Evangelism Is Not about Giving People an Opportunity to Respond to The Gospel.

This is a replay and revised version of an earlier post.

“We Must Give People

an Opportunity to

Respond to the Gospel!

It’s not our job to get others to “respond” to the Gospel. Is it?

I have heard this phrase many times in the past, and it has always given me concern.  I’ve tucked it into the back of my mind and said that I have to look into it further at a later time.  It’s that later time.  

Matt Chandler, in “The Explicit Gospel,” says, “the proclamation of the glory of God, the might of God, and the majesty of God brought to bear on the sinfulness of man in the atoning work of Jesus Christ actually stirs the hearts of men. And men respond to that stirring. Some are stirred to belief; some are not.” *

Again he says, 

“This is what the gospel does. This is why the gospel of Jesus is dangerous. When we hear the gospel word, we are opened up to the Word of God. We’re subjected to God’s Word reading us. We sit underneath it, and for the moment of our hearing, it rules us. It does not save all, but all who hear it are put in their place. This is dangerous, because the proclamation of God’s Word goes only one way or another in the soul of a man, and one of those ways is the hardening of a man toward the grace of God.”

Matt’s assumption, is that people have no choice but to respond to The Gospel.  That response looks different in different people, but it remains a response none the less.  Here’s where I see portions the church departing from the biblical pattern.  God is the one that elicits a response from gospel hearers, but the church has taken over the engineering of it.  Entirely too many of our “Gospel Presentations” are attempts at reverse engineering.  We structure our presentations of the Gospel SO THAT it elicits a response from the hearers.  We sway and woo, build in intentional and emotional manipulations, and are always driving others to a point of decision.  

If we are honest with ourselves, and ask, “when was that last time someone came to me and asked, “what must I do to be saved.”  We might begin to understand the scope of the issue.  Granted, in our weak, frail, and often incomplete gospel presentations, Gods’ mercy, the power of the scripture, and the Spirit Himself fills in the gaps.  But the moment we sense that someone is really interested in the gospel message, our tendency is to “go in for the kill.”

The learned behavior around presenting the Gospel for most of the church, is that we “must give people an opportunity to respond.”  It is so strongly rooted in us that practically every tract, every manner, every method, and every architectural arrangement of Gospel data is designed to evoke and attain a response.  Many of the responses are the result of clever human manipulation and not necessarily the work of the Spirit. 

So, must we give people an opportunity to respond to the Gospel, or do we simply proclaim the Gospel and leave the response to the person and God?  Wouldn’t we be better off learning what to do after a response than trying to invoke one?

“If Christ says, “let those that thirst come,” then why does much of christian evangelism look like Water Boarding?”  ~ Miguel Labrador

 

A few Questions:

In what way do early church evangelism scenarios contribute to this discussion?

Are we to present the Gospel in such a way that it invokes a response?

When someone does respond to the Gospel, what, biblically speaking, are we to do next? 

 

See my series on “The ‘No-till farming’ Revolution & Its Applications for the Church.”  

*Matt Chandler (2012-04-09). The Explicit Gospel (p. 69). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

0 thoughts on “Evangelism Is Not about Giving People an Opportunity to Respond to The Gospel.

  1. Ross Rohde says:

    Part of this problem is that we see “the presentation of the Gospel” as an event rather than a process through engagement. A friend, Ed Waken, says that you can be 100% effective in evangelism 100% of the time if you do exactly what God tells you to say, no more, no less. By that he means that in this particular event in the process you may just need to encourage the person, no more, no less. Next perhaps you bring up Jesus, then don’t do any more. Six months later it is time to talk about forgiveness; etc. We don’t need to push people to decision. We need to let Jesus lead the process. In doing so we are not pushing people beyond where they are ready to go (not a loving act), we maintain the relationship and we allow the Gospel to unfold graciously over time. And we do it in the wisdom and under the direction of Jesus and not some booklet or canned Gospel presentation.

  2. Miguel says:

    Ross,

    Brief and powerful comment. What is the source for the Ed Waken quote? I will have more to say on your comment later today, as I wanted to give others a chance to “respond.”

    • Ross Rohde says:

      Actually I quote it in Viral Jesus in the chapter on evangelism. I got it from Ed directly as he helped me with the evangelism chapter. He sent me an outline of some of the things he teaches on evangelism.

      Ross

  3. Cody says:

    I love this conversation. I really do. I just don’t get it. It being “forcing a gospel response”. The more I think about “it”, the more I realize that if I am involved in “it”, the better the chance of “it” happening. I want to stay out of the way, but I don’t see this being possible.

    Are we only talking about the response after the gospel is presented? Or how we talking about how the gospel is presented?

    The gospel is news. Great news. Many things can share this news, obviously. In my opinion, no matter how the gospel is shared, a response is always the intent.

