Friday, June 23, 2006

Kim Riddlebarger: Some Dos and Don'ts of Evangelism

Kim Riddlebarger has given a couple of excellent advice on evangelism from a Reformed perspective. These points are taken from his lectures on evangelism, Telling People the Truth in Love. Here are some of the points that resonates with me:
  1. The essence of evangelism is communicating the correct information about sin and grace, simply and clearly. Talk about the law and the gospel, not about infralapsarianism and divine simplicity. That comes later!
  2. Avoid the use of Christian jargon. Speak about real sin, real guilt, real shed blood!
  3. Stick with the subject—don’t get side-tracked. When the conversation wanders, pull it back to center stage—the law and the gospel.
  4. Evangelism is not about winning an argument, but leading people to Christ. Discussions may get heated and intense at times—that’s okay. But the purpose of evangelism is not to show why you are right and they are wrong. It is to communicate the truth of the gospel. The message is to be the offence. Not you!
  5. Don’t rush things. Just because someone is not ready to trust in Christ after one encounter does not mean that effective evangelism has not taken place. Pre-evangelism is equally vital. You may plant, but someone else may have to water.
  6. Treat people as objects of concern, not notches in your belt. Establish relationships and friendships whenever possible.
  7. Don’t force things. If people balk, ridicule and otherwise are not interested, back off. Find another time and place. If after repeated attempts to communicate the gospel, and someone still shows an unwillingness to hear what you have to say, "shake the dust off your feet and move on to a new town!"
  8. You don’t have to become a practical Arminian to be a faithful evangelist! A Reformed approach to evangelism simply means telling people the truth in love.
For more of the points (20 in all!), click here to view them.

I would encourage readers to download Riddlebarger's article too. Here are some excerpts from the article on the topic of pre-evangelism:
  • Pre-evangelism entails two-way communication between the Christian and the non-Christian: “If we wish to communicate, then, we must take the time and the trouble to learn our hearer’s use of language so that they understand what we intend to convey [p.130].” Thus pre-evangelism entails understanding what the non-Christian is saying. It means listening to them and then communicating to them in terms they can understand. This is what we call finding and establishing “common ground.”
  • Pre-evangelism entails getting a non-Christian to see the futility of unbelief and leaving him in the tension between the real world and his own set of beliefs: “Every person we speak to, whether shop girl or university student, has a set of presuppositions, whether he or she has analyzed them or not....But, in fact, no non-Christian can be consistent to the logic of his presuppositions.
  • Pre-evangelism entails making sure that the non-Christian understands that these issues are about objective facts of history and not subjective feelings or opinions of individuals: “we must make sure that the individual understands that we are talking about real truth, and not about something vaguely religious which seems to work psychologically. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking about real guilt before God, and we are not offering him merely relief for his guilt feelings. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking to him about history, and that the death of Jesus was not just an ideal or a symbol but a fact of time and space. If we are talking to a person who would not understand the term `space time history’ we can say: `Do you believe that Jesus died in the sense that if you had been there that day, you could have rubbed your finger on the cross and got a splinter in it?’ Until he understands the importance of these things, he is not yet ready to become a Christian [p. 139].”


Blogger naniecheng said...

Evangelism is so tough to do, especially in this post-modern age. I know that the "saving / conviction action" is done by the Holy Spirit so we don't have to feel the burden of converting people.

But having said that, it doesn't mean that it is easy. Sometimes I think it is more difficult to spread the gospel in a post-modern world than in the times of Acts. What is more dangerous to Christianity? The punishment of death for evangelism or a societal worldview where there is no such thing as absolute truth? I think it is the latter.

I often wonder what would Jesus do or what would Paul, John, Peter do in a post-modern world? How would they preach absolute truth in a world that doesn't believe this exists or even if it did, it is unattainable?

I have come to a simple conclusion. A post-modern world provides easy answers for people who believe what they want to believe. So for such people, their minds are more of less made up thus even if you take time to engage them in conversation, they'll just fall back on the "Different strokes for different folks" mantra. In such a world, the most effective method of evangelism is by action - Concrete acts of love.

Christians today need to live out their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our daily lives need to exude the fragrance of Christ so clearly. We literally have to reflect the glory of the Father and be a light to the world.

However for this to happen, it means that Christians have to walk so closely with God, such that every word uttered, every thought conjured would be one that is so holy and "out of this world". Only then will non-Christians see the reality of this God.

Words and arguments fail in this post-modern era because there is no common fundamental assumption. If a person cannot even agree with you that there is such a thing as absolute truth, any conversation on this topic will just be going in circles. But no one argues with concrete action unfolding before their eyes.

When they see Christians practise the sacrificial love of Christ, how can they not be convinced of the existence of God?

