longer discipleship process that goes from complete ignorance of God to a faithful steward of God. Anything that moves a person from the low end of the scale to the high end of the scale should be looked at as evangelism. The study that showed that Americans who came to Christ later in life supports this.  On average these people heard the Gospel 6-7 times prior to conversion. If it takes 6 – 7 times of sharing the Gospel, then each of those times is an important part of the path of spiritual transformation in the individual. Pushing for a decision each time may be unnecessary… even counter-productive. In fact, I have known of people who have come back to an Evangelizer the day after angry because they felt pressured to say what the Evangelizer wanted them to say. It is unlikely that such pressure brings real conversion, but it is quite likely that such pressure serves as a barrier to their responding to the message.  Frank Gray developed the Gray Matrix that shows that not only is there a vertical axis (the Engel Scale) of cognitive growth, but there is a horizontal axis of affective (or valuing) growth. Anything that moves an individual from the left side of the axis (hostility to God and His message) to the right side of the axis (a favorable opinion) should be seen as evangelism. One might even add a third dimension for behavior. The behavioral conforming of an individual could also be considered part of the broader evangelism process. Some people would not care for this since it broadens evangelism to a point that it is hard to distinguish from other ministries… but why is it important to distinguish it. Shouldn’t evangelism be the natural outflowing of a Christian’s life.

6.  Evangelism is too disconnected from behavior. The old saying that goes, “Your actions speak so loud that I can’t hear a word you are saying” is quite relevant here. If we are unable to show genuine compassion for a person, why should our words be valued? If our lifestyle is inconsistent with our message, why should we be taken seriously? If our message and lifestyle make the Gospel message appear ugly… isn’t that like putting a millstone around the neck of another and tossing them into the sea (drawing from the imagery of Jesus). Paul told Titus about the importance of decorating or adorning the Gospel with our actions (Titus 2:10). Actually, one of the best ways of sharing our faith is by sharing what God has done in our lives (and not just the happy moment– but sharing a true testimony, warts and all). Post-moderns, for example, may not value “objective truth” but they value personal experiences. Our testimony in Christ is part of God’s message.

7.  Evangelism is too often tied to cultural or denominational change. Far too often I have had Christians come up to me to share their faith. As I let them know that I am a fellow believer… it becomes soon evident that they are in no way satisfied. That is because I am not “their kind of Christian”. They hardly take a breath before moving to why I am the “wrong kind of Christian.” I have also seen people sharing with unbelievers where the presentation of the gospel dovetails right into a presentation of their denomination or church. It is not clear whether the person sharing is able to tell where the Good News of Christ stops and the “good” news of their particular group begins. Related to this is the tendency to focus on cultural change. Some cultural things must change. But not all. We, when sharing the Gospel, must be able to distinguish between God’s message of repentance and our cultural imperialism. We as Christians often want to make others into our image, rather than Christ’s image.

8.  Evangelism is too often done without understanding the other person and what they believe. This is related to previous points. But our ignorance of what others believe hurts our ability to share the Gospel in a way that would be understood and appreciated. We should understand the religions or belief systems that others have. Many of them take the time to try to understand what we believe. By understanding where genuine differences lie (and surprising common ground) we are likely to be able to prepare the ground for sharing God’s message of hope.

9.  Evangelism does not give enough respect to the concept of “dialogue”. Consider four types of communication:  Preaching/polemics, teaching/didactics , Argument/apologetics,, and Dialogue/discussion. Evangelism is generally thought of as being the first three types, especially the first and third. Evangelism can be one-directional talking (preaching or teaching) or it can be two-directional. But the two-directional method most often used is argument. Preaching and Argument tend to start from an adversarial, and sometimes disrespectful, position. Argument actually commonly pushes people further apart in their beliefs, rather than bringing them together. There is a “backfire effect. Perhaps it is worth considering the possibility of dialogue as a method. Since dialogue (respectful sharing of thoughts) tears down barriers and lessens misunderstandings, it can open doors to effective sharing of faith.

End of Part 2.