    Let’s stop beating around the bush. Should there be no more altar calls? Should we stop telling people to pray “this prayer” after me? (The latter I loathe.) Should the gospel presentation not be an event?

    One’s theology, dictates how the gospel is presented. Personally, if the answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved”, is anything other than “repent and believe”, then an incorrect response is being forced. Which, to me, is offering false hope in something other than the Gospel. What are we repenting and believing in? My answer, the news which is the Gospel.

    The Gospel demands response. Not a response to the presenter, but to the one whom the Gospel is about, Jesus.

    • John says:

      Cody brings out the need for balance. There are times when a person is nowhere close to calling upon Jesus as Savior; but then there are occasions when the apple is ripe and ready to fall from the tree, only needing a slight shake (perhaps some loving confrontation). I’ve done EE, Four Spiritual Laws, and other packaged evangelistic plans with limited fruitfulness – I think that God wants to get us away from fleshly formulas with more dependence upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and freedom from the fear of what others might think.

  4. Miguel says:

    Cody,

    Thanks for your hard-hitting comment. Again, you touch on many crucial issues around this topic and rightly so. But I am still going to wait for others to comment before going more in depth.

  5. Greg Gamble says:

    i havnt been involved in any mass evangelism strategies, but have personally led many to the Lord, mostly thru
    daily interactions with them.
    It seems to be a peculiar obsession with seeing many saved at once, and/or large numbers of believers discipled in programs and thru ‘venue’s’ such as camps, concerts, revival meetings, Sunday schools, et al.
    i suspect that if we would deliberately fast from the ‘assembly line’ production of converts and disciples, we would necessarily see a resurgence of daily fellowshipping, one anothering that leads to personal evangelism and more family/believers community focused life drawing in neighbors etc.
    Here’s one aspect of why I perceive us to be in this dilema.
    Our current self centered, individualistic type of christianese spoken and preached stems from the abandonment of a corporate Christian identity.
    God presented Christ to the world as a Jew, and He waited till the nation had developed a corporate identity, and saw themselves as one nation, one body, one people.
    The church lost that corporate sense soon after we became predominantly gentile, and later, when they started blaming the Jews for Jesus death, the anti Jewish mind threw out the thousands of years of Jewish wisdom and lifestyle that was integral to the development of the early disciples understanding of Gods ways.
    We clearly dont understand His ways as the Jews did, because we have developed our own, and stubbornly employ them notwithstanding the poor results from huge input, vs the massive response of the early converts from a small group of disciples.
    blessings
    Greg

  6. Dori says:

    The first question the early seekers asked was, where are you staying Jesus? And His response was Come and see. Then some of His last words were also in response to him going to stay in another place after his ressurection. Jesus responded with basically the same answer…Come and see-abide, keep following me…
    He doesn’t manipulate a response, He keeps walking with us where ever we are and inviting us to follow where we know not. We can’t judge a persons response, because we can’t judge When and how he may be stimulating a seeking heart.
    Ross says it well. Our part is to be open to following His lead as we relate to other seekers. I think too often we followers think we found it all , and have stopped seeking Him (which to me is basis of being a disciple). Maybe the question should be”can they see my response as I seek with them”.

  7. Rick Knock says:

    The world makes cookies; the Kingdom makes babies.

    The World prefers the cookie approach because
    * it’s quick & easy,
    * the cookies smell good and taste great,
    * most people like cookies.

    The world resists the baby-making approach because
    * it can be long and difficult process,
    * not every attempt results in a baby,
    * newborn babies require many years of care, attention, & personal sacrifice,

  8. Ed says:

    What about the opposite problem, where those carrying the Gospel message are culturally naive, just offensive or tie their faith to specific political stances, and then, when there are no results, say that the hearers were resistant?

  9. Peter says:

    I see no reason to not ask for a response, so long as it’s appropriate and not a formulaic “it’s the way we always do it.” Scripture’s presents us a varied approach to evangelism. Just like Christ’s approach to prayer, it’s dynamic, sometimes unexpected, and EXTREMELY contextual.

    If I’m sitting down to eat next to someone who has no food, I can tell them how wonderful the food is, and I may also ask them if they want to partake as well without waiting for them to ask first.

    Either way, whatever we say, if Jesus is life and salvation is life, our message must also be alive and not some dead formula designed to elicit a response.

  10. Mark Guinn says:

    @rick – might we also add that you can’t eat babies but they’re more fun to make. 🙂

    Regarding the post, I love what you said about a response being implicit in the hearing of the gospel. That’s very clarifying. I wonder what damage that causes over the long haul if we try to elicit an external response by pressure or manipulation. Does it create dullness to the voice of God and decreased ability to repent and believe – so some people follow Jesus but don’t know how to grow outside a emotion/pressure-filled environment and others that might be moving towards him think they’re not up for it at all because they aren’t ready to walk an aisle yet.

    Great post.

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