23/6/06 3:07 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

I do not quite agree with you. Yes, it is true that we must “practice the sacrificial love of Christ,” but evangelism is much more than convincing people about the existence of God or about proving that Christ historically died on the cross. Evangelism is about preaching the gospel – which is telling people that they are all sinners and in need of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

Practicing sacrificial love is like the apostles performing signs and wonders. It validates the message but it is not the message itself. People do not believe because of signs and wonders, but through hearing the message of the cross. No matter how good our works, they still fall short of the power of the message. Hence, our good works validate the message of the gospel that we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ and should never be confused with the message.

I think in order to preach to the postmodernist (or to anyone), we need to start with the doctrine of God and the doctrine of sin. The person needs to know that there is a God who is infinitely just and holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence. The person needs to be pointed out that he is a sinner who needs the grace of God. If he does not recognize this, he is clearly deceiving himself. Every one of us has and will break the greatest commandment and the second greatest commandment countless number of times in our lives, making us sinners.

I find that nowadays, we have an imbalanced lovey-dovey message of salvation that deemphasizes the sinfulness of men. Too often, we preach the love of God while leaving out the terrible wrath of God for fear of causing offence. I do believe both must be preached. We need to preach not only a merciful God, but a just God as well. We need to emphasize the sinner’s utter inability to save himself and that his good works are like filthy rags. We need to preach a gospel where it shows Jesus Christ as a King who saves those who repent and believe, rather than a friend who merely helps you.

23/6/06 5:32 PM  
Blogger tweakmax said...

I agree with what u posted in the blog Beowulf. Keep it up!

23/6/06 6:48 PM  
Blogger naniecheng said...

All I meant is that it is difficult to share the gospel just like that. I feel that we have to earn the right for the post modernist to listen to us, to want to hear our message. And the way to do that is to show sacrificial love.

It is of course important to share the gospel of Christ and the fact that GOd is a righteous judge. But only after we have earned the right to speak.

Maybe some people will say that the gospel being the truth of God requires no such "earning of right". But I disagree with such thinking. Sinful humans who do not acknowledge God will not pay heed to the inherent authority of scripture.

I do agree with you that the means and the message should not be confused.

I have tried speaking to my colleague about the doctrine of God and sin but he would retort "Well that's your worldview of god and what god is like. My worldview is different. Who are you to tell me I am wrong? What if you are the one who is wrong?"

Just as convinced as I am about Jesus, he is equally convinced about his god. So what to do? we can converse all day but he will always maintain that all I'm saying comes from my worldview and understanding of God. His worldview is fundamentally different from mine. He can listen to me but he will not change his ideas about god.

So that's why I say if my evangelism remains in the realm of "talking", it will go nowhere because of this mental block. Only sacrificial love will bypass this mental barrier and go straight to the heart.

23/6/06 10:14 PM  
Blogger tweakmax said...


U are a lutheran?

Anyway, u said: "However for this to happen, it means that Christians have to walk so closely with God, such that every word uttered, every thought conjured would be one that is so holy and "out of this world". Only then will non-Christians see the reality of this God."

and tat's not easy. I agree with Beowulf tat we should back off if they refuse to listen, for example, ur colleague. With regards to earning rights to listen, sometimes Christians compromise too much, for example, the prosperity gospel preached by charismatics. Nothing is preached abt judgement, just love.

When Jonah told the pple at ninevah, he just said a sentence, and the people repented. This only shows conversion is only by the holy spirit, not by the preacher earning any rights to preach, sometimes resulted in a distorted gospel.

24/6/06 2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard the broadcast by "Renewing Your mind" radio by RC Sproul. The topic is about "Proclaiming the gospel"

It's related to the discussion.

24/6/06 10:18 PM  
Blogger naniecheng said...

hi tweakmax, yes i'm a lutheran. why? u know any lutherans too?

it is true that conviction and conversion comes only from the Holy Sprit. Out job is merely to share the christian worldview.
As long as I'm sharing, I'll leave the rest to God.

However having said that, I still have a nagging thought. Why would people want to give me "airtime"? Why would they bother to listen to my point of view about God? How can the good news that I have to share be apparent to a non-believer such that they would want to stop and listen?

25/6/06 4:19 PM  
Blogger tweakmax said...

Hi nanie

Rare seeing lutherans around in Singapore, even on the Net =)

I am a Presbyterian

26/6/06 1:47 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

I would not jump into the presentation of the gospel immediately. I might start off by getting the person to talk about his worldview. Or I might talk about the difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics (many non-believers are interested to know that) and move on to the history of Christianity, perhaps giving an overview of the Old Testament. Or bring up recent events and introduce questions like, “If God is good, why does He allow suffering?” Basically, my strategy is to get the person interested to know about the Christian faith and I would somehow ease the gospel into the discussion.

28/6/06 2:13 PM  
Anonymous said...

This cannot have effect in fact, that is what I believe.

21/11/11 11:46 PM  

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