This article is about God-centered evangelism and evangelism methods.

Source: Outreach, 1994. 3 pages.

Tell the Truth The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People

For some time, I have had a book in my library entitled Tell the Truth. The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People. The book is written by Will Metzger who has been ministering to students since 1965 and currently serves on the staff of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Metzger claims to give his readers a training manual on the message and methods of God-centered witnessing. And, indeed, this is what he does!

It is a refreshing book to read. Living in a day and age in which one can read much about man-centered witnessing, it was good to come across a book that does exactly the opposite: show us what God-centered witnessing is all about.

Man-Centered and God-Centered Witnessingβ€’πŸ”—

Perhaps you wonder what the difference between the two really is? Well, allow me to give you just a little sampling from one of the very clear and instructive diagrams in the book. If we were to take our view of God for an example, man-centered witnessing would teach us that our point of contact with non-Christians is that God loves us, leaving the whole matter of God's authority as a secondary issue. God-centered witnessing, on the other hand, would stress that our point of contact with non-Christians is that God has created us and that, as a consequence, He also has authority over us. With regard to our view of humanity, man-centered witnessing would state that even though man is fallen, he, nevertheless, has the ability to choose the good in matters of salvation. God-centered witnessing, on the other hand, would resolutely assert that because man is fallen, he will not and cannot come to God by his own willpower. With regard to the doctrine of Christ, man-centered witnessing would highlight the fact that Christ is a Saviour from selfishness, mistakes, and hell and that He exists for our benefit. God-centered witnessing, on the other hand, would strongly emphasize that Christ is a Saviour from sin and guilt and that He has to be honoured and glorified with our lives. Concerning our response to Christ, man-centered witnessing would present this response as an invitation to be accepted now. God-centered witnessing, on the other hand, would present this response as a loving command to be obeyed now. Man-centered witnessing would claim that our choice is the basis for salvation and that God responds to our decision. God-centered witnessing, on the other hand, would assert that God's choice is the basis for salvation and that we respond to His initiative.

An Introductory Outline of a God-Centered Gospelβ†β€’πŸ”—

The author does not simply leave his readers with a number of differences in gospel content concerning man-centered and God-centered witnessing. He also gives his readers an excellent introductory outline of a God-centered gospel. Again, allow me to give you just a little indication as to which direction the author points us. He begins by pointing to God as a holy and loving Creator who is both sovereign in His work of creation as well as personal. He continues by describing man as a sinful creature, carefully defining the nature of sin and the consequences of sin. After teaching us how to present God and man, Metzger depicts Christ as the merciful Redeemer who is our Teacher, our Sin-bearer, and our King. The author concludes his introductory outline of a God-centered gospel by stating that as our necessary response we are to be united to Jesus Christ. This response, worked by the Spirit of the living God, is a response that affects not only our minds, but our emotions and wills as well.

Practical Ideasβ†β€’πŸ”—

How can all of this and more be put into practice? Well, also here the author does not leave his readers with a lack of ideas. He shares with them many practical suggestions which he himself has used and/or still uses. Allow me, once again, to share a few with you.

To begin with, we are told that we have to be aware that we all stand in a variety of relationships as well as meet many different types of people. We have long-term intimate relationships, such as family, close friends, and roommates and long-term acquaintances, such as relatives, neighbours, peers, and people at school or work. We also have short-term intimate relationships, such as, friends, business associates, and classmates, while our short-term acquaintances include people we meet in passing, such as, in a store, on a bus, or on the beach.

The different types of people can be categorized as the ignorant and indifferent (the largest class of unbelievers!!), the self-righteous (the non-religious who despise the idea of sin and the nominally religious whose hearts are like stone), the false Christians (those who think they are Christians, but need to be shown the nature of regeneration and the evidences of saving faith), the deliberate atheists (those who appear to have great intellectual problems with Christianity, while in actual fact they have a moral problem; they prefer to live their lives according to their own rules, cf. John 3:14-20), the seekers (those who possess some conviction of sin and guilt, but who need to be pointed to Christ and the promises of God's Word), and the cultists (Jehovah's Witnesses, New Age, etc.).

One way of witnessing to these different people in the variety of relationships we have is through personal conversation. With the help of an excellent diagram, Metzger explains three ways people converse about Christ.

  • The first is the miss and run approach. These people tend to talk only about safe, neutral, common things, such as, the weather, food, prices and so forth. They talk about the outer layer of a person's life, never moving deeper into values, attitudes, and beliefs.

  • The second method is the hit and run method. Those who use this method go right to the heart of the person – his most personal thoughts – without first conversing about common interests and then moving deeper into values, attitudes and beliefs. You will, of course, understand that Metzger strongly recommends

  • the third approach which he calls the raise questions and make a point approach. We are to begin with common interests, then move deeper into values, attitudes, and beliefs. We move gradually, yet directly, with a specific purpose in mind. For our goal is to touch the person's conscience. And the best way to do this is by developing the art of questioning.

In order to get a conversation going, we will often have to make use of conversation turners. Here, too, the author gives his readers an ample supply of suggestions. Helpful, too, is what he has to say about the problem of compartmentalization of our thinking. Many people, according to the author, have a thought-world that is divided up into compartments labeled β€œgospel,” β€œart,” β€œmarriage,” and so forth.

Often the contents of any one of these compartments is only superficially related to the contents of another. The result is that the gospel often seems to be an intruder in a conversation instead of being an integral part of a dynamic, ongoing dialogue that encompasses all of life.

The Worksheetsβ†β€’πŸ”—

Metzger has much more to offer his reader. Allow me just for a moment to focus on a very extensive appendix at the back of the book. In this appendix, the author gives all sorts of worksheets that can be used individually as well as in a group for the purpose of training. The worksheets include such topics as language barriers, listening and questioning, prescription for good questions, friendship evangelism, discipling new believers, four role plays, questions non-Christians ask, guidelines for organizing contact evangelism, suggested schedule for a two-weekend evangelism training seminar, suggested schedule for three all-day evangelism training seminars, and suggested schedule for a twelve session evangelism training seminar. Especially these suggested schedules make this book an excellent tool for training each other in the work of evangelism.

A Suggestionβ†β€’πŸ”—

The book, of course, also has its weakness. Any book one reads will have this problem. One major weakness of the book is the place of the church in evangelism. One misses in his book the normative language when it comes to the church-gathering work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, how major this omission may be, the many other positive qualities of the book enable me to heartily recommend it to you. As a matter of fact, I would strongly urge evangelism committees across the country to study the book and see whether or not they can arrange training seminars in their congregations by using, for instance, one of the three suggested schedules for such training seminars.

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