Merriam-Webster defines evangelism as “the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ” (Dictionary/evangelism). Evangelism comes in many forms and methods, depending on the evangelist. The most common methods can be divided into three categories: intellectual, relational, and confrontational. This paper will discuss one method in each of these categories.
- Intellectual: The Romans Road
The Romans Road is a method of evangelizing that attempts to present the biblical plan of salvation by offering various verses of the book of Romans in a logical order. As Mary Fairchild points out, “when arranged in order, these verses form an easy, systematic way of explaining the message of salvation” (Fairchild). The idea behind this method is to use the verses to argue for the need of a person’s salvation and then lead that person to say a repenter’s prayer. The main advantage to this method is that it is entirely dependent upon biblical logic rather than human logic. John Christy notes, “The message is focused around scriptural reasoning rather than man’s logic” (Christy).This is very attractive to those who do not have an in depth knowledge of scripture or do not possess the confidence in own understanding of the plan of salvation.
Despite the attractiveness of this method, it is not without its drawbacks. First and foremost, in most cases it leaves out a central part of the salvation plan. It tends to omit the resurrection of Christ. The importance of this cannot be overstated. The Apostle Paul, (who wrote the book Romans) wrote to the early church at Corinth, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). It is obvious from this verse that belief in the resurrection is essential to the plan of salvation. The second drawback is that it relies totally upon the non-believer’s willingness to accept biblical authority for success. As Christy states, “In this situation they are not open to the reasoning given in the Bible and may refute each claim with a simple “I do not believe in God” argument” (Christy).
- Relational: Servant Evangelism
Servant evangelism is the act of showing the love of Jesus in a practical way. As Steve Sjogren, who coined the phrase servant evangelism, told Stephen Clark “It’s doing small things with great kindness to unexpectedly interrupt a person’s day with the love of God” (Clark). The basic premise of this method is that through small deeds of kindness a person’s heart can be turned to Christ. The major advantage of this type of evangelism is that it is people friendly. While scripture and preaching might turn off some people, almost everyone will accept a friendly act of kindness. Also for the evangelist, it does not require an in depth knowledge of scripture or doctrine, rather it relies upon their willingness to serve and meet a given need.
However, there are questions that arise from this type of evangelism. Clark acknowledges this when he writes, “That servant-style evangelism shies away from an immediate, direct presentation of the Gospel draws some criticism. Is there a risk that someone who is touched only by a servant evangelism outreach may never again come into contact with the Gospel? How does washing windows for someone without telling him or her about Christ actually lead to salvation?” (Clark).
- Confrontational: The Way of the Master
The Way of the Master is an evangelical approach popularized by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. It is designed to show the need for a savior by demonstrating a person’s failure to keep the Ten Commandments. It is most commonly found in the form of a four question conversation starter. These questions are as follows: Would you consider yourself a good person? Do you think you have kept the Ten Commandments? If you were judged by those Ten Commandments, would you be found innocent or guilty? Do you think you will go to heaven or hell?
The Way of the Master does have plenty of strengths. Chiefly, it is easy conversation starter. Most people will not have many objections to you asking if they consider themselves a good person. Also, it is more reliant on the holiness of God, rather than human action. As Jesse Johnson notices, “I also like this gospel presentation because it is centered on God’s glory, rather than people’s decision. It confronts people with their sin, and it shows them that their sin matters (Johnson).”
Despite the strengths of this methods there is one fundamental weakness. It assumes that the Ten Commandments are culmination of God’s law. Yet, according to Jesus the greatest law is not even found in the Ten Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). Also, it does not explain the fact that it is unlikely that any early gentile converts would have even known of the Ten Commandments. So how can they be held under the Ten Commandments? The problem arises because they use the term law and Ten Commandments interchangeably and then point to certain scriptures. One such scripture is Romans 3:9 which says, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin…” They take this scripture out of context. As F.B. Meyer argues, “Law here is obviously employed in the wide sense of conscience as well as Scripture” (Frederick). Paul, then, was using law in a general sense not an indicative sense of the Ten Commandments.
- Personal Application :Servant Evangelism
While I think all the methods discussed in this paper are effective on some level, I believe that Servant Evangelism is best suited for me and those non-believers in my life. Servant Evangelism seems to keep most to the teaching of scripture. It also aligns with the mission of Christ. The prophet Isaiah spoke these words concerning Christ, “He took up our infirmities and bore our disease” (Isaiah 53:4). I think Christ came and met people at their needs. He formed a relationship with them. Time and time again, he was accused of being a friend to sinners. This was certainly true. I think Servant Evangelism provides the best example of God to a non-believer. It crosses the line to the biblically knowledgeable and the atheist simultaneously. It does not exclude but include. The Apostle John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Then if we show love in a practical way then we are showing God in a practical way. If we do that we are doing our part, God will do the rest and call those he wills to him.