Contend Earnestly: Evangelism for Today: The Way of the Master?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Evangelism for Today: The Way of the Master?

This is a post within a greater series called, "Evangelism for Today." I want to go through the major ways in which Christians evangelize today and look to the positive and negative aspects of each and then in the end, try and show a balanced way to show the love of Christ through the spoken and living Gospel.

What I want to do with this post is consider those evangelism techniques that involve scripting. I will focus in on The Way of the Master since I have seen many of the materials used, bought many of the materials used and participated in much of what they stand for.

There are other scripting techniques for sure, and they would probably have some of the same positives and negative aspects to them as well.

The Way of the Master, and techniques like it, gives the person a set of parameters to stay within as they teach the gospel to another. They have an almost definitive beginning and definitive end, whereas the one who is evangelizing has ways to ask questions to make sure that the listener gets to the “end” of the conversation. Usually these techniques have loose scripts to follow along with a visual to catch the eye of the listener as a conversation starter.

The Positive Aspects

The things that I like about this technique is that it gives those that aren’t sure how to converse about the gospel a way to engage those around them. Most of the time people aren’t sure how to engage or how to answer questions that some might pose if they start to evangelize. The way that these techniques are designed is to make sure you keep the listener on topic, so that you direct the conversation.

The Way of the Master presents the law well and gives the answer to our sin with the presentation of part of the Gospel. Not only that, they have a lot of ways to engage others to get the conversation started so that you are just running up to someone and saying, “How is your day, well…you’re going to hell.” Although it almost says this, it doesn’t quite go that far.

I do believe that these aspects of presentation is very faithful to making sure that those who don’t know their sin, will be clear on what the bible says about the law, hell and the gospel. For this, I am greatly encouraged by this method of sharing the Gospel.

The Negative Aspects

The parts I have a problem with in these methods is that the one who is being evangelized is ignored. The Way of the Master actually teaches its students to not answer the questions that are posed by the listener, but to get them back on track as far as the script is concerned. So, if you are presenting the gospel and they ask a question about the Crusades, you quickly defer and get the listener back to the method you are using. So, before the “conversation” is even started, the goal is presentation, not really the care for the individual. Jesus never did this. He cared for the listener and answered their questions, because he loved the person he was speaking to.

The Way of the Master would say that you are showing the greatest love to the individual because you are sharing the gospel with them. But, if you already have your answers ready, before the questions are asked, that is showing a huge lack of sentivity to the person you are speaking to.

"If one gives answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame" (Proverbs 18:13)

I think Proverbs speaks directly against this method in this way. We are to listen to those we are speaking to, not bringing a pre scripted design that makes sure that the listener doesn’t drive the presentation. I would ask, “Shouldn’t we know the gospel so well that we allow the listener to ask their questions and we show that we care that we answer them with a gospel centered answer?” Ignoring or carelessly answering their questions will just show them what they already thought, “The Christian doesn’t really care about me, they just care about pushing their gospel on me.”

The other part of this scripting that really bothers me is the fact that you don’t get to know the person you are speaking to at all. You just assume that they need to know that they have broken the law of God. But, what if they already know this? Further contempt of their sin will not be helpful and can actually be further damage done that isn’t needed. The person might need the encouragement of the gospel more than they need to know that they are a sinner. Whether we think it or not, some people already know that they are dreadful sinners and believe that there is no out, but that they are destined for hell. We must know our hearers and not take them for granted. Scripting does not allow for this and sometimes completely ignores the actual person we are talking to.

I am not sure about the other scripts provided, but The Way of the Master, that I have heard, doesn’t make the resurrection of Christ a center part of the presentation. This is why I said that the Way of the Master presents part of the Gospel. If we look at the presentation that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection is the very center of the Gospel, not just an aberration. Without the resurrection, we are said to be a people to be pitied and have no hope.

