The Christian’s task in life is evangelism of the lost (per the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20). Two millennia later, the church is still hard at work fulfilling the greatest undertaking in history.
Over that time, several methods developed to engage the culture. These can be divided into three categories: the “intellectual,” “relational” and “confrontational” methods. Of course within these three categories, there are more specific methods. Let’s take a look at three of these: 1) the Four Spiritual Laws, 2) Servant Evangelism and 3) Evangelism Explosion. Each method has inherent advantages and disadvantages.
Intellectual Evangelism: The Four Spiritual Laws
The Four Spiritual Laws is a concise and comprehensive evangelistic explanation developed by Bill Bright that has four parts.
1. God’s Love
The first part is that “God loves you.” We find the Scripture support for this is in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (ESV).” The love of God for humanity was culminated in sending His only Son to die on our behalf.
2. Man’s Sin
The second part is that, “Man is sinful and separated from God.” The Scriptural support is in Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and Isaiah 59:2.
3. Christ’s Provision
The third part is that, “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin.” Jesus made this claim when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6, ESV). Paul reaffirms this in Romans 5:8; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, (ESV).”
4. Our Responsibility
The final part of the Four Spiritual Laws is that, “We must individually receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.” Romans 10:9-10 is the flagship verse for this. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (ESV).” The other two verses used in support of this are John 1:12 and Ephesians 2:8.
The advantage of using this method is that it systematically presents and explains the love of God for humanity, the need for repentance, the exclusivity of Christ being the only way for reconciliation to God, and the personal nature it expresses in individually and sincerely accepting Christ as Savior. Another advantage is that one can sit down with someone and go through these points in a short period of time. The chief advantage is that it relies solely upon Scripture to speak for itself. Therefore if someone is serious about coming to Christ, they are able to read, pray and ponder on these Scripture verses afterward.
The first is that for the atheist (specifically the anti-theist) these four laws presuppose God’s existence as well as the fact that the Bible is God’s Word. The next disadvantage is that most people involved in a pseudo-Christian cult may simply disregard these verses as something they already affirm. Basically, the biggest disadvantage of the Four Spiritual Laws is that it only reaches people who at least affirm basic principles of the faith. More specifically, principles like God’s existence, the Bible’s divine inspiration, inherent sin and Christ as the only way to life.
Relational Evangelism: Servant Evangelism
Servant Evangelism is an evangelistic method modeled after Jesus in John 13:1-20. David Wheeler says, “Servant evangelism is a combination of simple acts of kindness and intentional sharing of the gospel.” Using Christ as the ultimate model, this style of evangelism implies a sincere and humble attitude in putting others first. It is a natural yet subtle way of witnessing to the lost.
Plus it’s highly practical when working to engage culture. In this day and age where self-absorption and blatant narcissism are rampant, the shock value of someone disregarding themselves for others is noteworthy and sure to prompt further discussion. The driving force behind this method of evangelism is “putting love into action.” Paul states, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV). Without love, this method will ultimately fail.
The first is that it opens the door to share the gospel. The easiest way to share the gospel is by being a living example. This inevitably leads to conversations about knowing Jesus. The second advantage is that anyone doing this can’t help but experience a change of mind and life. This will likely compound and lead to even more witnessing opportunities. The final and prime advantage of Servant Evangelism is that it glorifies God by modeling oneself after Christ Himself, as seen in Philippians 2:5-8. One can hardly think of a better example than God incarnate. In this manner, we display a full submission to God for His service and purposes.
One disadvantage is that it could take quite some time to impact a life enough toward salvation in Christ. Unless there is frequent exposure to a particular person, it proves difficult. Therefore time is a major factor in this method. The other disadvantage is that it takes a great deal of discernment. Unfortunately some people are prone to take advantage of those who are willing to forgo their own needs to serve others. If one is not careful, discouragement or even bitterness can seep in after such an encounter.
Confrontational Evangelism: Evangelism Explosion
Evangelism Explosion is a ministry that started by Dr. D. James Kennedy in 1962. His purpose was to train people how to share their faith and to bring nonbelievers to Christ. What is unique about this system is that it seeks to exponentially evangelize by leading people to Christ, and then trains them to lead even more people to Christ. Their statement reads, “’Multiplication’ is the key component, not just winning people to the Lord one-by-one (addition).” Acts 6 is the basis for their reasoning: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly…(Acts 6:7 ESV).”
The Advantages And Disadvantages
One advantage this method has is the profound impact on Christian missions toward reaching the lost by exponential growth methods. In 2014, the organization reports “more than 8,457,945” professions of faith. Another advantage is that it systematically trains up believers to share the faith, which undoubtedly includes discipleship, then sent out under supervision into the field to witness to unbelievers. With a sound foundation of knowledge coupled with practical application under the umbrella of discipleship, the effectiveness is clearly evident.
The disadvantage of this method is simply that one may not have the time or resources to undertake this training.
Application of These Methods to My Own Life
Personally, the method that suits me best is the Servant Evangelism method. And that is for a few important reasons.
The first reason is that this method is the most personable of the three methods. The second reason is that I struggle a great deal with the sin of pride, so this method forces me to humble myself in Christ to serve others and count them as better than myself (Philippians 2:3). The final reason is that it is the most effective method in reaching the people in my life.
Generally I find myself surrounded by Jehovah’s Witnesses and atheists. I think Servant Evangelism, coupled with a strong apologetic program, is the best method for reaching these target groups. I have had some success in employing this method with both Jehovah’s Witnesses and atheists. Both groups know where I stand, and yet some still speak with me and hear my reasons for my belief in Christ. Although it is a work in progress, I have the most affection for these two groups. And I pray that the Lord continues to use me to reach them.