Big Question Follow-Up
My answer is that a Reformed gospel presentation should not sound very different from an Arminianist one, because the basis and goal of the conversation is exactly the same. We are Christians appealing to non-Christians to become Christians based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. While there are very distinct differences in Arminian and Reformed understandings of conversion and regeneration, a gospel presentation with a non-Christian is not the appropriate place to have such discussions. That is more of the ‘meat and potatoes’ which would choke a new believer who needs ‘milk.’ (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Peter 2:2)
[As a note of preface, what follows is in no way meant to make me look like the end-all, be-all of evangelism… I am simply sharing an approach that I have used that seems to grant me an audience and extended conversation with non-believers. I am not a skilled evangelist and am far from perfect in the way that I conduct myself during these conversations.]
Whenever I share the gospel with someone I am always very careful to take them through Scripture – not just spout off doctrine or opinions. I bring a Bible that I will give them (nice decent Bibles, not cheap ones… They’re an immensely important gift and I like to make sure that I honor them with a Bible I would use) and a list of the Scriptures that I will reference throughout our conversation, and I make sure to give them a CityView Church business card so they can visit if they’d like. I also take quick notes about who they are so that I can effectively guide the conversation and pray for them after we’re done (I’ll tell them that I’m writing down things that I’ll be praying about for them so they don’t get skittish).
Basically after we’ve talked about their spiritual beliefs or religious heritage, I ask the person in question if I could share what I believe. I have never had anyone turn me down on this. I then tell them (the words and depth depending on our previous conversation and their religious/spiritual background) that God created everything in the universe for a specific purpose. He created humans to honor and worship him, but we rebelled against God and tried to do things our own way. As a result, our connection with God was broken, and we have all sorts of problems in the world (hate, fear, greed, insecurity, etc.) because of our rejection of God and his subsequent wrath toward our disobedience. God, however, sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life and teach us how to live (he is God in human form) and to absorb the punishment and wrath of God because of our sin. Jesus died on the cross in order to make it possible for us to be with and know God personally – he reconnects us with God, and if we trust that Jesus will save us and if we obey what Jesus told us to do we will be in heaven when we die, living with God for eternity. Then I talk about how faith is a gift from God, and that we cannot save ourselves with just living well – we must trust God to give us the Holy Spirit, made possible by the grace of Jesus’ death, according to the will of God the Father.
Along the way, I will sprinkle in the Scripture references from my cards (as well as others) and show the person where in the Bible I get the material I’m talking about.
The references (and brief descriptions) are:
– Romans 3:23 – we have all sinned against God
– Romans 6:23 – because of our sin we are spiritually dead
– Romans 5:8 – God loves us in spite of ourselves and sent Jesus to save us
– Isaiah 53:6 – God punished Jesus for our sins
– 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God sent Jesus to take away our sins and renew our relationship with God
– Ephesians 2:8-9 – we are saved by faith in Jesus and that faith is a gift from God
– Romans 10:9-10 – if you believe that Jesus died for your sins, give your life to him and follow him faithfully and you will be saved
At that point, the conversation has had many rabbit trails and we’ve had some good laughs and a few points of disagreement. I give them an opportunity to pray with me if they would like, I invite them to church, give them my contact information, and get theirs as well. I’ll also follow up and keep talking with them so they don’t drop off the map. I’ve seen first-hand the illustration of the parable of the sower (some receiving the news with joy and then falling away, some growing and bearing fruit, and some completely rejecting what I have to say – see Matthew 13).
In evangelism it’s important to realize that the average person who comes to faith in Jesus hears the gospel between 7 and 10 times before they make a decision… And you may be the third time in that line. It’s important that you build a relationship with the person rather than trying to check items off a to-do list. Teach them well and express yourself clearly, but remember that you’re building the kingdom and if you’re successful you may start a lifelong relationship with a new brother or sister in Christ. Keep the pressure off by keeping your conversation in perspective. One-conversation conversions are incredibly rare in today’s society… Just be patient and gracious with them. They will learn far more about Christianity from your actions and the way that you speak than from the words you say and the concepts you’re talking about.
Again, I didn’t write this because I’m an evangelism guru… I’m just trying to answer questions and start conversations. That’s about all I’ve got for now.