Many churches are still using evangelism methods that reflect a Christendom culture of the twentieth century. Years ago I was trained in the Kennedy “Evangelism Explosion” technique that centered around a key question asked after building a trusting relationship: “If you were to die today, could you say for sure that you would go to heaven?” The standard response to that question was “Well, I hope so. I’ve tried to be good.” Or, “I don’t know if anyone can say that for sure.” To which the evangelist would reply “Well, I’ve got good news for you.” and then proceed with a grace based presentation of the gospel.
As time went on, I saw a change in the respondent’s answers. Faithful Christians still answered “Yes,” but an increasing number of people would simply say, “To tell you the truth, I haven’t thought much about it.”
Research commissioned by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church now backs up my observation. (See chart below)
People’s spiritual concerns seem no longer to be focused on the traditional concepts of sin and death, heaven and hell. Instead, they seem more focused on this life and finding meaning and purpose in their daily existence. (See chart below)It is easy to complain about “Whatever happened to sin?’ or declare this a shift to self-centered consumer society, but the truth is that “How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?” remain relational and missional issues, and the good news we have to offer lies in our relationship with Christ and our participation in His mission in this world.
An old tool in the sin/heaven approach was something called “The Four Spiritual Laws,” an evangelism tool used for years, but not very effective today. Not long ago, someone devised a new tool called “The Big Story” that is based on the relational/missional model. Take a look at part one and part two below.
These are not the final answer, but they mark a step along the way to asking the right questions for a new time.
Addendum: A new tool getting good reviews in Reformed circles is the EvangeCube. It is graphically intriguing, but is basically the old "four laws" approach. Compare this approach with the ones you have just watched. Which do you think would be more effective among unchurched people that you know?