Elemental Evangelism, Part 2

Picking up where I left off yesterday, I want to continue with elements three and four of what I am calling “elemental evangelism.”

3. Apologetical

As I begin to build a relationship with unbelievers, I piece together their worldview which is based on presuppositions they hold (whether they realize that or not). I have unbelieving friends who are atheists, agnostics, deists, New Age, Hindu, and Roman Catholic. However, many of the people I talk to have only a nominal understanding to what they believe. The purpose of me being apologetical is not to win an argument with my unbelieving friend; rather, I want to win them to Christ! In order to do that, however, I want to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-6). My goal is to gently but convincingly deconstruct their worldview and expose their presuppositions as dangerously false and perilous. Lest we forget, we are in a spiritual war where our enemy uses the schemes of this world and his lies to “blind the minds of unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4). In this war for their souls, the mind plays an integral part, and I make it my goal to present biblical arguments to dismantle their presuppositions (control beliefs) so that they no longer control their thinking anymore.

I should mention here that being merely apologetical is not evangelism, as Mark Dever is correct to assert in his new book, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. However, apologetics plays an important, preparatory role in getting to the gospel message. If we neglect or minimize this part of exposing the folly or error of their beliefs, there is a real possibility that they will syncretize the Christian message to their beliefs and will continue to be a barrier to understanding the gospel.

4. Doctrinal/Biblical

After deconstruction comes reconstruction. We must lay a foundation based on the biblical narrative of God, creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This metanarrative, or big story which explains all other stories, replaces the old understanding of life, man, God, salvation, etc. This is why biblical theology (the discipline) is so important. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of systematic theology, but systematic theology builds on biblical theology. For instance, I cannot talk about sin, depravity, and eternal punishment for sin unless I first talk about God (character), creation, and the Fall. We are living in a day where the categories of sin and justice are no longer in the post-Christian mind. Focusing on the biblical narrative and God’s work in redemptive history creates a framework and re-establishes the categories that have become diminishes or discarded through postmodern influences. The error in so many gospel presentations or plans of salvation comes when the fail because they have the wrong starting point. We cannot begin with John 3:16 but rather must start with Genesis 1:1. We cannot jump into a discussion about theological truths without establishing a grid through which they are to rightly understand them. Therefore, the reconstruction entails not only the substance of their thinking but the structure of it as well.

I am also a big fan of teaching and explaining doctrines in my evangelism, and there is considerable biblical warrant for stressing doctrine in our evangelistic practices. Take for instance the parable of the soils. Of the four soils where the seed was planted, only one brought forth lasting fruit. What was the difference? Jesus explained, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:23). All four heard the word, but only one understood it. So what is the goal of the evangelist if you want to be fruitful? It is to so present the gospel that unbelievers understand who God is, why they are guilty and condemned through sin, what God has done for them in Christ, and how they are to be saved. Last year, there was a coworker who I had shared the gospel with almost a dozen times. The week before she received Jesus, I spend an hour Wednesday night before work explaining the doctrine of justification by faith and why good works could never save her (she came from a Roman Catholic background). Thursday night I spent an hour talking about regeneration and how the Holy Spirit works to convict us of sin, draw us to Christ, and give us new life. On Friday night, I spent another hour explaining to her what biblical repentance and saving faith is and why this responsibility of turning from sin and turning to God was her responsibility. Sunday night after church, my wife and I took her out for dinner where we talked about the great exchange and the substitutionary atonement of Christ.  The next day she came to Christ.

I recognize that the opening of their eyes is solely the work of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. However, God has ordained a means and instrumentality through the proclamation and impartation of God’s truth revealed in Scripture. The glorious gospel is so rich, enlivening, powerful, and experimental (to use the old Puritan vernacular) that we cannot begin to plunge its depths. Investing our times and energies in understanding the gospel and the doctrines therein becomes a fountain that overflows with joy inexpressible and full of glory. I am reminded of what Tom Wells says in his book on missions: those who know God best are most equipped and responsible to speak well of him (my paraphrase). The greater we know God and his gospel, the more equipped we are to share Jesus with others and the more responsible we are as well.

Part three of this series will deal with elements five and six, namely confrontational and pastoral.

Explore posts in the same categories: Biblical Theology, Evangelism, Gospel

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