So, although scripting seems like a very sufficient way to present the gospel, I believe it leaves out a very intricate part: the one being evangelized. It seems like they just become a sidebar in the conversation. I don’t doubt that those who do the Way of the Master, or Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, have the best intentions, but I just believe that there are some glaring issues with this method as a whole. I believe we need to know more about those who we speak the gospel to by way of asking them questions and then just listenint to them. To many times I personally, and have seen personally, that evangelizing becomes a numbers game where those that are being evangelized become a number with no name and no soul.

Scripting definitely needs to listen more and speak less. Be ready to answer the questions of those that are being spoken to instead of being ready to ask your next question.

So, although there are some good aspects of scripting, or with the Way of the Master, I don’t believe it is an end all, and believe it actually has some very big holes that can’t go unnoticed.


Chase... said...

This is a funny thing to post on I think. I would encourage you to look at what Christ did when questions were asked with the intent to pull off track. While questions need to be answered, you must determine whether the question is really for the answer, or simply a smoke screen to get you off the gospel.

My opinion, which like yours, is my opinion, is that whether you use "way of the master", "E.E.", "seek and to save", etc. What matters is not what you use, but that you are being Scripturally accurate, and actually evangelizing. Too many people complain about these things, without actually doing them. I'm not saying you don't, you even said you have implemented these before, but many people don't.

Seth McBee said...

I understand what you are saying.

But, in the end, when someone asks a question, we should try and answer it and give them the benefit of the doubt. The Way of the Master assumes it is always a smoke screen.

And, I will put forth at the end of the series how I think we should evangelize as a whole.

I will also say, you don't have to implement tactics to see their holes. Even so, I have implemented Way of the Master.

Tiffany Y. said...

Good points.

One thing that WotM does have very right is that (ideally) one would share equal amounts of God's Justice vs. God's Grace. Most of the time, Christians put so much emphasis on Grace (attempting to be very positive) that we lose the Justice. Without both, we have either a sappy or cruel 'gospel.'

However, like any resource, we do have to be careful and responsible with it. I agree that their 'script' is a great way to start, but we as Christians must be more than mere words to people around us. We need to be a true story of our Great God, not simply the repetitive voice of one method.

Seth McBee said...

I get your points...although I am not a supporter of the script.

Also, most people that I have seen share the gospel these days have gone from a grace centered theology to a justice or judgment centered one.

From what I have seen, it has been an over correction to those who used to just spout "God loves you" with no explanation.

So, now, we yet another correction.

But this usually happens in orthodoxy and orthopraxy, one error, finds correction only in over-correction.

There needs to be a balance.

I think The Way of the Master has over-corrected, although not totally flawed.

Morwen E said...

I'm not a fan of the script either, but I do like that they have some ways to begin conversations.

And it's interesting that you say that, because I've been approached several times on BCC's campus by the CCC people, and usually get the lovey-doveys. That always starts a unique conversation... ( :

But yes, there has to be a balance. One can't simply shove hell at someone, nor gush about love to a person who feels that his life is fairly good.

Morwen E said...

That's Tiffany above, btw. I'm multi-tasking and changing accounts on google.

yp said...

I have often thought Way of the Master to be suitable to 'Christian America' but not for many asian countries...

Unknown said...

I think that some that have commented here have missed a big point in using the WOTM scripts. It is a starting point, not an end all to talking to someone about salvation. As a former new car salesman we had to learn "scripts." What we wanted to say when we greated customers so that we would not space on what we needed to say. But, and here is where some go wrong in the WOTM scripts, we did not repeat those line verbatim when we talked to an actual customer. We practiced the scripts until we made them "our own." Put them in our words, the way we speak. You learned them well enough that when talking to a customer you would not lose yourself in where you wanted to go in the conversation even if the customer tossed up many questions or concerns. The same is true of the Way of the Master scripts.
No do I ignore the questions of people I talk to about salvation? No, but I do seek to see if the question is merely a frivolous question or a true, sincere desire for understanding. Just as Jesus would not answer foolish questions by the days religious leaders.
I look at it like this. If you were talking to a dying patient as a doctor and you knew what was wrong with him from his symptoms and had the cure, would you waste valuable time answering questions from the patient about his stubbed toe or cut finger or would you instead stay on track to care for the problem that was causing him to be sick and die?

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