This article is about evangelism methods.

Source: Christian Renewal, 2006. 2 pages.

The Use of Canned Evangelistic Approaches

As a young Pentecostal teenager my pastor introduced me to a course that prepared us to be evangelists. We were told we would change the whole neighborhood if we followed this method. And in a way, we did. We visited almost every home and had hundreds of “decisions” for Christ In the space of the first few hours a couple of us had seven “decisions” for Christ. The trouble was that most of those people never really believed and most of them never came to worship.

We busily ran around asking people: “If you were to die tonight do you think you would make it to heaven?” Most would say: “Yes.” Then we would respond: “If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he were to say to you, 'why would I let you into my heaven' what would you say?” We would succinctly state our points, confront them with their sins, and urge them to repent in about seven minutes flat. You probably recognize that we were using a variation of Evangelism Explosion. I regret doing that! We gave many people the false idea that they were Christians because “they signed on the line.”

What was wrong with that method? As my friend likes to say: “You must be Reformed in theology and in methodology.”

This canned method of evangelism is really just a little longer than a “bumper sticker.” It does not emphasize the “whole counsel” of God and brings the Gospel of our Lord down to a few propositions.

Consider a couple of examples: Evangelism Explosion does not properly explain who God is. Without knowing who God is the non-Christian can never understand why God hates sin so much and why his judgments are so severe. Second, Evangelism Explosion and other similar methods do not adequately explain the law of God and how they can be broken in thoughts, words and deeds. Without explaining the full extent of sin by a good examination of God's law, the non-Christian will never understand how far away from God he stands and the real danger in which he is. Third, the covenant usually is non-existent in this methodology. But if the non-Christian does not understand the nature of the covenant, he cannot understand and appreciate the obedience and death of Jesus Christ.

Further, when using canned evangelism you can antagonize a man who is not ready to hear of his sinfulness. Those of us who have worked cross-culturally know that this blunt method of teaching can become a “brick wall” to evangelism. On the other hand, sometimes you get people agreeing with what you say simply so that they can finish their laundry. Certainly this cannot be pleasing to God. (Maybe they loved us as you love those people selling books with Watchtowers on them.)

Canned evangelism tends to ignore the whole Bible, mostly quoting from popular New Testament passages.

Canned evangelism like EE, because of the desire to get results, changes the focus of evangelism from showing man his sinfulness and leading him to the Savior to promoting a reward: “Want to go to heaven?” What if the person were to answer, “No, I don't want to go to heaven”? Might the evangelist leave him? Absolutely not. God commands repentance from the sinner and that needs to be emphasized. God does not give a choice of a reward or no reward. A reward may be rejected without consequences. The offering of a reward is further troubling because it seems to offer the benefits of salvation only after this life and denies the plethora of Scriptures that speak of God's present grace to His covenant children.

Did anyone become a Christian through our labors in EE? Some did come to worship and later became Christians, but it would have been highly unlikely that they became Christians when we first spoke to them. Even if they did, it does not justify the method.

Are there any benefits from the canned evangelism that we used? There could be. For example, the question asked above about whether one were prepared for heaven could be an excellent starter to conversation. The key is to use those questions and then go on to the greater substance of the Gospel.

The sum of the matter then is that the evangelist must bring the whole Gospel, the whole spectrum of salvation, to those who are in their sins. This takes time. You must show the non-Christian who he is, teach him the doctrine of God, explain the 10 commands to him, show him the work of Jesus Christ, and then urge him to ask God to count Christ's life, death, and resurrection as his own. There are no shortcuts. This is the method that brings change. Do the right thing and wait for the results. The Lord will lose none of His elect.

And when you combine scriptural evangelism with living a godly life then you will speak ever more loudly and effectively of Christ. You will be a true worker for Christ.

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