3-Point Evangelism

A couple weeks ago, I was at our church’s evangelism training. The turnout was superb and the conversation even more fascinating. So  engulfed were we in Jesus’ famous encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) that we barely had time to go further on some of the practical matters. That story in particular is instructive because of how a singled out woman meets our singled out Lord for the most life changing conversation ever.

As we were discussing how to become better good news ambassadors, something dawned on me that I’d never really thought about before. All the issues that people have in the world or the needs that burden them really boil down to three. Allow me to take this for a spin.

First, people (at least on the surface) have issues with what’s true or not. Postmodernity plus our modern technologies have given way to the new religion that’s here to stay called “expressive individualism.” This spiritually flammable product is really in the hands of every person. For as many people there are, there are truths.  And what could be more confusing?
Second, most everyone intensely wrestles with right and wrong— in their conscience. They want satisfaction of a meaningful kind and— like the Rolling Stones— can’t seem to get none. Regardless of where you get your news from or how you arrive at truth, one unshakeable part of what it means to be a person is your conscience. And while the conscience can be trained correctly or not, it is this part of us that we can’t shake and isn’t as apparent to others.

The third burden concerns anything related to human flourishing. This is the domain of issues where we hear the word ‘systemic’. And who or what else can solve big issues than those who have the most money, influence and power? If only we could get them to spend, sway or muscle in more, we could change the world, and it would be a better place.

Run a little thought experiment this week. Write down or mentally note as many meaningful conversations you had with people. Let’s say you had 5 or 6 of those this week. Maybe the conversation was just as terse and tactless as a voiced complaint. That can count. Now, run each of those conversations through one of the three categories above.

We have three branches of government in America, thousands of non-profits, millions of field experts or books, 735 billionaires and a gross domestic product of $20 trillion. Can’t we make any progress in the most burdened areas pertinent to being human?

Think about it: for those desirous of truth, it’s a constant quest to find truth and then the burden becomes to tell it. Those who know something’s wrong inside may seek help from therapy, but it’s a constant quest to cleanse the troubled conscience no matter who you don’t tell. And the constant, elusive pursuit of human flourishing is to fix the problem with our resources.

The Older Testament of our Bible had specialists for these areas: A true prophet always spoke truth. A noble priest came as close to the conscience as possible with his ministrations. Still the sacrificial system couldn’t handle the burdens of conscience. A capable king would know how fix broken things in his kingdom to allow for the flourishing of his subjects. At least in an ideal world, these all function cohesively.
After you’ve run your thought experiment, know that you have 3 different entry points for the Gospel which present truth, cleansing and fixing; all in the one Person of Jesus Christ. In other words, evangelism isn’t as much about knowing this particular verse or mastering that argument; it’s about how to relate Jesus to these varied points of longing, dissonance and contradiction in people’s lives. If you present Jesus as Prophet/Priest and King, then, they will have the one-stop “shop” for all their biggest concerns (even if they don’t yet know they have them).

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