Monday, October 02, 2006

PATTERNS OF EVANGELISM (from part 5 of 6)

(from part 5 of "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?", a six-part series running over at

One thing that’s also helpful to me is to realize that, contrary to popular opinion, there is not a formula to evangelism found in the New Testament. Several times in the Gospels we see various people who come to Jesus and ask point blank, “What must I do to be saved?” One of the most shocking things is that Jesus never gives the answer that all of us have been trained to give. Not once. Jesus never says, “Confess your sins, believe in me and repeat this prayer after me.”

What we see is that Jesus gave a different answer to this question every single time. He never gave the same answer twice. It’s as if Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate to us that evangelism needs to be done in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, being sensitive to the specific heart of the one person we are speaking to, and not applying the cookie cutter approach to preaching the Gospel.

Let’s look briefly at the various answers Jesus gives to those who approached him asking about what must be done to inherit eternal life and see what we can learn from Him.

To Zaccheus Jesus simply acknowledges him in the crowd, invites himself to dinner and when Zaccheus repents of skimming from the taxes he’s collected, Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to his household. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus commands him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and become a disciple under Jesus. The man refuses and is allowed to walk away, seemingly unconverted. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, is told he must be born a second time. This confuses him and Jesus does little to explain what he means, leaving the teacher of the Law to work it out on his own time. The Woman at the Well is boldly confronted with the promiscuous lifestyle she’s been living and yet never feels offended or condemned by Jesus throughout the conversation. Finally, the Thief on the Cross is converted and welcomed into Paradise simply for realizing that Jesus was the promised Messiah. His only part in the process seems to be the amazing good fortune of being crucified for his crimes on the same day as the Son of God.

Many other examples of salvation in the New Testament reflect this same lack of pattern and tailor-made response to the Gospel message.

How does your personal conversion experience compare to these found in the New Testament? Do you see a common pattern in your own story?

When I look at this amazing variety of conversion experiences in Scripture it really puzzles me as to why we’ve made evangelism so predictable and uninteresting.




Anthony said...

Crazy ... we were just talking about this at our house Church meeting on Tuesday. We went over four of the " ... follow me ... " accounts and indentified the unique circumstances with each. Jesus had a leg up on his because he could read hearts so we have to rely on the Comforter in order to do the same.

Also at our pub meeting we were talking about how God calls each of us in different ways. I've heard lots of different stories and it doesn't seem like there is some sort of set way ...

My own experience was just so beautiful and touching to me - it really showed that Our Father works with us as individuals.

For me I was at a congregation meeting and I was reading the Bible because the talks were never doing it for me. I was reading in Hebrews 3:1 which in the NWT reads "Consequently, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest whom we confess—Jesus"

At the moment I read that scripture it spoke to me like no other scripture had before - very deeply, very personally - like when it said "holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling", it was talking about me.

So at that moment were I was wrestling with this new "calling" I was kind of floored by the experience - so I guess I was kind of staring off into space. My little girl tugged on me sleave and whipsered, "What are you looking at?" I shrugged it off and said, "Oh, nothing."

Well she went back to doodling in her notebook and a few minutes later handed me a picture. I asked here what it was and she said, "It's you looking at an angel."

What can I say? Praise God! I was sold at that moment.

Joy said...

Ok, Keith... I just sent an email to ya before I read this... Forget what I said! YOU MUST MOVE TO NC, NOW!! LOL

Man, thanks so much for continuing to put your heart and your experience on 'paper'!