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  • C.A. Cranfill

Christ-Centered Evangelism

You are in the middle of a conversation with a friend or acquaintance. Perhaps they are an unbeliever or skeptic. Your mind begins to race. You are contemplating how you might bring the Gospel into the conversation. The conversation continues for a short span and then casually ends. The Gospel didn’t make an appearance. Not this time. For a short time, you may indulge yourself in a bit of self-condemnation, but then you justify yourself by some rationalization. You may offer an excuse like “they were obviously in a hurry” or “it wasn’t the appropriate time; it would have come across awkwardly” or “I just don’t know enough to really share the Gospel”. We have all been there. Most of us have been in a similar situation multiple times. We simply walk away praying, “Next time, Lord”.

Personal evangelism, or sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with another, can be intimidating. As a result, we have designed numerous programs, tactics, and methods to “get the job done”. Things like Evangelism Explosion, Share Jesus without Fear, Conspiracy of Kindness, and a plethora of others have been offered up to overcome the known difficulty of sharing the faith with others. There is nothing wrong with most of these methods (I have used several of them myself) and they do offer valuable insight to the hopeful evangelist. Yet, I find myself asking if they depend a bit too much on cultural Christianity. Do they “rely” on the non-Christian to extend some amount of credibility to the faith? You may immediately respond, “No! Of course not.” But are you certain?

Let me offer an explanation and maybe you can see the point that I am driving at. With some programs and methods, we try to convince the skeptic of their sinfulness and the righteous nature of God demanding justice. We then sweep in and show that the loving nature of God offered mercy, while maintaining justice through the substitution of Christ. Beautiful! This is an amazing picture of the Gospel. But why should the skeptic believe that they are sinful? Why should they believe in an objective morality or an objective good at all? If they do not, and we do not show them the necessity of objective morality, how can we convince them of their guilt? Furthermore, have we attempted to convince them of the reality of God or just presupposed that they believed in the existence of a god? We use the Bible to show them that this god (that they may or may not believe in) demands retribution for the moral treason of sin. But have we labored to show them the validity of the truth-claims of Scripture? Or do we again, presuppose that they recognize the infallibility of Scripture? Are you beginning to see the reliance upon the skeptic maintaining a prior knowledge or respect of Christian Theism?

It is my opinion that evangelism cannot be a one-stop-shop method anymore. In a post-modern culture, or rather a post-Christian society, we can no longer assume that everyone we encounter has an existing knowledge of Christianity; much less a respect for its’ truth-claims. Therefore, we must begin an effort to change each skeptics’ worldview. Am I suggesting that we disregard methods like Evangelism Explosion and others? No, I am simply suggesting that we move their position in the queue. Instead of beginning our evangelistic efforts, in a cold-water sort of way, with methods and tactics; why don’t we slow down and engage in the process of pre-salvific discipleship. Thereby, helping individuals develop their worldview so that the necessary pieces are in place for our evangelistic methods. Let’s turn a quick pitch into an intentional process.

I have attempted to give the philosophical “why” but have yet to offer up the more practical “how”. I will attempt to do that now. I propose three goals that we should attempt to reach in changing an individual’s worldview from a secular or naturalistic worldview to that of a Christian Theistic Worldview. They are titled Prophet, Priest, and King. Yes, they are framed around the three offices of Christ (for memorization’s sake).

First, is the goal of the Prophet. Since the prophet is a spokesperson for the Lord, you may have guessed that this goal has to do with the Word of God. More specifically, this goal is concerned with the Word (Bible) and God. We should begin our efforts in evangelism to convince the skeptic of two things: that God exists, and that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. First, we labor to convince them that God exists. To do this, we must attempt to develop some base level reasoning for our own faith. We must convince the skeptic of the reality of God or we cannot hope to make an effective, evangelistic appeal. Second, we endeavor to persuade the skeptic of the Bible’s infallibility. We can build upon their newly attained knowledge of God’s existence by inquiring what type of God He must be. (For example, He must be a perfect Moral-Being for there to exist any objective standard of morality.) This will begin to give a base for the credibility of Scripture that we can use to lead them to the acknowledgement of the Bible’s legitimacy. Of course, there are other ways to accomplish this. For example, the historical reliability of the text or the cohesiveness of its message.

Second, is the goal of the Priest. The Priest is the mediator between God and man. This goal is concerned with convincing the former skeptic of the necessity of the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. It isn’t enough that we convince someone of the reality of God or the inerrancy of Scripture. We must be able to demonstrate why the atoning work of Christ is necessary. We can do this through Scripture and with the aid of our evangelistic methods now that we have begun the process of changing an individual’s worldview. If we can help a skeptic perceive that the Christian worldview is both relevant and cohesive then we begin to create an opportunity to share our faith with them in a manner that is contextualized for their needs.

Third, is the goal of the King. As you may have guessed, this is about the final plunge – it is about leading someone to a saving relationship with Christ through their confession and submission. At this point it is often helpful to bring in the tools and methods mentioned earlier because they offer a systematic way of walking someone through the Gospel. Salvation is both confession and surrender. Therefore, it is not enough to simply alter their worldview to that of a Christian Theist. They must also surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, our Coming King.

We must recognize that not everyone has an existing respect or knowledge of the Christian Worldview and respond accordingly. We attempt to reason with them for the existence of God and the necessary type of God that He must be. We show them the way that this is revealed in Scripture as in-road to establish Scripture’s credibility and relevance: as a precursor to arguing for its infallibility. We then begin to show what the Bible teaches concerning the lostness of man, the justice of God, and the necessity of atonement. All working toward leading the skeptic from a secular worldview to that of a Christian Worldview and hopefully an authentic conversion. The process may still seem daunting (and it is at times), but the Great Commission promise of Christ still stands, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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